By Lee Min-hyung
Starting this year, momentum for peace has arrived on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressing his willingness for nuclear disarmament.
But for South Koreans, there still remains a sense of distrust toward the regime, as most of them believe the young dictator is offering the gesture amid tightening international sanctions.
However, a state of expectation also lingers, as this is the first time that Kim has shown a determination for dialogue since taking charge in 2011. Like his predecessors, the two Koreas are seeking to enhance the peace mood here, with the South pinning hopes that the young leader may take different a path from his predecessors.
Before the historic summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un, scheduled Apr. 27, the two Koreas are seeking to further tighten “emotional bonds” by conducting joint music performances.
The South sent a performance troupe to the North for the first time since 2005 when Cho Yong-pil, one of the most influential K-pop singers here, held a concert in Pyongyang.
Inter-Korean relations have since then been fragile largely due to aggressive policies on North Korea pushed by former Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
The first inter-Korean cultural exchange took place in 1985 when Seoul and Pyongyang shared their common goal of celebrating the 40th anniversary commemorating Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule.
At that time, renowned South Korean singers — such as Na Hoon-a — held two days of performances at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre. A North Korean troupe also visited Seoul to perform, which helped build a sense of kinship on the divided peninsula.
The second inter-Korean cultural exchange came in 1999 when South Korean influential signers as well as popular idol groups — such as Sechs Kies and Fin. K.L — performed in Pyongyang.
Sunshine Policy boosting inter-Korean cultural engagement
Cultural diplomacy gained strong momentum, marking the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 between former President Kim Dae-jung and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
The late president is known for carrying out strong inter-Korean engagement, dubbed the Sunshine Policy.
The peace momentum extended for a few more years, with Seoul and Pyongyang joining hands to organize and hold music performances in their capitals.
The inter-Korean cultural engagement reached its peak in 2003 when they held two concerts in Seoul and Pyongyang.
In particular, the Unification Concert in September came with a symbolic message, as two of South Korea’s broadcasting companies visited Pyongyang for the concert via a land route for the first time since the two Koreas were separated in 1950.
During the concert, a wide variety of South Korean pop singers visited Pyongyang, including ballad singer Lee Sun-hee, six-member boy band Shinhwa and five-member girl group Baby V.O.X.
South Korean singer Cho Yong-pil sings during his concert at the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium sports arena in Pyongyang on Aug. 23, 2005. / Screen capture from YouTube
To promote the rare peace momentum, the two Koreas also agreed to conduct a three-day joint music performance in Pyongyang, which began Sunday. For this historic moment, a group of South Korean artists and singers visited North Korea.
South Korea formed the special music troupe with singers of all ages. It included Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee and girl band Red Velvet. Kim Jong-un also made a surprise visit to the concert held Sunday.
“I was deeply touched to watch a North Korean audience enjoy the concert by their sincere applause for the South Korean musicians,” Kim said. Following the concert, he also offered to President Moon to hold another concert in Seoul sometime in the latter half of the year under the title of “Fall comes.”
Source: The Korea Times