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(3rd LD) At mass games, Moon delivers Seoul leader's first address to North Koreans

2018/09/20 00:01

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(ATTN: UPDATES with Moon's speech, other scheduled events)

SEOUL/PYONGYANG, Sept. 19 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called for inter-Korean efforts to end 70 years of hostility and chart a new path for peace late Wednesday, as he delivered the first address to North Korean citizens by Seoul's head of state at the close of an iconic mass games performance in Pyongyang.

Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, along with their wives, watched the large-scale gymnastic and artistic show at the May Day Stadium on the second day of Moon's three-day trip for their third summit.

As they entered the venue together at about 9 p.m, some 150,000 Pyongyang citizens cheered and gave them an emotional standing ovation. The cheers became louder when Moon waved his hands toward the crowd.

After the one-hour performance, Moon delivered a speech to the North Koreans following a surprise introductory speech by Kim.

"I propose that we should completely end the past 70 years of hostility and take a big stride of peace to become one again," Moon said in his speech broadcast live in South Korea.

"Chairman Kim Jong-un and I will make a new fatherland, firmly holding the hands of 80 million Koreans in the South and the North. Let's move toward the new future all together."

   This made him the first South Korean leader ever to speak before the North Korean public. The speech was initially supposed to be made for only one to two minutes before the show but was delivered for 7 minutes after the show.

North Korea unveiled the propaganda performance titled the "Glorious Country" on Sept. 9 to commemorate its 70th founding anniversary.

Known as an upgraded version of the Arirang mass games, last held in 2013, the show involves tens of thousands of performers staging a spectacular display of acrobatics, gymnastics, dances and flip-card mosaic animations.

"There could be content that welcomes our president (in the performance) and the title could be changed," said Yoon Young-chan, the senior secretary to President Moon for public relations during a press briefing in Seoul.

The event is mostly aimed at extolling the North's leaders and the socialist system, so it is regarded as a major propaganda tool. It has caused controversy over violations of human rights as a large number of children are usually mobilized for intensive training.

In 2007, then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun faced criticism from conservatives at home after he attended the Arirang performance during his trip to Pyongyang for a summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Roh watched the event along with Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal head of state.

Apparently in consideration of such concerns, Yoon said that the North has made efforts to "reflect our stance."

  

Media reports showed that the performance unveiled on the North's founding anniversary appears to be short on anti-U.S. slogans, which used to be a mainstay of the previous mass games. Instead, it occasionally signaled leader Kim's stepped-up efforts on diplomacy.

The latest performance drew attention as it used drones, lasers and other colorful and state-of-the art techniques, which experts say might demonstrate the North's strong commitment to science, technology and economic development.

In particular, a large screen composed of card sections showed images related to the April 27 summit talks between Moon and Kim. The performance is likely to run until Oct. 10, the anniversary of the establishment of the North's ruling party.

Before attending the show, Moon planted a memorial tree at the Paekhwawon State Guest House where he is staying in Pyongyang and visited the Mansudae Art Studio, the North's largest producer of art and propaganda.

Moon and his entourage then dined at Pyongyang's Taedonggang Seafood Restaurant known to be popular with both locals and foreign tourists. Kim and his wife joined the dinner.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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