- North Korea announced it would send a 140-member art troupe, including an orchestra, as part of its delegation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
- The art troupe’s performances, which normally include propaganda messages, is under scrutiny.
North Korea announced on Monday that it would send a 140-member art troupe, including an orchestra, as part of its delegation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, according to the South Korean government.
Eighty orchestra members and 60 singers and dancers will be performing in Seoul, the capital; and Gangneung, where the North Koreans will be housed for the trip, according to The New York Times. North Korea’s upcoming performance will mark the first time in 16 years the country has appeared in South Korea, and the largest ever assembled for a performance in the country.
“We believe that a great symphony will be enthusiastically received,” Kwon Hyok-bong, North Korea’s chief delegate, reportedly said. “In that sense, we hope that the talks could go smoothly so as to help our art troupe perform well in the South.”
The agreement follows the second round of the bilateral talks between North and South Korea at the border, the first official talks between the neighboring countries in two years.
During the talks, North Korea reportedly expressed interest in having its art troupe walk across the border, similar to the handful of delegates that arrived for the first round of the talks last week. Although the gesture may be symbolic for the two countries ahead of the Winter Olympics, the large number of performers that would be crossing the border was said to be unprecedented and would require advice from the United Nations Command.
The proposed border-crossing of a large delegation may also set the stage for North Korea to grab media attention for propaganda purposes – winning hearts at home and minds abroad. Similar trips in the past from North Korean delegates resulted in propaganda puffery, including one incident where a delegation got off their bus in tears, and took down a poster of their leader shaking hands with the South Korean president.
The bilateral talks also fueled speculation on whether the Moranbong Band, a North Korean all-female band formed by Kim Jong Un himself, will also be performing after its leader, Hyon Song-wol, attended the meetings.
Despite the apparent warming relations with the South Korea, the North’s upcoming performances could still lead to new provocations and a fresh diplomatic row with the South. Past performances centered around propaganda messaging, including glorifying North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and promoting the country’s missile capabilities.
But North Korean delegates have assured South Korea that it would select musical tracks familiar to both countries, such as folk songs, and that they would “fit with the mood of reunification.”