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(News Focus) From classic to cutting-edge, Seoul seeks balance in Pyongyang K-pop shows

All Headlines 18:18 March 20, 2018

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- With the dates and venues for the upcoming South Korean music shows in Pyongyang set, eyes are now turning toward the K-pop stars picked for the rare cultural event celebrating the rapprochement between the two countries.

On Tuesday, South Korea agreed to send a 160-large art troupe to Pyongyang from March 31 to April 3 for two performances at East Pyongyang Grand Theater and the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium. The agreement was reached in a working-level cultural meeting of the two Koreas at Tongilgak, a North Korean pavilion at the border village of Panmunjom.

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 performances in Pyongyang, and his North Korean counterpart, Hyon Song-wol, entering a conference room at the Tongilgak administrative building on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom. (Yonhap)

A joint agreement adopted by the two sides named nine South Korean pop musicians to be included in the Southern art troupe: Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Ji-young, Red Velvet, Jungin, Seohyun and Ali.

Music industry experts say the cross-generational line-up is strong enough to offer a healthy snapshot of the history of Korean pop music, ranging from classic to cutting-edge. Set lists for the concerts have yet to be fixed.

"Bundling Jungin, Seohyun and Red Velvet, together with Cho Yong-pil and Lee Sun-hee is clearly a strategy to try to bridge the generations. It will try to cover music fans from teens all the way to those in their 60s," Im Jin-mo, a Seoul-based pop music critic, said.

Cho, a contemporary Korean pop legend, previously threw a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005 in front of a crowd of 7,000. Having debuted in as a member of rock band Atkins in 1968, Cho later founded Five Fingers and joined the band Kim Trio, which motivated him to pursue rock music.

His first single, "Come Back to Busan Port," rocketed him to national fame when it was released in 1975. Five years later, he released his first album, "The Woman outside the Window" and became the first South Korean singer to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

This undated file photo shows Korean pop icon Cho Yong-pil. (Yonhap)

In 1994, he became the first South Korean singer to sell 10 million album copies in Korea. Cho has released 19 full albums, including the 2013 smash hit "Hello," and numerous hit songs such as "Dear Friend," "The Leopard of Kilimanjaro" and "Short Hair."

During his 2005 visit to the North, Cho met Pyongyang's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, who attended the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, last month.

Lee Sun-hee also traveled to the North in 2003 for a joint concert marking the opening of the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang. Lee's "To J," her 1984 breakout hit and an adult contemporary classic in the South, was performed by North Korean musicians last month in the South. In 2014, she released "Serendipity," an album marking the 30th anniversary of her debut.

Choi Jin-hee, with smash hit "Maze of Love" under her belt, is a popular star in the trot music scene who has performed in North Korea three times. Yoon Do-hyun is the frontman of rock band YB, a group which was elevated to national fame with the song "Oh! Victory Korea," a rock anthem that became popular song at football matches during the 2002 South Korea-Japan World Cup.

Pop diva Baek Ji-young is often called the queen of TV drama original soundtracks. Seohyun, former junior member of S.M. Entertainment's successful band Girls' Generation, made a surprise appearance at last month's performance by a North Korean art troupe in the South, singing "Our Wish Is Unification," a classic tune reflecting the two Koreas' desire for reunification, with singers from the North.

In this file photo, Seohyun (R), a former member of S.M. Entertainment's idol group Girls' Generation, sings with North Korean musicians during a concert by a North Korean art troupe in Seoul on Feb. 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

On the younger end of the spectrum is Red Velvet, a spunky female quintet under S.M. and one of the most popular and well established girl groups in today's K-pop scene. Its most recent chart toppers include "Rookie," "Red Flavor" and, from its most recent release EP album, " Bad Boy."

"We have high hopes, as well, since it will be our first performance in Pyongyang. We will do our best to showcase a great concert," the group said through an S.M. representative.

Ali, whose real name is Cho Yong-jin, made her solo debut in 2009 and garnered public fame through her appearances on KBS 2TV's singing competition program, "Immortal Songs 2." Her stage name is based on legendary U.S. boxer Muhammad Ali. R&B songstress Jungin, signed to Mystic Entertainment, cut her teeth in music as a guest vocalist on hip hop duo Leessang's 2002 album, "Rush."

"There's no way to describe my feelings other than by saying I'm honored. I want to present not only South Korean music but all music that can unite us," Ali said through her agency, Juice Entertainment.

In this file photo, K-pop group Red Velvet poses for a photo during the red carpet at the 32nd Golden Disk Awards in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on Jan. 10, 2018. (Yonhap)


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