Politics

N.Korean Orchestra Refuses to Come off the Boat

By Jun Hyun-suk, Kim Myong-song | February 07, 2018 09:38

North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra arrived in South Korea by ferry on Tuesday but did not get off and refused to attend a welcome dinner hosted by the South Korean government. They also refused to look around the venue in Gangneung, Gangwon Province where they are scheduled to perform on Thursday.

The Unification Ministry did not say exactly why the North Koreans behaved with such bad grace, but they may have been upset by anti-North Korean protests in Mukho port, where their ship is docked.

Instead, the 114-strong orchestra including bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol spent their first night in South Korea holed up on the Mangyongbong-92, which also serves as their accommodation during their stay.

The ferry arrived in Mukho at around 4:30 p.m. escorted by a maritime police boat.

The North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92 arrives in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Tuesday.

The last time the Mangyongbong-92 came to South Korea was during the Asian Games in Busan in 2002, when the ship carried North Korean cheerleaders. Back then, hundreds of South Korean citizens showed up to welcome the North Koreans. But this time the crowds were mostly conservative activists who waved the South Korean and U.S. flags chanting "Mangyongbong go home!" and "pull down the North Korean flag!" and played the South Korean anthem.

Some protesters burned a North Korean flag and ripped up a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Some of the North Koreans aboard the ferry went out on the deck to take photos of the rally.

But South Korean government officials also gathered in the port Tuesday morning to greet the North Koreans, having sealed off the entrances and set up metal detectors and guarded gates. Four police squadrons of around 300 officers were deployed for security, and some 150 reporters converged on the scene. Police imposed a no-fly zone around the port on Tuesday afternoon as the Mangyongbong-92 was set to arrive.

A government official said, "The measure was taken to prevent accidents caused by the overheated media, which attempted to cover the arrival with helicopters and drones."

The orchestra will eat and sleep on the Mangyongbong-92 until they put on their show in Gangneung. They will then move to the luxury Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul before performing at the National Theater of Korea.

Members of North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra board a train in Pyongyang on Monday.

The musicians left Pyongyang by train on Monday and boarded the Mangyongbong-92 in Wonsan.

According to North Korean state radio, leader Kim Jong-un's younger sister Yo-jong attended a farewell ceremony in Pyongyang, demonstrating the high level of interest the North Korean regime has in the performance.
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