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Yo-Yo Ma plays peace concert at Korean demilitarized zone

By Elizabeth Shim
Yo-Yo Ma plays peace concert at Korean demilitarized zone
U.S. cellist Yo-Yo Ma (C) performs with a group of traditional Korean mask dancers a medley of Korean and Western music during the first DMZ Peace Concert at the DMZ along the inter-Korean border at Dorasan Station on Monday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the Korean demilitarized zone on Monday, calling for peace and the building of bridges across cultures.

Ma, who last year launched the Bach Project, said he has realized a dream at the concert held at Dorasan Station in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, not far from the North Korea border, Yonhap reported.

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Ma, who is of Chinese descent, said he had longed to play at the border between North and South Korea, during the South Korean government-sponsored concert held near the DMZ to commemorate the signing of the Sept. 19, 2018 Pyongyang Declaration.

Ma said feats that are impossible to accomplish alone are possible when done together and that culture builds bridges, not walls.

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The cellist performed at the concert where Kim Chul-woong, a North Korean defector and pianist, also performed for an audience that included top South Korean diplomat Kang Kyung-wha.

Kim was the chief pianist at the National Symphony Orchestra of North Korea before he fled the regime in 2002. On Monday he performed traditional Korean songs, including the "Arirang Sonata."

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"There are not many songs North and South can sing together," Kim said. "I chose songs thinking of how everyone one day will be free to go to Pyongyang. I also want to visit my hometown."

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Ma performed with traditional Korean musicians, including drummer Kim Duk-soo.

Ma is visiting the South at a time when talks with the North have stalled over joint military exercises and denuclearization.

On Monday North Korea issued a preliminary statement, signaling an interest in talks with the United States.

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Choe Son Hui, first vice foreign minister, said the regime is willing to "sit with the U.S. side for comprehensive discussions," according to KCNA.

The two sides have not met since June, when Kim Jong Un met with U.S. President Donald Trump at Panmunjom.

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