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Fifteen years later, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seeking to engage the region's major powers after advances in his nuclear programme prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions and President Donald Trump to threaten war.

The chart-topping starlets will perform on Sunday (April 1) with 10 other South Korean music groups at the first of two concerts this week in Pyongyang.

Joy, member of K-pop girl group Red Velvet, got a lot of hate online after it was announced that she would not be joining her group to perform in North Korea because of schedule conflict with her drama as the South Korean art troupe delegation departed from Seoul for Pyongyang, North Korea on Saturday morning aboard a direct flight.

The young couple were seen clapping their hands during the two-hour event - also attended by Kim's powerful sister, Kim Yo-jong, and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam.

South Korean media pool reports from Pyongyang said Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, watched Sunday's performance by the South Korean group at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater.

Kim proposed that the next one be held in Seoul under the title "Autumn Comes".

Singer and actor Joy of the girl group Red Velvet will not participate in a concert in Pyongyang due to a previously scheduled shoot for the MBC drama "The Great Seducer", according to local news outlet My Daily on Friday.

The South Korean musicians taking part include singers and bands from a variety of genres, ranging from traditional folk songs to trendier K-pop, while some 20 taekwondo performers have also travelled.

The concerts in Pyongyang on Sunday and Tuesday come ahead of a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27.

In February, the 26-year old performed alongside North Korea's 137-strong Samjiyon Orchestra, which was part of North Korea's art troupe during the recent Winter Games.

Kim met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing last week on his first overseas trip. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit.

The five-member girlband - known for its signature K-pop mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography - performed two of their hits, Bad Boy and Red Flavour.

Another member, Seulgi, appeared red-eyed as she bid farewell to the audience at the end of the concert, apparently overcome with emotion.

Despite the North's isolation and strict curbs on unauthorised foreign culture, enforced with prison terms, K-pop and Seoul's TV shows have become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with China.

K-pop - characterized by its manufactured melodies and slick approach to marketing - has penetrated into North Korea over the past 10 years.