North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra performed at the Gangneung Culture and Art Center in Gangwon Province on Thursday, a day ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The last time a North Korean troupe gave a concert in the South was in 2002. The orchestra played a variety of songs ranging from South Korean pop to classical pieces.

Members of North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra sing at the Gangneung Culture and Art Center in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Thursday. /Yonhap

The performance kicked off with North Korean songs but moved on to South Korean favorites as well as Western pieces while five dancers in red sleeveless shirts and black shorts performed. The concert lasted about 100 minutes.

Some South Korean spectators walked up to the stage to shake hands with the performers, who accepted but did not respond to calls for an encore.

The leader of North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra Hyon Song-wol (left) sits next to Minjoo Party leader Choo Mi-ae at the Gangneung Culture and Art Center in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Thursday.

Some 902 people in the audience were chosen by lottery while another 560 were members of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and 252 guests of the South Korean government.

Bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol did not come on stage but watched beadily from the auditorium, where she sat next to Minjoo Party leader Choo Mi-ae.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon, novelist Lee Oi-soo and ballerina Kang Sue-jin were also in the audience.

Behind the scenes, there had been furious arguments over two North Korean propaganda songs the musicians had hoped to smuggle past the censor, "Moranbong" and "Baekdu and Halla Are My Nation's." They ended up getting bumped.

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