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North, South Korean musicians appear in rare joint performance

AP

South Korean violinist Won Hyung Joon and North Korean soprano Kim Song Mi perform at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center in Shanghai on Sunday.

The Associated Press SHANGHAI (AP) — South Korean violinist Won Hyung Joon took the stage, nodded once to his North Korean soprano partner, and placed his instrument on his shoulder. With a flick of the conductor’s wrist, she began to sing, and he began to bow — the beginning of a rare joint performance Sunday that they hope will bring the Koreas closer amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.

“Until today, I was thinking, will this really happen? Will it suddenly be canceled?” Won said. “Today was the day my dream finally came true.”

Won, donning a white shirt, and Kim Song Mi, sporting a sparkling red dress, performed Antonin Dvorak’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” together with a Chinese orchestra at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. After the last notes, they held hands and bowed to thunderous applause from the mostly Chinese audience.

Kim later reappeared in a traditional multicolored Korean dress to sing “Arirang,” a Korean traditional folk tune beloved in both countries.

The concert came three days after South Korea said North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, the second such weapons test by Pyongyang in less than a week.

For both Won and Kim, it was their first concert with a musician from the other side of the Korean border, the world’s most heavily fortified. They met several times last year in Beijing and agreed to perform together to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“My heart is too full for words,” Kim said in a dressing room after the concert, her first-ever interview with a foreign media outlet. “For the moment, at least, I feel like unification has come.”

It’s extremely rare for musicians from both Koreas to perform together. Contact between the two sides is so restricted that North and South Koreans can’t exchange phone calls, letters or emails without special government approval.

Last year saw an unusual wave of cross-border exchanges after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly agreed to begin talks over the future of his nuclear arsenal. A group of North Korean dancers and singers performed in South Korea during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and South Korean K-pop stars later flew to Pyongyang and sang in the presence of Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju. Both events were the first of their kind in over a decade.

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