B-boys and brass band welcome North to Games

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B-boys and brass band welcome North to Games


North Korean athletes dance with Soohorang, the mascot of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, during the welcome ceremony at Gangneung Olympic village in Gangwon on Thursday. [YONHAP]

GANGNEUNG, Gangwon - A welcome ceremony for the North Korean athlete delegation was held Thursday at the Gangneung Olympic Village, drawing heavy local and foreign media attention to the event just a day before the opening of the Olympic Games.

The ceremony began at 11 a.m. and was covered by hundreds of reporters and camera crews intent on catching every move made by the North Korean delegation. Also drawing attention was an all-female North Korean brass band that performed at the ceremony.

The welcome ceremony came a week after the North’s 46-member delegation arrived in Gangneung. The group is comprised of 22 athletes along with their coaches and officials.

The event sparked heavy media attention particularly because the North Korean flag was raised and its national anthem was played. Displaying the North Korean flag is normally punishable under South Korea’s National Security Law, which forbids praise of the North Korean regime.

While a Korean military honor guard was responsible for raising the flags of other participating nations, on this occasion, the job fell to a volunteer. North and South Korea are technically still at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and no peace treaty has ever been signed.

The twelve North Korean ice hockey players who are on the inter-Korean team and have been practicing with their South Korean teammates attended the ceremony, while some athletes skipped the event due to a clash with their training schedule.

The brass bands stood in uniform rows next to the athletes, dressed in military-style red jackets and hats with white boots and pants. The band members are part of a cheerleading and Taekwondo group that entered the South on Tuesday and are staying at a resort hotel in Inje, a 100-kilometer (62.1-mile) drive from the Gangneung village.

A South Korean samulnori (traditional Korean percussion) group performed alongside a local b-boy crew, welcoming the athletes to the Olympics. Although the performance has been part of every welcome ceremony so far, it was unclear whether it would be included in the North Korean celebration as the regime punishes citizens who listen to or watch South Korean music, dramas or movies.

One member of the b-boy team told the Korea JoongAng Daily his members were advised to “avoid heavy physical contact.”

Following the South Korea’s b-boy dance performance, in collaboration with the samulnori team, the North’s brass band performed for around 30 minutes, playing songs including ‘Arirang’.

“I really liked the samulnori group” said a North Korean female delegation member. When asked if she enjoyed the b-boy dance as well, she said, “I prefer traditional music performances,” with a smile.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]
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