North Korean Children's Art Troupe Performs in Seoul

Michael P. Downey
Friday, 26 May 2000

I just returned from the Seoul Arts Center were the performing arts group from North Korea gave their first performance. The Seoul Arts center is a beautiful stone complex with an opera hall, music hall and several theaters. The opera hall where the performance took place is the largest opera hall in Seoul and is round and of a unique oriental design.

There were more than a few tense hours today because the visiting group was threatening to boycott the performance. Apparently they felt they were being harassed by the aggressive South Korean media and not being able to relate to the concept of a free press could not understand why the officials did not call them off. Dr. Pak spent hours negotiating and the performance went on as scheduled.

The hall was packed and the performance was exciting and energy charged. The group consisted of about forty children from about six years old to maybe nineteen. Their music and dance was a mixture of western and Korean styles. By western I mean western circa late 1950s. They had a western style band with drums, a large brass section, bass and a huge drum. It was nothing like what we think of as traditional Korean dance as we have seen the Little Angels do many times. It was highly polished with a fast beat and bright Korean and western night club style costumes. There was a feeling of purity and innocence projected in all the music and dance. It made me think of what Korea would be like with out the past 50 years of western influence.

Two rows in front of me were the officials from North Korea. When they filed in there was a noticeable rustle as every one tried to get a look at them. To me, without their Kim Il Sung lapel buttons they look the same as the people I see every day. President Pak Sang Gwan of the North Korean car company and President Hwang Sun Jo and his children sat with them. Mrs. Julia Moon and her son sat just behind them. Dr. Pak and the Little Angels in their distinctive blue and white uniforms had the first three rows. At the end of each performance, several of the Little Angels jumped up and ran on the stage to present flowers. A few moments of comedy resulted when they chased some of the kids off stage to present flowers and give them a hug and a kiss.

The audience responded to the children with warmth at first and then with enthusiastic hand clapping and foot stomping. At the end, all the children came on stage for a prolonged period of applause. Every one joined in singing the Tong Il song, that we all know, several times.

As the crowd filed out our members lined the exits and bid everyone good bye Korean style. There will be four more performances and will conclude on Sunday night.