Kim Jong-un’s pop propaganda girl group to perform in China

December 10, 2015 12:03 pm

Moranbong Band’s six-day tour of dancehall diplomacy is designed to
rebuild bridges damaged by ’s missile and nuclear tests.

State
media reports that the all-girl ensemble is scheduled to perform in
in the next few days, with analysts suggesting that the tour is
part of a charm offensive. Photo / Supplied

The Moranbong Band ticks all the boxes of a manufactured girl
group: the brainchild of a powerful svengali, they mix tight
choreography and skirts with dashes of Western pop culture.
It is
perhaps the titles of their songs – The Silk Weaving Girl of Nyongbyon,
We Can’t Live Without His Care and Fluttering Red Flag – that give away
their North Korean origins.
For the Moranbong Band were
reputedly handpicked by Kim Jong Un. Now they are about to engage in
dancehall diplomacy, embarking on an international tour for the first
time.
State media reports that the all-girl ensemble is scheduled
to perform in China in the next few days, with analysts suggesting that
the tour is part of a charm offensive on the part of Pyongyang as it
attempts to rebuild bridges with Beijing.
Ties between the two erstwhile allies have been strained since shortly after Kim Jong Un came to power in late 2011.

The fledgling dictator chose to ignore heavy hints from
Beijing to cancel the test-launch of a ballistic missile in April 2012
and, in a development that infuriated China, went ahead with North
Korea’s third underground nuclear test in February 2013.
Reportedly
created by Kim after he inherited the leadership, the 21-strong
Moranbong Band arrive in China today for a six-day tour, according to
the Korea Central Agency.
The venues for their performances,
alongside North Korea’s State Merited Chorus, have not been announced,
although KCNA said the tour will “contribute to deepening friendship and
boosting cultural and artistic exchanges between the peoples of the two
countries”.
“Pyongyang is clearly trying to mend its ties with
China, although it’s not clear what the impact of this kind of ‘soft
power’ will have,” said Professor Jeff Kingston, director of Asian
Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University.
“There are
encouraging signs that the relationship is coming out of the deep freeze
and Beijing will be very keen to get North Korea back to the
negotiating table on things like the nuclear question”, he said.
“For
China, the biggest worry is the threat North Korea poses to its own
security, whether in terms of its nuclear weapons or a regime collapse
that would have a serious impact on the border region”.
Propping
up the regime in Pyongyang may help to preserve the uneasy status quo on
the peninsula, although the longer term outlook remains deeply
uncertain, analysts say.
With their short skirts and performances
that borrow heavily from Western pop productions – light shows,
big-screen backdrops and choreographed moves. But the Moranbong Band
still serve as ambassadors of North Korea with songs celebrating
hardworking labourers and the strong – but kind – hand of their leader.
That
is an impressive resurrection after reports in the South Korean media
in September that they had fallen foul of one of Kim’s frequent purges.
After not performing for seven months, they finally reappeared on
September 7 in a concert for a state delegation from Cuba.

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