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North and South Korean musicians perform together in China

AP  |  Shanghai 

A South Korean and a on Sunday held a rare joint performance they hope would help bring the divided Koreas closer together via music especially at a time of emerging tensions amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.

and his soprano partner, Kim Song Mi, performed together at with a Chinese orchestra.

Their concert came three days after said fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea in the second such weapons test in five days.

For both, it was their first concert with a from the other side of the Korean border, the world's most heavily fortified.

They met several times last year in and agreed on a joint performance to help promote peace on the

As a duet, Kim sang Antonin Dvorak's "Songs My Mother Taught Me" while Won played the violin.

Kim later sang "Arirang," a Korean traditional folk tune beloved in both countries, while the played the music.

"When I met her (Kim) for the first time, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend who's been on the same wavelength with me," Won said before Sunday's concert.

"This performance shouldn't be the end ... and what's important now is what other dreams we can have together."

In a pre-concert written interview, Kim also said she "heartily wishes" that her songs would help bring back reconciliation mood.

"I'm nervous and anxious about what inspiration the audience would have and what reaction North and South Korean compatriots would show to our joint performance," she said.

North and South Korean musicians performing together is extremely rare as their governments don't even allow their citizens to exchange phone calls, letter and emails without special approvals.

Last year saw an unusual wave of cross-border exchanges after leader abruptly entered talks on the fate of his advancing nuclear arsenal.

A group of North Korean dancers and singers performed in during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, before South Korean K-pop stars flew to and sang in the presence of Kim and his young wife

Both events were the first of their kind in more than 10 years.

But such exchange programs are now becoming a rarity again as is resuming provocative weapons tests in an apparent protest against the lack of progress in nuclear negotiations with the

Kim returned home empty handed from his second summit with in in February after Trump rebuffed his calls for major sanctions relief in return for his promise to conduct partial disarmament measures.

No publicly known high-level meetings between and have since been reported.

Sunday's concert won't likely work as a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear diplomacy.

But it could still "establish an environment" that could make it easier to improve ties between the Koreas, said Bum at for National Unification.

Inspired by the founded in 1999 to bring together Arab and Israeli musicians together to promote mutual understanding, Won, 42, has been pushing for the establishment of an inter-Korean orchestra for nearly a decade.

He's contacted both governments on numerous occasions, and sometimes partnered with renowned foreign maestros such as and

But his push for a Korean orchestra performance has never been realised and was often scrapped at the last minute due to the delicate nature of ties between the Koreas, which are still technically at war because an armistice that ended the 1950-53 has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty.

Incidents that helped spike his past plans included the 2015 mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers, and the 2011 tensions touched off by annual South Korean-US military drills that North Koreas sees as an invasion rehearsal.

Sunday's performance appeared less difficult to achieve as it involves just one person from each Korea, not dozens of musicians required for an orchestra, and it's happening in China, a third country and the North's major ally but also the South's biggest trading partner.

Jointly performing with the two Koreans is the Shanghai City Symphony Orchestra, the first and biggest amateur symphony orchestra in

The orchestra earlier invited Won and Kim to its annual charity concert, "Love In The City, Shanghai Seoul," before it and Won's decided to co-organise the event, according to Won.

In a response to questions by last week, said that it approved Won's contact with Kim as part of efforts to support diverse kinds of civilian exchanges between the rivals.

The is led by Moon Jae-in, a liberal who espouses greater rapprochement with and has shuttled between Pyongyang and ahead of two summits between and

Kim, 33, a graduate of Pyongyang's prestigious Gyun University of Music, is the North Korean in of the

She's been living in since 2010.

Known for her classical crossover singing technique, she has also released several music albums with North Korean and well-known pieces of classical music.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, May 12 2019. 13:21 IST
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