All-female North Korea band leader set to visit South
SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
The leader of North Korea’s all-female Western-style Moranbong band is set to head a delegation to the South on Jan. 20 to prepare cultural performances during the Olympics, Seoul said, becoming the first North Korean official to visit in four years.
Hyon Song-Wol, reputed to be an ex-girlfriend of leader Kim Jong-Un, was the subject of lurid 2013 reports in the South that she and around a dozen other state musicians had been executed for appearing in porn movies.
The North angrily denied the claims and Hyon later appeared on state television.
The nuclear-armed North agreed last week to take part in the Pyeongchang Games, which will take place just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula, easing tensions over its weapons programs.
Pyongyang nominated Hyon to head a seven-member advance team to inspect venues for proposed art performances in Seoul and the eastern city of Gangneung in connection with the Olympics, the South’s Unification Ministry said.
As such she will be the first senior official from the North to visit the South proper since 2014, aside from talks on the southern side of the DMZ.
Then, Pyongyang sent three high-ranking officials to encourage North Korean athletes attending the Asian Games in Incheon, although they did not meet any members of the government.
The Unification Ministry said the North identified Hyon as the head of the less well-known Samjiyon Orchestra, which will make up much of the 140-member art troupe from the North.
The performances will be the first of their kind since 2002, when Pyongyang sent a cohort of 30 singers and dancers to Seoul for a joint pro-unification event.
The two Koreas have agreed to march together under a unification flag -- a pale blue silhouette of the Korean peninsula -- at the Games’ opening ceremony on February 9, and to form a unified women’s ice hockey team.
On Jan. 19 the Olympic flame passed through Daeseongdong, a tiny village inside the heavily fortified DMZ, where elementary school teacher Koo Hyun-Jin carried it with his pupils and told reporters: “This will give them a happy memory.”