Gangneung: A 137-strong North Korean orchestra kicked off its first performance in South Korea on Thursday, serenading hundreds of South Koreans with familiar tunes while dozens of protesters blasted their own music outside, to the beat of drums.
The North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra performs in Gangneung, South Korea, on Thursday
The Samjiyon Band's performance comes a day before South Korea opens its first Winter Olympics, amid a thaw in ties with North Korea highlighted by the first visit by its leader Kim Jong Un's sister, who is set to arrive on Friday. Performing in the coastal city of Gangneung, the art troupe played songs from both North and South Korea, as well as a medley of Western tunes, including one from Broadway musical 'Phantom of the Opera'.
The band is Pyongyang's main art troupe and has previously been seen performing pieces from American animation movies such as ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and ‘The Lion King’. The performance is the first by North Koreans in the South since 2000, when another orchestra crossed the border for a joint concert to mark Korea's Liberation Day on August 15.
More than 150,000 South Koreans entered a lottery for tickets to the two performances the North Korean troupe will hold in South Korea. A random selection saw 780 winners receive two tickets each, the government said in a statement.
A total of 812 people attended Thursday's show, among them 252 special invitees picked separately by the government. About five minutes away from the concert hall, 80 protesters staged a demonstration in sub-zero temperatures, blasting out songs opposing the Pyeongchang Olympics and beating on drums.