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Staying alert

Jan 16,2018
South and North Korea announced Monday the results of their talks in Panmunjom over the proposed participation of North Korean performing artists in the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. According to the Ministry of Unification, North Korea decided to send the Samjiyon Band of Mansudae Art Troupe to South Korea. The orchestra attracted attention by performing not only the reclusive nation’s revolutionary songs but also classic and pop music with electric instruments. The eye-catching band famous for female members’ fancy costumes will be put in the spotlight during the international sports event.

The artistes will be part of a larger North Korean delegation that will include athletes, cheerleaders, journalists, high-level government officials and taekwondo demonstrators.

The two Koreas also plan to stage a joint performance between orchestras — the first of its kind since South Korea’s KBS Symphony Orchestra conducted a joint performance with its North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang in 2002. On a trip to North Korea in 2011 to promote cultural exchanges under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration, world-renowned pianist and conductor Jung Myong-hoon, then art director of the Seoul Symphony Orchestra, announced a plan to perform together with North Korea, but to no avail.

The government also said it will allow both teams to carry a flag of the Korean Peninsula — instead of each carrying their own national flags — during the opening ceremony if both sides agree. Attending a special committee meeting on government support for the Winter Olympics, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-whan said that South Korea carried the flag of the peninsula during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Busan Asian Games and the 2003 Daegu Summer Universiade even though we were the host. The minister added that the move would fit the Olympic values of “promoting peace” on the Korean Peninsula as we did so nine times in the past.

No one would object to the idea of building peace momentum through the Olympics. But the government must not forget that North Korea ridiculed President Moon Jae-in’s New Year’s address by calling it “sheer sophistry” even while first proposing the dispatch of its troupe to the Olympics.

The government must be on alert if North Korea makes a move to take advantage of the Olympics to accelerate its propaganda through the dispatch of artistes. The Moon administration must not be one-sidedly dragged into dialogue.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30