Girl band leader crosses into Sth Korea

By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AAP
1 / 3

The leader of North Korea's art troupe arrives in Seoul to prepare for next month's Winter Olympics.

The leader of North Korea's art troupe arrives in Seoul to prepare for next month's Winter Olympics.

The head of a hugely popular North Korean girl band has crossed the heavily fortified border into South Korea to check preparations for an art troupe she also leads during next month's Winter Olympics.

Appearing live on South Korean television on Sunday, Hyon Song Wol didn't speak as she walked past reporters, onlookers and a barrage of photographers before boarding an express train in Seoul for the eastern city of Gangneung, where her art troupe is to perform during the Pyeongchang Olympics.

She also leads Pyongyang's all-female Moranbong Band, which was hand-picked by leader Kim Jong Un. She's been the subject of intense South Korean media attention since she attended last week's talks at the border that struck an agreement on the art troupe's two performances - one in Seoul and the other in Gangneung, where some of the games will take place.

TV stations broadcast live footage of Hyon's bus moving on Seoul's roads before arriving at the railway station, where hundreds of police officers were mobilised to maintain order.

Photos showed a smiling Hyon shaking heads with a South Korean official upon arrival at the border. Later Sunday, wearing a fur scarf and with half her hair tied to the back, she looked more serious with an expressionless face.

Hyon's arrival came hours after the International Olympic Committee allowed 22 North Korean athletes to take part in the Olympics in exceptional entries given to the North. Among the 22 are 12 women who will join South Korea's female hockey team in the Koreas' first-ever unified Olympic team. The other sports events the North Koreans will compete in are figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing.

The 22 North Korean athletes will also march together with South Korean players under a single "unification flag" depicting their peninsula during the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. "Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago," IOC chief Thomas Bach said in Lausanne, Switzerland.