SEOUL – A delegation of North Korean artists began a two-day visit to South Korea on Sunday in preparation for their performances during the PyeongChang Olympic Games after Pyongyang had postponed this visit a day earlier without giving any reasons.
The seven-member delegation is headed by Hyon Song-wol, the lead singer of the all-female Moranbong group, the most popular North Korean band, which is promoted by leader Kim Jong-un, and the “Samjiyon Orchestra,” a group created especially for the Winter Games which will begin on Feb. 9.
The delegation crossed the land border via the old Gyeongui rail line, and then traveled to Seoul by bus, to finally travel from the capital to Gangneung, on the East coast aboard a KTX bullet train, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.
The delegation is scheduled to inspect the stage and the technical equipment at the Gangneung Art Center, which will host several of the Olympic events and where the North Korean group will perform one of its performances.
On Monday, the delegation is expected to visit other venues in Seoul, where a second show is planned, as well as hold discussions with South Korean officials regarding these events.
After crossing the demarcation line that separates both countries, the delegation was greeted by South Korean officials at the Dorasan station, and was then escorted by the authorities of the host country during their bus trip to Seoul.
Hyon and other members of the delegation avoided answering questions from local media on arrival, according to South Korean agency Yonhap.
It marks the first visit of a North Korean delegation to South Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May last year, as well as the first time that the inter-Korean route has been used since the shutdown of the Kaesong joint industrial park in early 2016.
The visit comes a day after Pyongyang notified Seoul that it had canceled the visit, which was initially scheduled for Saturday, without giving any reasons for that decision.
It had created confusion among the South Korean authorities, who did not know if the trip had been postponed or definitively canceled, although later, both Koreas agreed that the North Korean advance party would begin its visit on Sunday.
Seoul and Pyongyang had held a working meeting – in which Hyon herself participated – on Monday, and they agreed that North Korea organizes a series of concerts and shows, with the Samjiyon orchestra being part of it, during the Olympic Games.
Some 140 musicians, singers and dancers will be part of the North Korean delegation for the Games, which will also include 230 cheerleaders, athletes and representatives of the Kim Jong-un regime.