South Korea is sending 138 musicians to North Korea this week as part of a cultural exchange amid thawing inter-Korean tensions. Everyone is talking about the K-pop idols among those musicians, but no international media has mentioned the handful of South Korean punk bands along on the tour.
Relations between the two Koreas have been improving since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message, in which he mixed up Pyongyang and PyeongChang in his speech. As a result, confused North Korean athletes and entertainers filtered down to the South for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But the gaffe has led to a diplomatic breakthrough, and now South Korea is sending its own delegation up to North Korea for a weekend of concerts. Among the musicians being sent northward are Singer Kang San-ae, pianist Kim Kwang-min, Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, girl group Red Velvet, Choi Jin-hee, rocker Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Ji-young, Choi Jung-in and Ali.
Ali said he was honored to have been selected. “Glad I got in there,” Ali told Untie Asia. He will perform with his math rock band, Koreas.
But Koreas isn’t the only band among the 138 selected to tour South Korea’s elusive northern neighbor.
Find Your Face, a hardcore band from Jecheon, plans to teach North Korean youths how to stage dive, an announcement which had the reactionary North Korean government up in arms.
“Any bodily harm inflicted upon members of the audience by south Korean punks will be retaliated a hundred-fold,” said Lyeo Hun-yung, spokesman of the Workers Party of Korea Ministry of Culture. “Stage diving will not be tolerated by the Authority to Invigorate Eradication of Youth Deviance. Anyone weighing over 11.44 gwan (95 pounds) should not be fucking stage diving on the loyal subjects of the Democratic Republic of the Korea Which Has Lots of Peoples.”
Koreas and Find Your Face are performing today at the Manujeol 1st of April Stadium, along with the 33-member girl group JMY Project, as well as black metal band Brutal Health, pogo punks Spike Island, and speedpunk band Dead Friends.
But they will also play a show at the Kaeson Youth Culture Friend Park in Pyongyang, performing along with North Korean punk bands.
“We wanted to bring a show for the kids, not just some high-level cultural exchange for the bureaucrats,” said Rhee Sung-woong, a local promoter of the North Korean punk scene who runs the Facebook page “Joseon Punk and Hardcore.”