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Thursday, April 12, 2018

K-Pop Stars Visit Pyongyang and the Expectations from This Cross-Border Journey


The beginning of April is off to quite a start, already witnessing a “not-so-usual” cross-border visit. A few of South Korea’s famous K-pop singers have traveled all the way to Pyongyang for a special performance, along with concert staff, taekwondo demonstrators, reporters and government officials. So, what makes this journey special?

Unlike normal cross-border traveling by pop stars with itineraries primarily including concerts and recreational activities at fancy resorts, this latest trip was part of a mission. It was much more than recreational. Indeed, it was a visit intended to normalize the relationship between the two Koreas.

It is a proven fact that to normalize a relationship between any two entities, be it two countries or two states, person-to-person trust must be established first. And what better way to establish person-to-person relations than a shared cultural exchange. The concert, titled Spring is Coming, was organized to do that.

K-POP
K-POP” by Travis Wise is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The concert featuring the K-pop girl band Red Velvet and a few other influential artists like Cho Yong-pil was held at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre. Incidentally, it was Cho who held the last concert by a South Korean artist in the north before this performance, which was a solo concert in Pyongyang, more than a decade back, in 2005. Another concert, providing an opportunity for artists from both the North and the South to perform together was arranged at the Ryukyung Chung Ju-yung gymnasium. These concerts and other cultural exchanges were organized with an expectation to warm the air before the much-awaited April 27 summit.


The fact that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife both have seemingly enjoyed the Spring is Coming and the report that he actively conversed with the performers backstage is a proof that the latest round of cultural exchanges has started impacting as expected. But now the expectations have only increased.

Having now been impressed by the performances and considering the rousing reception of the initial idea and artists from the people, it is expected that there will be more cultural exchanges to follow. And not just standalone cultural activities, but rather the expectation is there will be more unifying activities in which both the Koreas will participate or perform together like how they did in the second concert during the visit and how North and South Korea marched together under a unified peninsula flag at the opening ceremony at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. Every peace-loving person is expecting that the latest visit to Pyongyang by the K-pop starswill trigger further engagements between the two countries.


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