S. Korean Singer Melts Northern Hearts

    August 24, 2005 17:36

    The evening did not start out well. The rhythms pulsated through the stadium, the lights flashed and soared, but the audience never lost their stoic expressions and applauded only when asked.

    Korean pop legend Cho Yong-pil sang his heart out in his first concert in North Korea on Tuesday evening. The stage set was spectacular, but the reaction from the 7,000 capacity audience in Pyongyang was noticeably chilly at first.

    About 7,000 audience members rise to their feet and applaud immediately following the conclusion of Cho Yong-pil's two-hour long concert, which began at 6:00 p.m. in Pyongyang's Yukyong Chung Ju-young Gymnasium. The performance was brought to South Korean viewers from 9:00 p.m. through SBS TV./Provided by SBS

    It was not until Cho struck up "Come Back to Busan" that things began to warm up. The North Koreans started to clap along with the music, their shoulders relaxed and smiles crept onto some faces.

    Cho tried to reach out. “I've been making music for 37 years, so I've been doing this for a very long time. But I'm only 40 years old." The audience laughed. "Now you laugh? I've never trembled this much. I tell my band members to relax, but I’m shaking.”

    Cho Yong-pil sang, and he was rewarded with thunderous applause from Pyongyang's citizens. At the "Cho Yong-pil Pyongyang 2005" concert held from 6:00 p.m. Tuesday at Pyongyang's Yukyong Chung Ju-young Gymnasium, Cho gave the grandest pop music performance since the division of the nation./provided by SBS

    Then a small miracle happened: a song sung by a South Korean pop star brought tears to North Korean eyes. It was about halfway through the concert that Cho launched into the North Korean favorite "We Meet Again After a Dangerous Storm", which turned some eyes decidedly misty, and there was no stopping the flow of tears with songs such as "Touch-me-not" and "Old Castle".

    Near the end, Cho had them in the palm of his hand with renditions of "Arirang Dream" and "Solo Aririang." By then, most of the audience were singing and clapping along.

    With a few melodies, Cho did in two hours what countless politicians and businessmen failed to do over a decade: he touched a nerve among ordinary North Korean people and sparked genuine interest and emotion. The songs may have been new to the people of Pyongyang, but the song in the heart of Cho Yong-pil, who sang of becoming one, was familiar to them all.

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