North Korean girl band's leader faces the music in South

Updated: Jan 23, 2018, 17:04 IST | Agencies | Seoul

Activists burn large photo of North's leader Kim Jong Un as Hyon Song Wol makes two-day visit to the South

North Korean Hyon Song Wol, center, head of North Korea's art troupe, arrives at Gangneung Art Center in South Korea on Sunday
North Korean Hyon Song Wol, center, head of North Korea's art troupe, arrives at Gangneung Art Center in South Korea on Sunday

Conservative South Korean activists burned a large photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the head of the North's extremely popular girl band passed them yesterday during a visit to Seoul amid a flurry of cooperation agreements between the rivals ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in the South.

A South Korean protester burns a North Korean flag during a rally against Hyon Song Wo's visit. Pics/AFP
A South Korean protester burns a North Korean flag during a rally against Hyon Song Wo's visit. Pics/AFP

Hyon Song Wol, a North Korean celebrity who heads Kim's hand-picked Moranbong Band, began a two-day visit on Sunday, triggering media frenzy in South Korea about Hyon, who is also in charge of the North's artistic performances during the Olympics.

After her visits to potential venues for North Korean performances in an eastern city, Hyon arrived back Monday at the Seoul railway station where she saw about 150 to 200 activists protesting her visit and recent inter-Korean rapprochement deals. Hyon saw the activists but did not react.

After she left the area, the demonstrators used a blowtorch to burn Kim's photo, a North Korean flag and a "unification flag" that athletes of the rival Koreas plan to carry together during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Hyon's visit made her the subject of intense South Korean media attention, with photographers following her every move and TV stations aggressively reporting about not only her career and band but also her fox-fur muffler, boots and facial expressions. South Korean media say Hyon is an army colonel and is close to Kim.

Moon hopes thaw opens dialogue door
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday a thaw in relations between the two Koreas ahead of next month's Winter Olympics presented a "precious chance" for the US and North Korea to discuss the North's weapons program-mes and establish peace on the peninsula, Moon said "But no one can be optimistic about how long the current mood for dialogue will last. We need wisdom and efforts to sustain the dialogue opportunities ... beyond the Olympics so that the inter-Korean talks will lead to talks between the US and North Korea."

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