N.Korean Bandleader Returns Home

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    January 23, 2018 09:42

    A North Korean delegation led by bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol wrapped up their two-day inspection of potential concert venues on Monday.

    Hyon's Samjiyon Orchestra are likely to perform at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul when they visit South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.

    She visited the National Theater of Korea on Monday and spent about an hour there.  She also looked around Jamsil and Jangchung gymnasiums, but only for 15 minutes each.  North Korean musical groups also performed at the National Theater of Korea back in 1985 and 1990. 

    Hyon Song-wol (second from right) checks facilities at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul on Monday.

    Closer to the Olympic venues, the orchestra will probably also perform at Gangneung Culture and Art Center.

    The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it will not sell tickets for the performances but that guests will be invited instead. The costs of the performance will be covered from a government fund created to promote cross-border exchanges.

    Hyon wrapped up her visit to South Korea with a dinner at the Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul and returned to North Korea through Paju later at night. Earlier in the day, Hyon and her entourage boarded a KTX bullet train in Gangneung and arrived at Seoul Station at around 11:05 a.m.

    They were shuttled by bus to Lotte Hotel in Jamsil escorted by police. Crowds of spectators gathered wherever Hyon went. When one South Korean shouted, "We welcome you in the name of our people," Hyon smiled and waved.

    Hyon Song-wol (center) has breakfast in a hotel in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Monday.

    But others slammed the government for going overboard in accommodating Hyon during her two-day visit. No fewer than 1,600 police were deployed at Seoul Station alone, and the government rented three floors of a five-star hotel and paid for every meal. One restaurant especially prepared Korean beef for her rather than American beef it usually serves.

    The suite in Gangneung she used costs W650,000 a night, and meals cost W130,000 per person (US$1=W1,071).

    Hyon signed the guestbook at one of the restaurants by saying she hopes her visit will "pave the way for unity and unification."

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