South Korean girl band Red Velvet is among other groups heading North to perform.From ageing crooners to bubbly K-Pop starlets, some of South Korea’s biggest pop stars flew to North Korea on Saturday for rare performances that highlight the sudden thaw in inter-Korean ties after years of tensions over the North’s nuclear ambitions.
The concerts in Pyongyang on Sunday and Tuesday come ahead of a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27.
The meeting, which will precede a planned summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in May, could prove to be significant in the global diplomatic push to resolve the stand off over the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles program.
The 120-member group that flew to Pyongyang also included government officials, reporters and a taekwondo demonstration team that will perform in Pyongyang on Sunday and Monday.
Another team of 70 South Korean technicians went to Pyongyang on Thursday to set up equipment.
Among the singers on the trip are Cho Yong-pil, perhaps South Korea’s most influential musician of the past 50 years, who staged a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005 during a previous era of rapprochement between the rivals.
Girl band Red Velvet, currently one of the most popular acts in the highly-competitive K-Pop scene are also among the performers.
“We’re the ‘maknae’ (youngest of the group), so we will make sure to deliver our bright energy to the North,” 24-year-old band member Seulgi cheerfully shouted at the airport.
K-Pop groups have performed before in North Korea.
The now-disbanded Sechs Kies and Fin.K.L sang and danced in Pyongyang in 1999, as did boy band Shinhwa in 2003. Some of the artists later said the reaction from the audience was awkward and quiet.
Despite constant questioning from reporters, South Korean officials aren’t offering a clear explanation on why PSY, the singer of “Gangnam Style,” was left out of the concert lineup.
South Korea’s culture ministry spokesman Hwang Seong-un said without specifying that the YouTube rapper had been initially considered for the Pyongyang events before being excluded.
He said he couldn’t confirm a media report that North Korean officials had rejected PSY.