South Korean president pledges more cultural exchanges with North Korea

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) — Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, is pledging to boost cultural exchanges with his country’s neighbors to the north.

“I thought of why we are separated, and why we are confronting one another,” Moon said Thursday at a luncheon at his office at Cheong Wa Dae, having invited a group of South Korean artists to be thanked for their performances in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, six weeks ago on a two-day tour.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife attended that concert along with top officials from North Korea, including Kim’s sister and closest aide, Kim Yo Jong.

As important as politics remain, “it is the power of culture, art and sports that could drive and touch people’s hearts,” Moon said.

Red Velvet, a popular South Korean girl band, met with North Korean leadership after their concert there and described Kim as “warm” and their audience as “responsive, clapping a lot” although unfamiliar with most K-pop music.

North Korea and South Korea have been separated since 1953 with very limited exchanges, cultural or otherwise. Many traits originating before the 1950s remained shared, but while much of the art and music in South Korea over the last 65 or so years would be considered global in nature, North Korea embraced a self-sufficient philosophy and produced most of its own.

“We are interested in how much of our culture North Korean people know about,” Do Jong-hwan, South Korea’s minister of culture, sports and tourism, told ABC News, hinting that plans for plenty of cultural exchanges may already be in the works.

At the inter-Korean summit last month, Kim suggested hosting soccer and basketball games in Pyongyang and in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and sending North Korea’s acrobatic circus troupes to the South, Moon said on Thursday.

“If these cultural exchanges continue to develop,” he added, “people may freely move back and forth between the South and the North. And in the end, we may reach a day when the South and the North will once again become one.”

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