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Joint concert led to ‘warm feelings’

Apr 05,2018
A day after South Korean artists held a joint concert with North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra in Pyongyang, the regime’s state-run media commended the performances Wednesday for bringing the two nations together, saying the show instilled the North Korean audience with “warm feelings.”

But that still didn’t stop the North from excoriating Seoul for recently backing the United Nations Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses.

North Korea has a long history of responding to critiques of its human rights record with vitriolic commentary, but the frequency of these reports has risen lately, according to South Korean government officials. That could be interpreted as a warning to South Korea and the United States not to bring up the issue at upcoming summits.

In a commentary Wednesday, the North’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Seoul’s support for the human rights resolution was a “political provocation” against the regime and an “intolerable act” that chilled the warming ties between the two Koreas.

The Moon Jae-in administration would be “anachronistically foolish” to be following in the footsteps of its conservative predecessors Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, who brought South-North relations to their worst level by taking issue with North Korea’s human rights, the newspaper said.

In a similar tone Tuesday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the human rights resolution was a product of hostile forces trying to demonize the North and ratchet up sanctions and pressure across the world to realize regime change.

Seoul should understand that endorsing such a drive would be “tantamount to an act of throwing a stone to the thin ice-like” of inter-Korean relations, the KCNA threatened, warning South Korean authorities to “behave with discretion.”

The denouncement came after the United Nations Human Rights Council announced late last month that it would extend a mandate to monitor the human rights situation in North Korea for another year, urging Pyongyang to cooperate with its special rapporteur and provide unrestricted access to the country.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry “welcomed” the resolution.

While the summit talks are widely expected to focus on denuclearization and other security issues, Pyongyang’s human rights abuses could be raised by the United States. The Trump White House has emphasized them as part of its so-called maximum pressure campaign on the regime, and there are three American citizens detained in the North.

On Tuesday’s joint concert between South Korean and North Korean artists in Pyongyang, entitled “We Are One,” the KCNA said in an English report Wednesday that the performances were praised by the North Korean audience as they “overflowed with compatriotic and warm feelings and enthusiasm with minds and intention of the north and the south pooling as one.”

The concert, which drew a crowd of 12,000 to the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium, featured performances by 11 South Korean groups, including Red Velvet, and North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra, which visited the South in February.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]