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(4th LD) S. Korea to send 160-member art troupe to N.K. for concerts

All Headlines 17:36 March 20, 2018

(ATTN: CORRECTS name of South Korea's chief delegate; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea agreed Tuesday to send a 160-member art troupe to Pyongyang for rare concerts in early April ahead of South and North Korea's planned summit late next month.

The South's art group will visit the North's capital from March 31 to April 3 for two performances, according to a joint statement adopted after inter-Korean talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The art troupe will include South Korean pop singers, including contemporary Korean pop legend Cho Yong-pil, the five-member girl group Red Velvet and Seohyun, a former member of South Korean pop group Girls' Generation.

South Korea agreed to send an art troupe and a taekwondo demonstration team to Pyongyang when South Korean special envoys met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in early March. The concert comes ahead of an inter-Korean summit slated for late April at the border village.

The move reciprocates North Korea's dispatch of musicians and traditional Korean martial art demonstrators to South Korea on the occasion of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last month.

"Our goal is to impress North Koreans in the same way as South Koreans are moved by their musicians," Yoon Sang, South Korea's chief delegate to the talks, told a press briefing in Seoul. He is a popular singer and composer named as the music director for Seoul's art troupe.

The South will send an advance team to check venues from Thursday to Saturday, according to the ministry.

The concerts will be the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theater and the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium, which can accommodate some 12,000 spectators, it said.

The combined photo, provided by South Korea's broadcaster SBS on Aug. 23, 2005, shows South Korean pop singer Cho Yong-pil (L) holding a performance in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)

Yoon Sang said a concert set list was not dealt with at Tuesday's talks. A possible joint performance of the two Koreas' musicians was not confirmed, but he said consultations would follow ahead of the concerts.

"Selected South Korean musicians are known to North Korea as icons of South Korean pop music beyond ideology," he said.

Yoon Sang's North Korean counterpart was Hyon Song-wol, head of the all-female Moranbong Band. She crossed the inter-Korean border last month as the leader of a North Korean art troupe for performances in South Korea.

The Ministry of Unification said Yoon Sang, 50, is deemed suitable to be the director of Seoul's art group given his expertise in diverse musical genres and the short period of preparations for the concert.

It said that in selecting the head of the art troupe, the government highly valued a person who is well-versed in the musical tastes of different generations.

It marks the first time that an entertainer has represented the South's delegation to inter-Korean talks.

In 1985, South Korean musicians held their first concert in Pyongyang as part of cultural exchanges. In the 2000s, various Korean pop singers, including Cho Yong-pil and idol groups, performed in the North's capital.

The ministry said the South's art troupe will visit Pyongyang via a flight, an issue subject to consultations with the international community due to sanctions on the North.

This photo, provided by South Korea's unification ministry on March 20, 2018, shows Yoon Sang (R), a South Korean composer and the chief delegate for inter-Korean talks on a South Korean art troupe's planned performance in Pyongyang, and his North Korean counterpart Hyon Song-wol (L), entering a conference room at the Tongilgak administrative building on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom. (Yonhap)


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