North and South Korea began talks Monday on appearances by Pyongyang’s state-run artistic performers at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, after the North agreed to attend the Games.
Pyongyang agreed last week to send athletes, high-level officials, and others to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, easing months of high tensions over its weapons programmes.
The two sides agreed an art troupe would be part of the delegation, and eight officials — four from each — started a working-level meeting to thrash out the details on the northern side of the Military Demarcation Line at the border truce village of Panmunjom soon after 10 am (0100 GMT), Seoul’s unification ministry said.
The North’s delegates include Kwon Hyok-Bong, a senior culture ministry official, as well as Hyon Song-Wol, the leader of the North’s famed all-female Moranbong music band.
The 10-member band, established in 2012 with members supposedly chosen by leader Kim Jong-Un, is known for its Western-style, synthesiser-driven music and sophisticated fashion style rare in the isolated nation, although most of their songs laud the regime.
Their numbers include the jaunty “Mother’s Birthday”, about the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and the more soulful “We Call Him Father”, an ode to leader Kim Jong-Un.
Such lyrics could fall foul of the South’s National Security Act, which bans praise for the North.
The band once cancelled a planned performance in Beijing in 2015 and returned home after Chinese officials took issue with propaganda images on the stage featuring Pyongyang’s long-range missiles.
The South’s delegates include senior officials from the state-run Korean Symphony Orchestra, raising the prospect of groups from both sides of the DMZ performing together — another top North Korean act is the State Merited Chorus, a military choir.
The two Koreas are also set to hold talks with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday over participation of the North’s athletes at the Games.
Seoul and Olympic organisers have been keen for Pyongyang — which boycotted the 1988 Summer Games in the South’s capital Seoul — to take part in what they have been promoting as a “peace Olympics.”
The North had remained silent to the offer until the Kim abruptly announced an intention to take part in his New Year Speech, in a move seen as aimed at easing military tension with the US.
Tension has been high on the flashpoint peninsula as the North staged a flurry of nuclear and missile tests since last year and Kim traded threats of war and personal attacks with US President Donald Trump.