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North Korean singer conferred high honors by Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un commended the state’s artists Sunday, including Kim Ok Ju, a singer and actress who performed with South Koreans in 2018. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un commended the state’s artists Sunday, including Kim Ok Ju, a singer and actress who performed with South Koreans in 2018. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

July 12 (UPI) -- A North Korean singer who performed with visiting South Korean musicians in 2018 was conferred a new title by Kim Jong Un, according to state media.

Korean Central News Agency reported Monday that "creators and artists of important art groups" were awarded national commendations Sunday.

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Kim, who personally selected members of North Korea's all-women Moranbong Band in 2012, said Band of the State Affairs Commission and the band's member Kim Ok Ju, "aroused the excitement of the [North Korean] people with masterpieces and epic performances" at a time of relative "hibernation and stagnation" in the arts sector.

The singer was awarded the title "People's Artist" at Mansudae Assembly Hall, with the North Korean leader in attendance. Kim is the first person to be given the high honor in six years, according to South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun.

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"The era of new advancements, the era of dynamism, requires more than ever before the creation of many masterpieces with strong influence and appeal in the fields of literature and the arts," Kim Jong Un said, according to KCNA.

Kim Ok Ju performed in April 2018 at Pyongyang's Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium with South Korean singers. Kim sang a South Korean song, "To J," with South Korean singer and songwriter Lee Sun-hee. The theme of the 2018 inter-Korean concert was "We Are One."

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North Korea forbids its citizens from listening to South Korean music, or watching television shows and films.

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North Korea began to crack down on "cultural and ideological infiltration" in December, when the regime adopted a new "Reactionary Ideological Culture Rejection Law" that could further punish officers for allowing outside information into the country.

Distributors of videos are subject to the death penalty, according to Kyunghyang Shinmun.

In June, Kim called K-pop a "vicious cancer" on North Korean society.

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