North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra, unfamiliar to many, invited to perform at PyeongChang 2018

평창오는 北 삼지연 관현악단…'삼지연악단' 변형한 연합팀?

North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra will be playing at the Winter Olympics.
Named after the northeast county of Samjiyon, which the state propaganda purports as the late leader Kim Jong-Il's birthplace and as the sacred grounds of the regime's revolutionary activities.
Other than these facts, not much else is known about this performing group.
Lee Ji-won brings us some experts views on their participation.
After Monday's inter-Korean talks, the two Koreas have agreed to have Pyongyang's Samjiyon Orchestra participate and perform at next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and even in the South's capital, Seoul.
The group, consisting of 140 members, is rather unknown compared to North Korea's other musicians and performing groups, such as the Moranbong Band.
According to South Korea's Unification Ministry on Monday, the orchestra was formed in the late 2000s to perform for important guests visiting the North.
While some are not certain about the connection between the Samjiyon Orchestra and the existing Samjiyon Band,... which consists of 50 to 60 members mainly playing classical instruments,... some say the orchestra is simply the band reorganized with some additional members.

"Any North Korean performing group is under the state control,... therefore these groups are easily divided and put together depending on the occasion. And in order to keep the color and repertoire of the Samjiyon Band while enhancing its performance, it seems like North Korea has added more performers to turn it into an orchestra."

And as the Samjiyon Band had been playing classical music,... the expert projects the orchestra to perform the same genre, and even play some pop songs, in order to show that North Korea is "globalized" as it argues.
Korean folk music has also been mentioned as one of the possible genres of music played at their concerts,... as the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un highlighted that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics could be an opportunity to show the Korean people's prestige during his New Year's speech.

But some experts are skeptical of this less familiar North Korean performing group participating at the Winter Games.

(Kor- )
"Hyon Song-wol, the leader of one of North Korea's most popular and iconic propaganda bands, Moranbong, joined the inter-Korean talks on Monday. While this could be a way of boosting the significance of the band within the reclusive state, we must also keep an eye on whether the Samjiyon Orchestra isn't made up of Moranbong Band performers."

As next month's performance will be the first such cultural event in over 15 years,... experts say it could open more doors in the future. But they also warned that it is something South Korea must carefully and thoroughly look over.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.

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