Kim Jong-un watches K-pop stars perform in Pyongyang

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Media caption,

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un clapped along, like many others at the concert

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife have watched South Korean K-pop stars perform in a rare event in Pyongyang.

Mr Kim clapped along and then met performers backstage where he conversed and took pictures, said reports.

It is the first musical delegation to visit in more than a decade as the leaders of the two countries on the divided peninsula prepare to meet.

More than 11 acts are in Pyongyang for two shows.

The North sent performers to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year.

The exchanges come amid thawing relations between the Koreas after months of tension.

The concert, titled Spring is Coming, took place on Sunday evening local time at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, said South Korean media.

The delegation, which combines K-pop, rock and other genres, is set to perform again on Tuesday.

Mr Kim is the first North Korean leader ever to attend a performance by an artistic group from the South, said South Korea's official news agency, Yonhap.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The South Korean musicians rehearse before the performance

His sister Kim Yo-jong and the country's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam are also said to have attended.

Kim Jong-un "showed much interest during the show and asked questions about the songs and lyrics", the South's culture minister Do Jong-hwan told journalists, according to Reuters news agency.

Earlier, a North Korean audience also watched a South Korean taekwondo squad perform, this time without Mr Kim.

Mr Kim has agreed to hold summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.

He met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.

The third inter-Korean summit - there were also meetings in 2000 and 2007 - is due to be held on 27 April. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit.

Media caption,

There are high-flying kicks galore as South Korean taekwondo athletes perform in Pyongyang before the music concert

Meanwhile, the US and South Korea have begun their annual military drills, which have been scaled down compared with previous years as both countries prepare for talks with North Korea.

Although nearly 300,000 South Korean troops and 24,000 American troops will take part, the drill will be a month shorter than usual and will not involve nuclear submarines.

In the past, the drills have infuriated North Korea but correspondents say that this time Pyongyang is keeping relatively quiet. Mr Kim reportedly told visiting South Korean officials that he understood that the exercises had to go ahead.

The musicians performing in Pyongyang include:

Red Velvet

A five-member girl group, Red Velvet headlined at the Pyeongchang Games this year.

The popular quintet who first formed in 2014 are still seen as relative newcomers, but have already managed to scoop up their fair share of awards.

They have also got a large following on social media, with some 4.5 million followers on Instagram alone.

Media caption,

Rock band YB will also be performing in North Korea


A member of undoubtedly one of Korea's most famous K-pop groups, Seohyun made her music debut in 2007 as a member of the all-female Girls' Generation.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images

The group shot to stardom in 2009, making Seohyun one of today's most recognisable K-pop singers.

In February, the 26-year old performed alongside North Korea's 137-strong Samjiyon Orchestra, which was part of North Korea's art troupe during the recent Winter Games.

Choi Jin-hee

The 61-year-old singer's 1984 song Love Maze was said to have been a hit across the Korean peninsula and can still be heard playing in Pyongyang restaurants.

It is also said to have been a favourite of Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il.

This is Mrs Choi's fourth time performing in the North.

Cho Yong-pil

An industry veteran, Cho is considered one of the most influential figures in South Korea's music scene.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Cho Yong-pil (r) arrives in Pyongyang

In an interview with Billboard in 2013, the 68-year-old singer was dubbed a "K-pop legend".

This is not his first performance in North Korea.

Mr Cho made his first debut in Pyongyang in 2005, where he held a solo concert attended by some 7,000 North Koreans - making him the most recent South Korean singer to perform in the North.

Lee Sun-hee

Another iconic singer in South Korea, Lee Sun-hee first made her debut in 1984.

The now 53-year-old travelled to the North for a joint concert in 2003, which marked the opening of the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium - one of the performance venues for the upcoming concert.

Media caption,

Kim Jong-un recently travelled to China