Pyongyang Audiences of South Korean Performers Limited to Elites


2018-04-10
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korea-singers2-040918.jpg North Korean singers perform during a joint concert with South Korean performers in Pyongyang, April 3, 2018.
AP

Concerts given by South Korean performers earlier this month in the North Korean capital were opened only to top government officials and the country’s privileged class in a move aimed at blocking wider exposure to “capitalist culture,” sources in the isolated country say.

The concerts, one on April 1 by South Korean singers and another on April 3 by South Koreans and North Koreans performing together, were given in the lead-up to planned summit talks by North Korean national leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

The shows were attended only by carefully selected audiences, though, with members of the general public kept away, a source in North Korea’s South Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service this week.

“The April 1 performance by the South Korean group in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater was billed as a top event by the Propaganda Department, with Kim Jong Un in attendance, along with high-level executives of the Central Committee of the [ruling] Korean Workers Party,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Also in the audience were top government officials and family members of North Korea’s “privileged class,” the source said.

Executive managers of North Korean performance groups and the Korean Film Studio, working under the country’s Ministry of Culture, were also among the concert’s chosen invitees, the source said.

“General members of the performance groups, though, were unhappy at missing the chance to experience the South Koreans’ world-class, high-quality performance,” he added.

And while Party leaders and high-level executives from each district of Pyongyang were able to watch the concert with their families, only a few executives from the city’s outskirts were invited to attend, the source said.

'Capitalist punk culture'

Speaking separately, a source from North Pyongan province said that residents of the area near the theater were inconvenienced and blocked in their movements by security arrangements put in place the day before the April 1 concert.

“Citizens from the Taedonggang district where the East Pyongyang Grand Theater is located were not even able to come near the theater,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“The public were also excluded from the April 3 concert at the Ryugong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium,” he said, adding that many college students were dissatisfied because only a few “privileged students” were invited to attend.

North Korean media meanwhile carefully controlled coverage of the two concerts, passing over many of the South Koreans’ songs and highlighting only those songs sung by both groups voicing hopes for a unified Korea, sources said.

“South Korean songs are seen in North Korea as representing  ‘capitalist punk culture,’”  Dong Wan Kang, a professor at South Korea’s Dong-A University, told RFA in an interview.

“So if North Korea opened these concerts to its citizens, this would conflict with its campaigns to crack down on ‘punk’ styles,” he said.

Reported by Hyemin Sohn and Yong Jae Mok for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun.  Written in English by Richard Finney.

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