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Orchestra from N. Korea to play joint concert in France

SEOUL--A North Korean orchestra will play a joint concert with a French orchestra in Paris next month as part of a cultural exchange program, a South Korean conductor said Tuesday.

Chung Myung-whun said the North's Unhasu Orchestra would perform with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra in the Salle Pleyel theater on March 14.

The 59-year-old, who leads the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and serves as the music director for the French orchestra, met North Korean officials in Beijing on Sunday.

Some 90 North Koreans including 70 musicians will visit Paris, he said, adding 140 artists from both nations would play Johannes Brahms and some non-classical scores.

“I initially wanted a joint performance between musicians from both Koreas... but it was impossible for political reasons,” he said.

The conductor said he would regard the Paris concert as “a meeting of both Koreas and France because I will be leading the performance.”

“I hope the two Koreas can also perform together soon,” he added.

In 2006, Chung was invited to participate in a peace concert in North Korea, but the concert was called off after the communist state conducted a nuclear test.

As a UNICEF good will ambassador he visited Pyongyang last September to meet North Korean artists and watch their performances.

The North invited the New York Philharmonic for a historic concert in Pyongyang in 2008 in an apparent bid to thaw ties with Washington.

Cross-border ties have been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.

The North denied involvement but went on to shell a border island in November the same year, which left four South Koreans dead and sparked brief fears of war.

The North has taken an increasingly hostile tone toward the South in recent months as power is transferred from its late leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

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