Main part of S. Korean art troupe arrives in N. Korea

SEOUL/PYONGYANG, March 31 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- The majority of the South Korean art troupe and taekwondo athletes scheduled to give performances in Pyongyang ahead of a historic inter-Korean summit arrived in North Korea on Saturday.

The 120-member group led by Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Do Jong-whan left Seoul's Gimpo International Airport at 10:30 a.m. aboard a chartered civilian flight and arrived at Pyongyang's Sunan airport around 11:30 a.m. via a direct air route between Seoul and Pyongyang over the Yellow Sea.

North Korea's culture minister Pak Chun-nam and Hyon Song-wol, head of the North's all-female Moranbong Band, greeted them at the airport, according to a pool report.

The group, including celebrated K-pop artists such as Cho Yong-pil, Red Velvet and Seohyun, is part of the 190-strong South Korean delegation set to visit North Korea for rare artistic performances on Sunday and Tuesday.

A 70-member technical crew flew into the North on Thursday to prepare the stages ahead of the two concerts in Pyongyang.

Also in the group traveling Saturday are staff members, taekwondo performers, journalists and government officials tasked with supporting the performers.

The performances will be the first by South Korean artists in the North since 2005, when Cho Yong-pil had a solo concert in the North's capital.

"I, along with Korean pop musicians, will do my best to make the historic first Pyongyang concerts by South Koreans in 13 years successful," Do said in a statement he read at the airport. "I hope the inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation that resumed during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will further increase with the South Korean art troupe's performances in Pyongyang an occasion."

He pledged to do all he can to have the culture and sports fields open the way for peace on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean reconciliation.

While in Pyongyang, Do said, he will meet with North Korean figures in those fields to discuss ways to expand cooperation.

During a meeting with North Korea's culture minister Pak, Do said he hopes the planned performance will serve as a cornerstone for inter-Korean cultural exchange and cooperation.

Pak responded by saying that Korean peoples should work together to promote inter-Korean relations, according to the pool report.

Yoon Sang, a popular composer who is the musical director of the art troupe, also vowed to give his best to complete the shows successfully.

"I feel honor and unexplainably high pressure at the same time," Yoon said at the airport event. "We'll do our best out of the aspiration that a spring of peace should come to the Korean Peninsula as in the concerts' title 'Spring Comes.'"

K-pop legend Cho said: "I will comfortably perform in the North as I do here. I and all other singers already finished practicing, are not nervous now, and will show our music in a pleasant and comfortable mood. We'll return after performing well."

Eleven Korean acts are in the lineup of the concerts, which are together titled "Spring Comes": Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Ji-young, Red Velvet, Jungin, Seohyun, Ali, Kang San-eh and Kim Kwang-min.

They will perform at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theater on Sunday for two hours starting at 5:30 p.m. (South Korean time) and take part in a joint concert with North Korean artists for two hours on Tuesday afternoon at the 12,000-seat Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium. The shows will be taped and edited by South Korea's public broadcaster MBC to be made into a joint TV program for both countries.

Only four of the five members of Red Velvet -- Wendy, Irene, Selgi and Yeri -- will attend the concerts as Joy said she will be absent due to scheduling conflicts with her TV show. The girl group is to sing two of its recent hits: "Red Flavor" and "Bad Boy."

According to sources, Seohyun of Girls' Generation will host the Pyongyang concerts. She made a surprise collaboration with North Korean singers during the historic Seoul performance by the North's Samjiyon artistic group last month.

The South Korean delegation will return home Tuesday night.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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