South Korean Singers Reveals Impressions of Pyongyang

Nicholas Kim, April 5, 2018, 9:51 a.m.


South Korean singers who returned to Seoul on Wednesday after concerts in North Korea said the atmosphere in Pyongyang was brighter than they had expected, and the locals seemed well-dressed. Songwriter Yoon Sang, who led the troupe, said, "We were all unbelievably impressed, and it wasn't until we arrived in Incheon that the magnitude of our experience sank in."

The head of North Korea's United Front Department, Kim Yong-chol, hosted a dinner for the performers on the eve of their second concert on Tuesday. Kim went up to each table and poured glasses for everyone. Choi Tae-hwan, a member of veteran singer Cho Yong-pil's band, said Kim "frequently stressed the need for unity among the Korean people and drank quite a lot. He's a heavy drinker." 

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-whan also attended the dinner. Do said, "As [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un proposed, let's make sure a concert can be held in Seoul this fall."

One K-pop starlet caused a stir by saying it was a "great honor" to shake hands with Kim Jong-un, but all seemed a little star-struck. "I was very surprised when [Kim Jong-un's wife] Ri Sol-ju looked at me and called me by name," said one.

There was some criticism in the U.S. Greg Scarlatoiu of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea told Voice of America on Tuesday that the concerts were a propaganda campaign for the North Korean regime and viewed only by the North's elite.

And Suki Kim, who has taught English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, said the concert was "just a show" with the concert hall filled only with members of the Workers Party. She added she was "very disappointed" by the South Korean government for pursuing the concert.

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