South Korean songs given rare public performance in Pyongyang

Photo: AFP

North Korea has allowed songs from the South to be played in public for the first time in years, state media said Saturday, as a thaw in usually frosty ties gains momentum thanks to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

A North Korean band "played several southern songs" when they performed before party officials and artists in Pyongyang on Friday, the KCNA news agency said.

The concert by the Samjiyon Orchestra, featuring instrumentalists and singers, was to mark their return home from a tour of the South, where they gave two shows - one in Gangneung near Pyeongchang and the other in Seoul.

The trip was part of a rare agreement in which the nuclear-armed North sent a delegation of hundreds of athletes and cheerleaders to the Winter Games.

The repertoire included old Korean folk anthems such as "Arirang", which is beloved on both sides of the border, and songs that were popular in the South in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Public interest in the show was huge in the South, with nearly 120,000 people applying for one of the 1,000 tickets available for the Seoul performance.

North Korea's late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il reportedly took a shine to many South Korean pop songs although K-pop is officially banned in the communist North.

Following a historic summit between the two Koreas in 2000, South Korean pop singers and musicians visited the North, some of whom were personally greeted by Kim Jong Il.

Afterwards, Kim reportedly gave his stamp of approval to some 20 South Korean pop songs, allowing them to be played in the North.

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