February 08, 2018 12:48
No fewer than 280 North Korean bell-ringers and hangers-on to the small athletes' contingent participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics arrived in South Korea on Wednesday.
They include a vast cheerleading squad of handpicked women, a taekwondo demonstration team, and reporters for the state media. They came by the land route through Dorasan Station in the civilian control zone near the border. The last time such a large North Korean delegation came to the South was in 2005 for an Asian track and field competition in Incheon.
Asked about what they have prepared, one cheerleader said, "You'll find out. It would take the fun out if I told you now."
The cheerleaders brought traditional instruments with them, while some members are apparently part of a band.
Some 114 members of North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra arrived a day earlier in Donghae, Gangwon Province by ferry but initially refused to come off the boat. They finally emerged on Wednesday morning to rehearse for their upcoming performance, the women in bright red coats and the men in black coats and fur hats.
The orchestra traveled by chartered bus to the Gangneung Culture and Art Center and wrapped up their morning rehearsal at around midday, when they went back to the Mangyongbong-92 for lunch. They did the same for afternoon rehearsal.
The aim of the grueling two-hour round-trip commutes was apparently to minimize contact with South Koreans, though their repertoire seems to include some South Korean pop songs besides classical and folk songs.
The musicians will move on to Seoul for another concert on Sunday and head back to the North next Tuesday.
The Unification Ministry, meanwhile, hosted a dinner for the North Korean delegation in Inje, Gangwon Province, with Vice Minister Chun Hae-sung and around 30 South Korean officials taking part.
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