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The Peninsula

Music Diplomacy: South Korean Artists Will Head to North Korea for Pyongyang Concerts

Published March 20, 2018
Author: Jenna Gibson

By Jenna Gibson

After a meeting of North and South Korean delegates today, the two sides announced that 160 South Korean musicians would head to Pyongyang at the end of March for two concerts, the first of their kind since 2007. The lineup is chock-full of the most popular Korean singers, crossing genre and generational boundaries. The headliners announced today show off the best from trot, rock, and k-pop, and are sure to put on an amazing concert. Whether the concert and other related diplomatic outreach events will result in any meaningful political breakthroughs, however, remains to be seen.

Check out a quick intro of the South Korean singers who will head to Pyongyang for the concert, including a Spotify playlist of some of their greatest hits at the bottom!


Cho Yong-pil

Cho Yong-pil is universally regarded as a legend in the Korean music industry. He made his solo debut in 1976, and has released 19 albums since then, including his latest, “Hello,” which swept the charts in 2013 despite coming after a 10-year hiatus. Interestingly, this will not be Cho’s first foray into inter-Korean music diplomacy – he performed a solo concert in Pyongyang back in 2005



Red Velvet

Red Velvet is versatile by design – their name is meant to describe the group’s two different styles of music. Music showcasing their “red” side is bubbly and fun, and songs on the “velvet” side are smoother and more mature sounding. This concept helps the group stay fresh and innovative with each new release, keeping them on the top of the music charts and making the members some of the most in-demand celebrities for TV appearances and endorsements.



Lee Sun-hee

Given the nicknames “국민디바” (“National Diva”) and “여가왕” (Queen of Female Vocalists), Lee Sun-hee has been a staple of the Korean music industry for decades. She has also become well-known for lending her voice to the soundtracks for popular movies and dramas, most recently with her song “Wind Flower,” which appeared in the smash-hit 2016 drama The Legend of the Blue Sea.



Baek Ji-young

The queen of drama soundtracks, you can easily picture Baek Ji-young’s powerful voice playing in the background during some of the most memorable scenes in Korea’s most famous dramas. “That Woman,” one of the main songs from the classic TV drama Secret Garden, is just one example of her unforgettable OST appearances. But of course Baek does much more than TV ballads, releasing dozens of songs that show off her vocal talents through more upbeat dance tracks.



Choi Jin-hee

Trot singer Choi Jin-hee is also no stranger to musical diplomacy – she has performed in North Korea three times in the past. In 2010, a viral video showed a North Korean woman singing Choi’s famous song “Maze of Love,” but with lyrics changed to praise then-leader Kim Jong-il. In response to her popularity in the North, Choi told the Korea Times “The North Korean audiences were always very welcoming and showed great enthusiasm for my songs. I thought that ‘The Maze of Love’ could connect the peoples of the two Koreas.”



One of the main vocalists of Girl’s Generation, Seohyun recently parted ways with the group, and is now focused on her solo and acting career. She has starred in several TV dramas, stage musicals, and has even done voiceover work for the Korean version of “Despicable Me” and its sequel. It makes sense for Seohyun to join the delegation heading to Pyongyang, as she was the only South Korean artist to join the North Korean art troupe on stage during their recent concert in Seoul.



Yoon Do-hyun

Known for his musical versatility, Yoon Do-hyun is the lead vocalist of rock band Yoon Do-hyun Band, but he has also had a successful solo career, hosted TV show, and has starred in musicals including “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Once.” Notably, the band won the World Peace Music Award in 2003 for advocating for better human rights conditions in Korea.




First gaining notoriety for her appearances on music competition show “Immortal Songs 2,” ALi has released several albums and often appears as a featured artist with other famous Korean acts as well as on drama soundtracks. She is also known for taking on societal themes in her music, including a song that dealt with sexual assault.



Initially debuting as a featured artist on hip hop duo Leessang’s song “Rush,” Jung-in was part of R&B group G.Fla until their disbandment in 2007. She now has a successful solo career and collaborates regularly with other hip hop and R&B artists.




Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. 

Image from Michael Duangdara’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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