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North Korean music groups call off three concerts in Beijing  (cont'd)


Videos of their music have been uploaded on Youtube, and have now become a focus of widespread interest, although the groups can hardly lay claims to being Asian pop sensations. Their repertoire consists of propaganda songs like 'Let's support our Supreme Commander with Arms' or 'Our Dear Leader', and they dance to their songs with rigidly synchronized body movements which even die-hard fans of China's New Year TV shows will define as 'typically North Korean'. Nevertheless, there is an elder generation audience in China which appreciates some of the songs: they will remember the tunes and some of the words, which evoke the elated and defiant mood of the early 1950s, when China and North Korea were firmly united in their fight against South Korea and the United States. 


The women of Moranbong may well have been hand-picked for their beauty by Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader who took power in late 2011. According to Reuters Press Agency, Moranbong is one of his pet projects, founded in 2012 as part of an ambition to put his personal stamp on North Korean Arts; the short haircuts of the performers are apparently trendsetting in Pyonyang. The shows in China would have been their first overseas outing.


An unnamed source quoted by Reuters stated that Beijing had invited the two groups to thank North Korea for hosting senior Chinese official Liu Yunshan at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyonyang. The Chinese authorities paid for the groups' plane tickets and accommodation. There is widespread speculation about the exact reasons for the sudden departure of the musicians. Problems apparently ensued when Chinese censors disapproved of some of the lyrics to be sung in the concert, which glorified the Korean War of 1950-53 too much and criticized the joint enemy of that time, the United States, calling the USA an 'ambitious wolf'.


The Koreans, on their side, complained that their shows were going to be attended only by low-level Chinese officials, and reportedly decided, after having consulting Kim, to return home. North Korea has not commented on the event. China's Xinhua News agency reported merely that 'communication issues at working level' had led to the cancellation of the shows.


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