South Korean pop stars stage rare concert in North Korea

Social media users criticize White House interns lack of diversity

Social media users criticize White House interns lack of diversity

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju have joined hundreds of people who watched South Korea's K-pop stars perform in Pyongyang for the first time in more than a decade.

North Korean leader Kim shook hands with each cast member and took photos with them after the show was over, the pool report said.

"He said that he was deeply moved to see our people sincerely acclaiming the performance, deepening the understanding of the popular art of the South's side", the North's KCNA state media said.

Those in the audience sang "Let's meet again" and "Our wish is unification", a song about reunification of the two Koreas, together with the South Korean performers at the concert's finale.

Red Velvet was one of the South Korean performers that was being looked forward to.

A South Korean government official who spoke with pool reporters in Pyongyang Monday did say, however, that Seoul authorities wanted to add rapper Psy, best known for his worldwide hit "Gangnam Style" to the roster but were rejected by North Korean officials, who said Psy would "stand out" too much.

Also in attendance were Choe Hwi, chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee, Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and North Korea's Culture Minister Pak Chun-nam.

The most closely-watched group that performed yesterday was Red Velvet, part of the South Korea's hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.

The exchanges come amid thawing relations between the Koreas after months of tension.

Under the title "Spring Comes", 11 famous South Korean artists or groups - Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Ji-young, Red Velvet, Jungin, Seohyun, Ali, Kang San-eh and jazz pianist Kim Kwang-min - performed 26 songs transcending the inter-Korean border and generations.

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"We should hold culture and art performances frequently", Kim told South Korean performers. While President Trump has referred to Kim as "little Rocket Man", my colleagues Emily Rauhala and Anna Fifield write that the regime's diplomatic outreach - including last week's visit to Beijing - are making it harder to dismiss the North Korean leader as irrational or as a madman.

The same South Korean singers will hold another concert with North Korean performers on Tuesday.

The North Korean audience clapped, cheered, sang along to some of the songs and later presented the South Korean performers with flower bouquets. He was also seen talking to members of Red Velvet, who have more than 4.6 million followers on Instagram.

Kim followed up by agreeing to a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and offering a face-to-face meet with US President Donald Trump.

The changing rhetoric also doesn't indicate that Kim is ready to suddenly give in to USA demands.

The North Korean despot made a secretive visit to Beijing last week but all mention of "Kim Jong Un" and "North Korea" were banned online to keep the trip under wraps. A North Korean art troupe also travelled to the games and performed while there.

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

About 300,000 South Korean soldiers were participating in the four-week Foal Eagle training alongside more than 11,500 USA troops, a spokesman for the ministry said. But given the current air of détente, high-profile USA assets such as aircraft carriers and stealth bombers are not expected to take part. "South or North (Korea) it is the same taekwondo, same roots, but the way it has grown is different".

"We had the responsibility of providing the freedom and convenience of media coverage", he said.

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