Kim Jong-un says concert was 'wonderful'


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 South Korean troupe will jointly perform with the North Korean artists Tuesday at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium before heading back later in the day.

Today, the South Korean K-pop stars plan to hold a joint performance with North Koreans.

The 26-year-old star from the popular idol group Girls' Generation made a surprise collaboration with North Korean singers during the Samjiyon Orchestra's performance in Seoul.

Short South Korean media pool footage showed Kim clapping from the second-floor VIP stand as South Korean Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan bowed and greeted North Korean spectators looking on from the first floor.

In February, North Korean athletes and entertainers, along with a retinue of political figures, attended the 2018 Winter Olympics, hosted by South Korea, after which a senior delegation from Seoul traveled north for meetings with Kim.

Despite the North's isolation and strict curbs on unauthorised foreign culture, backed up by prison terms, K-pop has become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with its neighbour China.

The North Korean leader's face was slightly flushed in a group photograph with the performers distributed by North Korean state media, while in another, he was seen directly addressing members of Red Velvet, which commands more than 4.6 million followers on Instagram.

In another sign of eased tensions, annual US-South Korean military exercises which got under way in the South yesterday will last for just one month compared to some two months normally.

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Red Velvet-which performed an invite-only concert at Credit Suisse Group AG's Asia investment conference last month-is being joined in Pyongyang by South Korean singer Baek Ji-young and rock band YB. While President Trump has referred to Kim as "little Rocket Man", my colleagues Emily Rauhala and Anna Fifield write that the regime's diplomatic outreach - including last week's visit to Beijing - are making it harder to dismiss the North Korean leader as irrational or as a madman.

Even though South Korean pop singers have previously performed in North Korea in the past, Sunday's concert was the first one ever attended by a North Korean chief.

"There had been interest in whether I would come and see Red Velvet".

As well as this, longstanding nicknames for the leader - such as "Fatty Fatty", "Fatty the third", and "Fatty Kim the Third" - were also blocked on microblogging site Weibo.

Also in attendance from North Korea were Kim Yo Jong, Kim Yong Nam, Choe Hui, Ri Son Gwon and Kim Chang Son, according to the pool.

Reacting to Kim's meeting with Jinping, Trump said he was happy with the development, however, he stated that "maximum sanction and pressure" must be maintained against North Korea "at all cost". A North Korean art troupe also travelled to the games and performed while there. But given the current air of détente, high-profile United States assets such as aircraft carriers and stealth bombers are not expected to take part.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of SC said he's glad John Bolton will serve as Trump's national security adviser going into talks with North Korea because of his "very healthy skepticism".

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".