Kim views S. Korea pop stars

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North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, attended a concert of South Korean singers in Pyongyang during which they were seen clapping, according to South Korea's Unification and Cultural Ministry press pool.

The last time South Korea sent a musical artist to perform in the north was in 2005 - during a previous period of reconciliation - but it is the first time a North Korean leader has attended such an event.

After the performance, the leader shook hands with each member of the troupe and took a group photo.

The broadcaster quoted Kim as saying that he was moved to see North Koreans deepen their understanding of South Korean popular culture and sincerely cheer for the performances.

His welcoming of K-pop icons, and Kim Yong-chol's apology, are a stark departure from just a few years ago, when South Korea began blaring K-pop songs across their shared border as a psychological warfare tactic.

The most recent event was Kim's visit this week to China, on the invitation of president Xi Jinping.

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Kim Jong-un "showed much interest during the show and asked questions about the songs and lyrics", said South's Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan.

But tension has eased significantly since North Korea made a decision to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

The North Korean rhetoric may come as a surprise, given Kim's usual saber-rattling statements that are mostly directed against the United States.

Separately, the South Korean taekwondo team performed at the Pyongyang Taekwondo Hall as North Korean officials and residents watched.

Members of K-pop girlband Red Velvet after rehearsal for their concert at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang on April 1, 2018.

The exchanges come amid thawing relations between the Koreas after months of tension.

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Rock band YB performed next follows by K-pop girl group Red Velvet and then a performance by Choi Jin Hee - who is visiting the North for the fourth time - and Lee Sun Hee took place.

"We should hold culture and art performances frequently", Kim told the South Korean performers.

North Korea's national intelligence chief Kim Yong-chol apologized Monday morning to South Korean reporters for restricting their coverage during the concert.

Kim first plans to hold a rare summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has pursued reconciliation with North Korea to avert war over the regime's nuclear weapons program. He was also seen talking to members of Red Velvet, who have more than 4.6 million followers on Instagram. After the two-hour performance ended, the North Koreans gave a thundering standing ovation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said Tokyo is open to talks with Kim, and Japanese media reported last week that Pyongyang is considering a June summit.

Roughly 300,000 South Korean soldiers were participating in the four-week Foal Eagle training alongside more than 11,500 USA troops, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. But given the current air of détente, high-profile U.S. assets such as aircraft carriers and stealth bombers are not expected to take part. Much South Korean material - which, unlike Chinese or Hollywood content does not require translation for a North Korean audience - is smuggled in on thumb drives and traded on black markets. "South or North (Korea) it is the same taekwondo, same roots, but the way it has grown is different".

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She said Trump's agreement to meet with North Korea's leader was "rash", in the absence of Pyongyang's commitment to take "any steps at all to indicate that they were serious about denuclearization".

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