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Asia Minute: North Korea’s Gone Girl Group: What Happened?

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Last week we told you about an all-girl group from North Korea that was heading to China with its mix of pop music and propaganda. The group arrived, but then abruptly cancelled its concerts and turned around and returned to Pyongyang. HPR’s Bill Dorman looks at why in today’s Asia Minute.

Chinese audiences are going to have to wait a little longer to hear a rousing version of “My Country is the Best” as performed by the all-girl North Korean pop and propaganda group Moranbong.

What happened?

As with so much involving North Korea, there’s more than a little bit of mystery - and a lot of speculation.   South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports it’s basically a case of ruffled diplomatic feathers.  Yonhap says North Korea’s government was expecting Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the Saturday concert.  Officials were shocked when they were informed only a politburo member would be attending—a diplomatic downgrade perhaps related to actions of Kim Jong Un himself.

Late last week, the North Korean leader announced his country had deployed a hydrogen bomb.  That claim has gotten international skepticism - and perhaps annoyance from China.  The Chosun Ilbo paper reports some Chinese media speculated two band members tried to defect.  Other websites said Chinese authorities may have tried to tone down some of the anti-American propaganda that plays on a screen in the background during concerts.

Chinese and North Korean official media were quiet on the topic.  The best headline award goes to Korea’s Joong Ang Daily, which wrote on its English language website: “China Censors News of North’s Gone Girl Group. “

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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