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S. Korean maestro to visit N. Korea for orchestra rehearsal
SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- Renowned South Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun plans to visit North Korea this week for a rehearsal of a planned joint performance in Paris by North Korean and French orchestras, an official said Monday.

   Chung is scheduled to travel to Pyongyang with his wife and his assistant on Tuesday for a three-day trip for the rehearsal, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said.

   The trip came more than a week after Chung met with North Korean musicians in Beijing and agreed to hold the joint performance between North Korea's Unhasu Orchestra and the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra that he leads.

   Last week, he told reporters in Seoul that the joint orchestras will perform Brahms' symphony No. 1 at the Salle Pleyel theater in Paris on March 14.

   In Beijing, Chung proposed a joint performance between the Seoul metropolitan orchestra and the North's Unhasu, but the North rejected the offer, citing "frosty political relations" with the South.


Also Monday, North Korea stepped up its rhetoric as South Korea and the United States kicked off joint military drills that Pyongyang says are rehearsals for a northward invasion.

   North Korea's military and its people "are fully ready to fight a war with" South Korea and the U.S., the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language dispatch.

   The two Koreas' philharmonic orchestras held a joint concert in Seoul in August 2000, two months after a landmark summit between their leaders. In 2002, the two Koreas again held another joint concert in Pyongyang.

   In September, Chung, who also doubles as a UNICEF "goodwill ambassador," traveled to the North, where he agreed with North Korean musicians to push for regular performances of a joint symphony orchestra of the two countries.