Forget ping-pong. Now it is K-Pop diplomacy!
On April 6th 1971, the American Table Tennis team received an invitation to visit the People’s Republic of China, a country with which their nation refused to have any diplomatic or economic. This invitation marked the beginning of a thaw in China-America relations that eventually led to the visit of the American president Richard Nixon a year later. Dubbed ‘ping-pong diplomacy’, the instance became famous for the unconventional way in which it helped bring about an improvement of relations between two bitter enemies. Now, in 2018, South and North Korea are following a similar path, as South Korea recently sent a delegation of musical artists to Pyongyang amidst improving relations in a show what many have begun calling ‘K-Pop diplomacy’.
Including such famous idol groups as Red Velvet, this event marked not only the first time in more than 10 years that South Korean singers have performed in the North, but also the first time a North Korean leader has attended a South Korean musical performance. This is especially strange since Kim Jong-un has tried to prevent South Korean pop culture from reaching his isolated subjects. K-pop has also previously been used by the South as a form of psychological warfare, as the military would play it along the border and human rights activists would smuggle in K-pop-filled USBs, all in an attempt to weaken the North Korean regime by showing its people the most attractive elements of life outside.
The previous administration of Park Geun-hye also used K-Pop in an attempt to strengthen ties with allies. In 2016, as K-con France attracted 12,500 people from across Europe to experience Korean food and culture, and watch several of their favorite K-Pop idol groups, Park was participating in other events, such as the groundbreaking of a dormitory for Korean students at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris.
That same year she also visited Mexico, where a Korea-Mexico Cultural Exchange Performance was held in front of around 3,200 people featuring K-pop group INFINITE. In a speech at the event, she stated “I hope you will all continue to give Korean culture your love, and I will do my best to create more opportunities like this for our two countries to communicate and become one through culture.”
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