150,000 apply to see Samjiyon Orchestra

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150,000 apply to see Samjiyon Orchestra

More than 150,000 people applied for free tickets to the North Korean Samjiyon Orchestra concert this week in Seoul and Gangneung, Gangwon, a massive turnout after the Unification Ministry announced it would select 530 audience members from the public through an online lottery system, offering two tickets to each winner.

The lottery began on Friday at midday and ended 24 hours later. Winners will be announced Tuesday morning; 280 people will be chosen for the Gangneung concert and 250 for the Seoul concert.

Among the 1,060 free seats for both concerts, 560 have been set aside for the performance in Gangneung this Thursday at the Gangneung Arts Center from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The rest, 500 seats, were set aside for the Seoul performance three days later at the National Theater of Korea in Jung District, central Seoul from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

According to Interpark, a ticket purchasing website that handled applications, 39,109 people signed up for the Gangneung concert, bringing the competition rate to 140 to one. The Seoul concert saw a much higher competition rate, 468 to one, after 117,123 people applied.

The Unification Ministry said it would fill the remaining seats by inviting South Koreans who were separated from their families during the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as socially disadvantaged people, among others.

Pyongyang told Seoul last Friday through a Panmunjom hotline that the Samjiyon Orchestra plans to play “many” South Korean songs, adding further details of the performances were forthcoming. The North still hasn’t told the South what specific type of performance the orchestra will put on, raising concerns that it could play propaganda music, which Seoul urged Pyongyang not to include.

Some 140 members of the orchestra will cross the border today and tomorrow by taking a road linking the two countries along the west coast. The Unification Ministry said the first delegation will mostly be composed of technicians, while the instrumentalists, singers and dancers are expected to enter the South on Tuesday.

The entire group will return to North Korea next Monday.

The Samjiyon Orchestra has never before appeared in North Korean media, nor has Pyongyang ever explained to Seoul officials what exactly it is, prompting local authorities to believe it is a makeshift combination of several orchestras specially convened for the concerts in the South.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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