As North Koreans arrived in South Korea ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, one particular group stood out from among the delegation.
The Samjiyon Orchestra, a musical ensemble that consists of 137 vocalists and musicians, showcased the start of the Winter Olympics with a highly choreographed performance in the city of Gangneung.
The orchestra wrapped up its 90-minute performance before an audience of 812 people on Thursday, and its second and final performance is scheduled for Saturday in Seoul.
Here’s a look at Samjiyon Orchestra’s first performance in South Korea since 2002:
Members of the Samjiyon Orchestra travelled to South Korea by ship on Tuesday. There, they were met by groups of conservative protesters, who shouted slurs at the art troupe from the docks below.
The orchestra is part of a larger art troupe that includes the much-hyped Moranbong Band, a pop-music band comprised of women selected by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The bilateral negotiations that took place before the orchestra’s performance hit several snags. In late January, North Korea abruptly canceled a joint cultural performance that would have included performances from both countries. The country attributed its decision to South Korea’s “insulting” media coverage.
Free tickets were available though a lottery system to both South Koreans and foreigners. After 150,000 South Koreans applied for 1,060 available tickets for the two shows, the government increased the number of seats.
Over a thousand tickets were also reportedly given to dignitaries and family members whose relatives were still in North Korea.
Source: NK News
Around 80 anti-North Korean protestors who oppose making concessions for North Korea were staged outside. About 100 police officers were reportedly on the scene.
Wearing brightly coloured tuxedos and traditional Korean garments, the orchestra catered to a wide-ranging audience, including an older generation of Koreans.
Source: The New York Times
The orchestra’s playlist ranged from traditional songs familiar to both countries, to classical music by Mozart. The orchestra also performed singer Josh Groban’s ballad “You Raise Me Up” and Broadway musicals, such as “Phantom of the Opera.”
Although the orchestra’s theme would typically focus on North Korea’s propaganda messages, the performance did not mention North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Source: The New York Times
The orchestra ended its performance with a theme that reflected the country’s supposed desire for reunification, and included songs titled “Our Wish Is Unification.”
Source: New York Times
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