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Moon watches concert with Kim Yo Jong

AFP-Jiji SEOUL (AFP-Jiji) — South Korean President Moon Jae In sat next to the powerful sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong Un at a concert in Seoul by musicians from Pyongyang, as conservative protesters burned the North’s national flag outside Sunday.

The show was the final set-piece element of the North Korean delegation’s landmark visit, the diplomatic highlight of the Olympics-driven rapprochement between the two halves of the peninsula, and they flew back home afterwards.

They have shared kimchi and soju with Moon, sat in the same box at the Olympics opening ceremony and cheered a unified women’s ice hockey team together.

Pictures showed Yo Jong seated between Moon and the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, who is officially leading the North’s delegation, and applauding at Sunday’s concert.

The show by Pyongyang’s Samjiyon Orchestra featured a surprise appearance by Seohyun, of top South Korean K-pop girlband Girls Generation. It was part of a cross-border deal in which the isolated nuclear-armed North sent hundreds of athletes, cheerleaders and others to the Pyeongchang Winter Games in the South.

At an earlier dinner with senior Seoul officials, Yo Jong said she found the two Koreas still had much in common despite decades of separation.

Sunday’s 100-minute concert — the orchestra’s second and final show — included about 40 songs, among them South Korean pop hits as well as North Korean and other world music.

Seoul’s TV shows and K-pop songs are smuggled across the border with China and known to be popular among many North Koreans despite the risk of severe punishment.

At one point Hyon Song Wol, the leader of the North’s popular Moranbong girlband, took the stage to perform a unification-themed song.

Public interest in the show was huge, with nearly 120,000 people applying for just 1,000 tickets.

Civilian contact is strictly banned between the two Koreas, which have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Tensions soared last year as the North staged a series of nuclear and missile tests in violation of U.N. resolutions, while leader Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump traded colorful insults and threats of war.

Moon has long sought engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, and for months has promoted Pyeongchang as a “peace Olympics.”

Many older South Koreans on both sides of the political divide harbor a nostalgic longing for some form of reunification — conservatives through the North’s collapse, liberals through a more amicable arrangement.

But younger South Koreans have spent their adult lives in a culturally vibrant democracy regularly menaced and occasionally attacked by Pyongyang.

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