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China's art delegation visits NK, signaling revival in cultural exchanges

NK, China to resume joint Lunar New Year's celebrations after four-year hiatus

Jan. 30, 2024 - 15:45 By Ji Da-gyum
A cultural delegation from the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning poses for a group photo at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang on Monday, in this photo carried by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (Yonhap)

A Chinese cultural and art delegation hailing from the northeastern province of Liaoning arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, marking a revival in friendship events commemorating the Lunar New Year's holiday that had been paused the last few years.

The cultural mission's visit represents the third publicly disclosed, high-profile exchange between the two countries in less than a week. The significant interactions coincide with the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries on Oct. 6 this year.

North Korean state media on Tuesday released a photograph capturing the "cultural delegation" of almost 50 members at Sunan International Airport in the capital city of Pyongyang.

Liu Huiyan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and head of the committee's publicity department, led the cultural and art delegation, according to North Korean state media.

The purpose of their visit was to attend North Korea-China friendship events for the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 10. The Lunar New Year, also referred to as the Spring Festival or Chunjie, is China's grandest and most widely celebrated festivity.

The latest such an event occurred in January 2020. At that time, a cultural and art delegation representing the city of Tianjin performed at the Ponghwa Art Theater in Pyongyang. The event was co-sponsored by the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, the North Korea-China Friendship Association, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China and the Chinese Embassy in North Korea.

In January 2019, a North Korean art troupe led by Ri Su-yong, then-vice chairman of the ruling party's Central Committee, presented performances in Beijing to commemorate the Lunar New Year. The dispatch notably came a few weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made his fourth visit to China in less than a year.

Against a backdrop of ongoing, meaningful exchanges between Beijing and Pyongyang since the beginning of this year, the revival of joint celebrations carries significance.

A North Korean delegation from the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports, led by Kim Il-guk, departed Pyongyang on Saturday for a visit to China, North Korean state media reported the following day. No further details were provided.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong met with his North Korean counterparts, Pak Myong-ho and North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, Friday in Pyongyang.

Key on the agenda for the meetings was to make the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries as the "year of DPRK-China friendship," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday. The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday said both sides agreed to "strengthen strategic communication at all levels as well as concurred on the "arrangements for major activities of the China-DPRK Friendship Year" during the meetings.