S. Korea musicians to play first concert in North since 2007

Seoul (AFP) - K-pop stars will play the first concerts by South Korean artists in the North for more than a decade, officials said Tuesday, as the dramatic thaw in relations kicked off by the recent Winter Olympics gathers pace.

Seoul will send a total of 160 performers to Pyongyang for a four day visit from March 31 to April 3, according to a statement issued after inter-Korean talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The group will include local pop legends Cho Yong-pil and Choi Jin-Hee, five-member K-pop group Red Velvet and Seohyun, a member of the famous K-pop group Girls' Generation.

They will stage the first performances by South Korean acts in the North since 2007.

"It was not easy to select songs that are wanted by both sides," Yoon Sang, South Korea's chief delegate to the talks, told a press briefing Tuesday.

Seoul said the North had invited the art troupe "in order to keep the momentum for peace and reconciliation", which was galvanised by the Winter Olympics and built on when South Korean special envoys met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month.

The North sent its own art troupe to South Korea to celebrate the the Olympics last month, with 140 members of the Samjiyon Orchestra staging two performances.

Despite the misgivings of some South Koreans, tickets were in high demand, with 156,000 people applying for 530 pairs of available seats.

The South Korean troupe will give two concerts, at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre and the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium, which can accommodate some 12,000 spectators, Yonhap news agency reported.

The concerts come ahead of an inter-Korean summit slated for late April at Panmunjom.

In 1985, South Korean musicians held their first concert in Pyongyang as part of cultural exchanges.

Following a historic summit between Seoul and Pyongyang in 2000, various Korean singers, including Cho Yong-pil, performed in the North.