Published: Mon, April 02, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends 'K-pop' conference

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends 'K-pop' conference

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un clapped his hands as he, along with his wife and hundreds of other citizens, watched a rare performance Sunday by South Korean pop stars visiting Pyongyang, highlighting the thawing ties between the rivals after years of heightened tensions over the North's nuclear program.

The most closely-watched group due to perform Sunday is Red Velvet, part of the South's hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.

The recent thaw in relations, which could even lead to a summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in May, follows months of increased tensions after North Korea conducted missile launches and a nuclear test a year ago in defiance of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was entertained by South Korean K-pop stars in Pyongyang today.

The South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet performed before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife in the North's capital of Pyongyang.

Following the performance, Kim was seeing shaking hands with the South Korean performers, and even posed for a group photo.

It was the first time for a North Korean leader to attend such a South Korean performance. But unlike the North's founder, whose youth was dominated by the anti-Japanese struggle, Mr Kim Jong Un has led a life of luxury.

Although 300,000 South Korean soldiers and 11,500 U.S. troops are taking part in the drills, no U.S. aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines were expected to join the drills, after Pyongyang angrily denounced the maneuvers in the past.

Kim also talked about Red Velvet.

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Also on Sunday, a joint military exercise involving US and South Korean troops got under way in South Korea, the defence ministry in Seoul said.

South's musicians and artists will hold a bigger concert tomorrow along with North Korean artists.

Mr Cho made his very first launching in Pyongyang in 2005, where he held a solo show went to by some 7,000 North Koreans - making him one of the most current South Korean vocalist to execute in the North.

Meanwhile, the annual US-South Korean military exercise, which got under way in the South Sunday, will last for just one month compared to the normal two months.

After a similar attempt at K-pop diplomacy received a frosty reception 15 years ago, Red Velvet's members expressed surprise at the welcome they received from the North Korean spectators, who waved their hands and sang along to the songs.

Both attended the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

"North Korean refugees overwhelmingly and consistently report that it has become more risky to consume foreign media under Kim Jong Un's crackdowns", Sokeel Park, the South Korea country director for refugee aid organisation Liberty in North Korea, said on Twitter.

Some experts suspect Kim Jong Un may be attempting to use his outreach to Seoul and Washington as a way to weaken global sanctions and buy time to further advance his nuclear bomb program.

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