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N.K. acrobats to perform in U.S.

All Headlines 11:09 February 22, 2008

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top circus and magic team are pushing for its first-ever performance in the United States this year in line with Pyongyang's growing appetite for cultural diplomacy, an executive of a North Korea-led multinational investment firm said Friday.

"I understand the Pyongyang Acrobatic Troupe will start a world tour, including visits to the United States, Europe and South Korea, this year," Bae Kyong-hwan, vice president of the Hong Kong-based Daepung Investment Group, told Yonhap News Agency.

If realized, the event would become the troupe's first performance tour of the U.S, the North's Cold War-era foe which fought to help South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War. The troupe previously pushed for a U.S. tour in March 2005 but to no avail, acording to Choi Kyong-soo, a member of the Unification Ministry's information team.

The Korean Central News Agency, the North's news outlet targeting foreigners, said on Feb. 11 that the Pyongyang troupe has performed thousands of times in 160 countries worldwide and swept prizes in international competitions since its start 55 years ago with 200 members.

The team performed twice in Seoul -- in late 1999 for an inter-Korean basketball friendly and in June 2000, just before the first summit between leaders of the two Koreas.

North Korea's State Symphony Orchestra also plans to hold rare performances in Britain in September, according to the event's British organizers earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the New York Philharmonic will perform in Pyongyang, a historic event marking the first major cultural exchange between North Korea and the U.S.

"Pyongyang tended to take culture as a socialist propaganda tool for domestic consumption but appears to have realized its diplomatic value with the Pyongyang concert by New York Philharmonic as an occasion," Bae said.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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