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(2nd LD) N.K. art troupe completes rehearsal for performances in S. Korea

2018/02/07 23:08

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(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead and throughout with updates on end of rehearsal; RESTRUCTURES)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's art troupe on Wednesday finished a rehearsal for their performances ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea and returned to a ferry that carried them here.

The 140 member-strong Samjiyon Orchestra traveled to the South by ship Tuesday to perform in Gangneung, a sub-host city of the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games, on Thursday, and in Seoul on Sunday.

It will be the first performance by North Koreans in the South since 2002, when Pyongyang sent a cohort of 30 singers and dancers from several music and performance groups to Seoul for a joint event.

The North Korean performers spent the whole day practicing at the Gangneung Arts Center, where they will perform on Thursday, and left the venue at around 9:20 p.m. They returned to their Mangyongbong-92 ferry, docked at the South Korean eastern port of Mukho, at about 10:15 p.m.

They apparently had dinner delivered from the restaurants inside the arts center.

As they boarded to take them back to the ferry, some of the performers waved through the window to a group of supporters who said aloud, "We are one!"

   Such an amicable attitude indicated a change in the air from the tense posture they showed upon arrival.

When South Korean reporters said "hello" to them from a distance, the members just walked past them without saying a word. In the afternoon, they appeared to be loosening up and offered smiles to the welcoming reporters, with some of them saying, "Nice to meet you."

   They also changed to casual attire, apparently for the practice, from the stylish red coats and black fur hats they wore when they arrived.

Including its head Hyon Song-wol, the band members were wearing identical comfortable red round-neck t-shirts with a small North Korean flag on the left chest and black pants.

No conservative activists, who caused a disturbance at Mukho port the previous day, were spotted there. They burned the North Korean flag and a photo of the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, in protest of the North's participation in the Winter Games.

The North's art troupe, which includes an orchestra, dancers and singers, is scheduled to return home after the performances in Gangneung and Seoul.

Later in the day, Chun Hae-sung, South Korea's vice unification minister, paid a visit to the rehearsal site and met with the North's delegation, including Hyon, the Ministry of Unification said.

Chun exchanged words with Hyon and other North Korean officials over the preparation of the planned performances, the ministry said.

sshim@yna.co.kr

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