|President Moon Jae-in (second from right) talks with Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un‘s sister, during a performance by North Korea’s Samjiyon art troupe at the National Theater of Korea in central Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)|
The 22-member delegation led by the country’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, headed off to Incheon International Airport to board a flight back to North Korea.
The delegation made the return flight via the same private jet that brought them here on Friday -- provided by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The group arrived in South Korea on Friday to partake in North Korea’s peace overture for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
As their last engagement in the South, the delegation attended the 140-member Samjiyon art troupe’s second and final performance in South Korea which started at 7 p.m. at the National Theater of Korea in central Seoul.
Moon sat next to Kim Yo-jong throughout the performance. The concert marked the fourth interaction between Moon and Kim Yo-jong since they greeted each other during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Kim Yong-nam, who was also present, told Moon before the start of the performance that he could now return to his country carrying “hope that they will meet again” as platforms for such talks have been established.
Moon in response, stressed inter-Korean cooperation while comparing the recent exchange to a “small spark” that could turn into a “full burning torch.”
A total of 1,550 audience members including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, local business and political leaders, artists, and those who succeeded in earning the ticket through a lottery filled the seats.
The entrance to the concert hall was heavily guarded, with several metal detectors installed in the lobby.
Sunday’s concert follows the art troupe’s successful performance at the Gangneung Arts Center on Thursday. An audience of about 800 South Koreans, including members of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, enjoyed a wide variety of music and dance performed by the troupe.
Hours before the performance, the North’s high-level delegation attended a luncheon hosted by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon at the Grand Walkerhill Seoul in eastern Seoul, officials said. Several other South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-hwan were also present at the event.
Lee echoed Moon’s remarks on Saturday, saying that the South and North should actively cooperate in building the right conditions for a bilateral summit between two leaders of the divided Koreas.
On Saturday, the North‘s delegation, including Kim Yo-jong and Kim Yong-nam, paid a visit to Moon and delivered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation for Moon to visit the North.
|From left: Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Lee Nak-yon, South Korean Prime Minister and Kim Yo-jong (Yonhap)|
Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson said Moon did not immediately agree to a meeting, adding that the two Koreas should continue to work on building a political atmosphere that would make such a meeting feasible.
Moon also told Kim Yo-jong that the North should have dialogue with the US.
Lee also called for the international community’s support for the meeting and expressed his hope for inter-Korean talks to continue after the Olympics.
During its stay in the South, the North Korean delegation also attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang on Friday where they saw athletes of both Koreas march under the Korean Unification Flag.
Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong, along with President Moon and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, on Saturday, watched the historic debut of the joint women’s hockey team at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province.
They not only watched the hockey game, but also the routines of North Korean cheerleaders who presented choreographed dances and chanted slogans like “We’re one” and “Cheer up” for the unified team.
Meanwhile, the 140-member North Korean art troupe will also head back North on Monday.
The art troupe, led by the leader of the all-female Moranbong Band, Hyon Song-wol, arrived in South Korea via the North’s cargo-passenger ferry the Mangyongbong-92 on Feb. 6, which served as both a means of transportation and accommodation until Thursday’s performance. The ship, which was anchored at the South Korean eastern port of Mukho returned home on Saturday.
The art troupe will use the western land route, which goes through the now-shuttered joint industrial complex in the border town of Kaesong, when they head back.
Seoul’s unilateral sanctions ban North Korean vessels from entering its waters, but the South Korean government temporarily exempted Mangyongbong-92 from the travel ban.
Seoul government believes the North’s participation in the Winter Games will pave the way for US-North Korea dialogue for denuclearization.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)