Young Pioneer Tours

Moranbong Band (2020)

Introduction

No band throughout North Korea’s History has quite captured the hearts of local North Koreans like the all-female Moranbong Band and catapulted North Korean music to an International audience quite like the Moranbong Band.

Most people with an even slight interest in North Korea will be able to tell you something about the Moranbong Band, with the exception of Missle tests and tensions with the USA the group are arguably the countries most defining symbol of the 2010s.

Past the Moranbong Band’s flashy performances and Chic Fashion, however, where did they come from, and who are they? When did they perform, and what does the future hold for this Iconic North Korean Band?

Let’s Find out!

Table of Contents

History of the Moranbong Band

The Moranbong Band, also known as the Moran Hill Orchestra, was formed in 2012 by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.

Through the years 2012 – 2016, the Moranbong Band was a staple of North Korean life frequently performing to mark significant national events and holidays.

Since 2016 the band has appeared less often but still makes the occasional performance usually alongside other DPRK Bands.

Moranbong Band Members

Contrary to many people’s popular belief, the Moranbong Band has seen many members come and out over the years. Some have disappeared from the band temporarily while others have left only to re-emerge elsewhere, usually with a different music group.

No explanation is usually given when a band member leaves, but this article will do it’s best to go over the most identifiable and core members of the group over the years.

Most members of the Moranbong Band are graduates from either the Pyongyang University of Music or Goldstar Academy in Pyongyang.

Singers

The Orginal 6

Most Moranbong band performances usually feature between 6 – 8 singers from the group at any given time. With both duets and solo’s during performances.

The singers who participated in the first concert in July 2012 were Kim Yu-Kyung, Ryu Jin-ah, Pak Mi-Kyung, Jong Su-Hyang, Pak Son-hyang, and Kim Seol-mi.

Of these Orginal Six Kim Yu-Kyong, Ryu Jina, Pak Mi-Kyong and Jong Su-Hyang still appear to be active members as of 2020.

Lasting Additions

In addition to the original four who still are core members of the band, there are two late additions who also appear to be members today. They are Jo Guk-Hyang and Kim Ok-Ju.

Jo Guk-Hyang (조국향) – First Appearing in 2015, Jo Guk-Hyang has been seen with the Moranbong Band ever since. In her first appearance ever for the group, she stood alongside Kim Yu-Kyong and performed “Longing is my happiness / 그리움은 나의 행복”.

Kim Ok-Ju (김옥주) Kim Ok Ju moved from the Chongbon Band in late 2017. In the New Year’s Day Performance of January 1st, 2018 she performed a solo of “The Voice of My Heart / 내 심장의 목소리”

Prominent Past Singers of the Moranbong Band

The Next Three Singers of the Moranbong Band joined after the group’s initial inception but made significant contributions and appeared for a lengthy amount of time. They are Ri Myong-Hui, Ra Yu-Mi and Ri Ok-Hua. Ra Yu-Mi The Next Three Singers of the Moranbong Band joined after the group’s initial inception but made significant contributions and appeared for a lengthy amount of time. They are Ri Myong-Hui, Ra Yu-Mi and Ri Ok-Hua.

Ri Myong-Hui (리명희) – Appearing for the first time on August 25th, 2012 just over a month after the first performance Ri Myong-Hui would remain a prominent vocalist in the group until April 2015. Ri Myong-Hui performed Solo at a performance dedicated to the Korean Peoples Airforce on April 20th, 2014. The song is titled “Our hearts yearning for The Leader / 수령님 그리는 마음” and can be viewed by clicking here.

Ra Yu-Mi (라유미) – Appearing as a member of the Moranbong band from early 2013 until September 2014, Ra Yu-Mi had a bit of a short-lived tenure with the band, but as a State Merited Artist she made her mark. Prominent solo performances by her included “Thinking of the General / 장군님 생각”, “Confession / 고백” and “I Love Pyongyang / 평양을 나는 사랑해”.

Ri Ok-Hua (리옥화) – A State Merited Artist and former member of the Wanjaesan Light Band, Ri Ok-Hua was with the group from September 14th until the end of 2016. Distinguished solo performances by her are “15 minutes on that day / 그날의 15분”, “Though Years Have Passed / 세월이야 가보라지” and “We have a great Party / 우리에겐 위대한 당이 있네”.

Musicians

The Orginal Moranbong Band Musicians

Sonu Hyang-Hui ( 선우향희) – One of the original Violinists for the Moranbong Band she appeared with the group from the first performance until mid-2015 before reemerging at concerts in July 2017. In 2014 she performed a Violin Solo of “Glorious and Admirable / 매혹과 흠모”

Hong Su-Kyong (홍수경) – A always steady figure with the Moranbong Band Hong Su-Kyong has been consistently appearing since the bands inception in 2012.

Cha Yong-mi (차영미) – Viola and Violin Player with the Moranbong Band from 2012 – 2017.

Yu Un Jong (유은정) – Yu Un Jong was the Cello player for the Moranbong band between 2012 and 2016. She performed a cello solo of the song “I know only you / 그대밖에 내 몰라라”.

Ri Hui-kyong (리희경) -Ri Huy-Kyong is the Synthesizer for the Moranbong band and has been with the group since 2012.

Choe Jong Im (최정임)

Ri Yun-hui (리윤희) – The original drummer the Moranbong Band from 2012 until 2014. Formerly performed for the Wanjaesan Light band.

Moranbong Band Performances

Since debuting in 2012, the Moranbong Band has made a number of appearances, especially in the band’s first few years of existence. Typically performances are held to mark major national holidays, celebrate political events or in North Korean provincial cities when the band toured the country.

We have compiled a list of Published Moranbong Band Performances below. Published meaning these concerts were filmed and aired on North Korean state media at some point. The Moranbong Band, of course, had more performances then below, but these were not filmed and instead only received a brief mention in a newspaper or newscast.

Unfortunately, performances have become less frequent since 2015, but the band still makes the occasional performance.

Below is a list of Published Moranbong Band Performances:

2012 Performances


July 7th, 2012
Concert Title: First Performance held by the Moranbong Band
Concert Venue: Mansudae Art Theater Pyongyang

This concert was the Moranbong Band’s great debut to the world and what a debut it was!

In attendance was the top leadership of the DPRK, including the new to power Marshal Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju.

The concert opens with Korean Folk Song Arirang and continues on with a classic mix of North Korea tunes until the midway point of the show which is what would thrust the Moranbong Band into international news with appearances from Micky Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Snow White and a large ensemble of western music including Frank Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way” and the Theme to “Rocky.”

Immediately gaining the attention of International Press this concert would set the path for the Moranbong Band to become the most popular band domestically the DPRK has ever seen, as well as bringing what was now dubbed “NK Pop” to an international audience.


July 28th, 2012
Concert Title: Celebrating Victory Day
Concert Venue: Pyongyang, Peoples Theatre

Attended by Korean War Veterans, Top Military officials foreign diplomats and students.

Focusing mainly on the Korean War’s military effort, the overall atmosphere for the first half is quite serious, featuring scenes of Kim Il Sung’s Victory speech as well as a song dedicated to the Chinese Peoples Volunteer’s army efforts in the Korean War.

In the second half of the performance, the Moranbong Band changes from Military drab to civilian costume and more lighthearted songs are performed.


August 25th, 2012
Concert Title: Commemorating the 52nd anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s start of Songun leadership
Concert Venue: Korean People’s Army Unit 4302 military base on the Eastern coast

The Moranbong Band’s third performance and the first outside of Pyongyang was held at a local military unit on the East Coast and was attended by Kim Jong Un and his Wife, Ri-Sol Ju.

Celebrating the Anniversary of Songun Policy (Military First Policy) this concert much like the Moranbong Band’s second had a heavy emphasis on Military Songs.


October 11th, 2012
Concert Title: Song in Praise of the Guiding Party celebrating the 67th Anniversary
Concert Venue: Peoples Theatre

Attended by officials to celebrate the 67th Anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea, the most significant thing about the Moranbong Band’s fourth performance is it is the debut of their signature white uniforms. These white uniforms would become synonymous with the Moranbong band for years to come.


October 29th, 2012
Concert Title: The 60th Anniversary of Kim Il Sung Military University
Concert Venue: People’s Theatre

Held in honour of the 60th Anniversary of Kim Il Sung Military Academy, this performance was attended by teachers, students and Kim Il Sung Military Academy Alumni.


December 21st, 2012
Concert Title: In honour of scientists, technicians, workers and officials who worked on the successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2
Concert Venue: Mokran House

A concert held in celebration of the launch of the Kwangmyongsong 3-2 satellite. The first satellite successfully launched by North Korea on December 3rd, 2012 and made North Korea the tenth space power in the world.

2013 Performances


January 1st, 2013
Concert Title: Special New Years Performance “Following the Party to the End”
Concert Venue: People’s Theatre

The Moranbong Bands seventh televised performance and first New Years Day special is one of our favourite Moranbong Band Performances of all times here at YPT and the first New Year’s Concert of which they know perform annually.

This is the last performance where the band members wear civilian as opposed to Military attire for the duration of the performance, and the whole performance has a relaxed and very light-hearted atmosphere.


February 2nd, 2013
Concert Title: Joint Performance the Voice of the Mother
Concert Venue: People’s Theatre

Just over a month after their dazzling New Years Day 2013 concert would come a Joint Performance with the State Merited Choir (something that will become increasingly common as the years go on).

This performance features the band members in military outfit for the duration of the performance.


April 11th, 2013
Concert Tittle: Celebration of the first anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s election as the first secretary of the WPK and first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK
Concert Venue: An unknown KPA Unit banquet hall

A Lively concert held in an unknown location for a KPA unit to celebrate Kim Jong Un’s election as first secretary of the WPK and first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK.

This a particularly fast-paced and exciting concert attended by many young members of the PKA. The released KCTV footage is also markedly interesting as it shows footage of the Moranbong Band arriving at the concert venue in non-stage attire.


April 25th, 2013
Concert Title: The 81st anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army
Concert Venue: Mokran House

Featuring the most militaristic Moranbong Band Uniforms yet, this performance was held on the 81st Anniversary of the Korean People’s Army at the Mokran house with top military commanders and high-level members of North Korea’s Political Leadership in attendance.

June 24th, 2013
Concert Title: Art Performance for the workers of Jagang Province
Concert Venue: Local Concert hall in Jaggan Province

A Performance given to local workers in Jagang Province, this concert has a very different vibe from previous Pyongyang Concerts.

At some points, the audience rise from their chairs to dance in front of the stage, and the violinists of the Moranbong Band also mix with the audience.

July 27th, 2013
Concert Title: The 60th Anniversary of the victory in the great Fatherland Liberation War
Concert Venue: Mokran House

A performance given to top Military Brass to mark the massive 60th Anniversary Celebrations of the end of the Korean War.


August 3rd, 2013
Concert Title: Thanking the participants of the military parade on July 27th, 2013
Concert Venue: People’s Theatre

A performance for those who participated in North Korea’s massive military parade on Victory Day on July 27th, 2013.

There is a heavy influence of song’s about the Korean War with various speeches by President Kim IL Sung made throughout 1950-1953 being played throughout.

Of particular note as well, this concert features the last time the Band Members are introduced by face on the big screen before performing.


October 10th,2013
Concert Title: “Long Live the Workers’ Party of Korea” A joint performance by Moranbong Band and State Merited Chorus
Concert Venue: Peoples theatre

Held for the 68th Anniversary of the Worker’s Party of Korea and the final performance of 2013 was a joint performance by the State Merited Chorus and Moranbong Band.

Attended by Senior Members of the Party, including Marshal Kim Jong Un. This is still considered a quintessential Moranbong Band concert during their golden age.

This was also the first time we see Moranbong Band perform with the State Merited Chorus, which would become regular in the years to come.


2014 Performances


March 17th, 2014
Concert Title “Praising the immortal revolutionary exploits Kim Jong Un”
Concert Venue : Unknown theatre presumably in Pyongyang.

After a 5-month absence, the first concert was held for an all military audience in a relatively small concert hall.

Before this concert, the Moranbong Band had often performed during large national functions or holidays. This performance invoked a more typical style of DPRK performances that the general public would be used to. Lot’s of classic folk songs and new songs centred around the Workers Party of Korea were performed.


March 22nd – April 01st, 2014
Concert Title: Moranbong Band warmly loved by the people
Concert Venue: April 25th house of culture

Between these days in spring 2014, the Moranbong Band played a series of ten concerts open to the general public, school children and tourists visiting the country.


April 2nd – April 11th, 2014
Concert Title: Singing high praises of the exploits of General Secretary Kim Jong Il and the leadership of Kim Jong Un
Concert Venue: Samjiyon County in Ryanggang Province.

After an Initial Concert held in Pyongyang on April 2nd, the Moranbong Band went on a tour to Ryanggang Province and would play songs for a local audience in a variety of places, including Samjiyon County, Taehongdan County and Hyesan City.

To fit the Theme of playing in the vicinity of Mount Paektu and the importance this region has to the period of the Korean Revolution, the band members wore wartime guerilla uniforms during the performances.


April 20th, 2014
Concert Title: Congratulating participants in the first meeting of chairpersons of the KPA with the subtheme ”immensely rosy is the future of Songun Korea as there is the leadership of Kim Jong Un”
Concert Venue: April 25th House of Culture

Held for members of the Korean People’s Airforce with Marshal Kim Jong Un in attendance, this concert had a heavy focus on Military songs and featured new outfits for the band after international media focused on the short length of their skirts from previous concerts

The ensemble wears airforce trousers with leather airforce jackets, and the singers wear airforce style skirts longer than the previous ones also with leather jackets to match the audience.


May 2nd, 2014
Concert Title: Completion of the remodelling of Songdowon International Children’s Camp “We Have Nothing to Envy in this world”
Concert Venue: Songdowon International Children’s Camp

Moranbong Band Children's Camp

Held in celebration of the renovated Songdowon International Children’s Camp located in Wonsan City.

Unfortunately, the video of the concert was never released, but this concert was performed for Children attending the camp as well as officials involved in the renovations.

A heavy emphasis was put on songs geared towards the youth of the DPRK.


May 19th, 2014
Concert Title: Congratulating participants of the 9th National meeting of Artistes
Concert Venue: April 25th House of Culture

Held after the 9th National Meeting of Artistes, this was a fairly stock standard Moranbong Band Performance.

Attended by Writers, artists, art teachers and Marshal Kim Jong Un.


September 4th, 2014
Concert Title: New Music Given by Moranbong Band
Concert Venue: Mansudae Art Theatre

This performance-focused heavily on the performances of Ri Ok-hua and Ra Yu-mi, both state merited artists.

The performance of “Voice of My Heart / 내 심장의 목소리” by Ra-Yu Mi during this performance would become the official state released version of the song you will hear around on KCTV most commonly.

This performance was attended by people who work in the field of arts.


2015 Performances


April 27th, 2015
Concert Title: Concert for participants of the fifth Conference of Training Officers of the Korean People’s Army
Concert Venue: People’s Palace of Culture

The first concert in over 7 Months takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture.

An almost exclusively Military audience attends it. This performance cements Ryu Jina’s role as the core member of the band, singing a vast amount of solos and duets.

This performance also features one of the best live versions of “We Will Go to Mount Paektu” an essential banger that will likely be stuck in your head for eternity after a YPT Tour to North Korea


September 9th, 2015
Concert Title: Welcoming a state delegation of the Republic of Cuba visiting the DPRK on the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and Cuba
Concert Venue: People’s Palace of Culture

A performance held for a visiting Cuban delegation, including Miguel Mario Diaz’s first visit to the DPRK. The State Merited Chorus mainly did this concert, but the Moranbong Band makes an appearance in the middle.

Unfortunately, no full-length video of the concert is available, but above is the KCTV clip on the visit, which includes snippets.


October 10th – 19th 2015
Concert Title: Workers Party of Korea 70th Anniversary Celebration.
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

A series of nightly concerts held for the Major Celebrations of the Workers Party of Korea. Some of these concerts were open to foreign tourists, and the October 19th date had Marshal Kim Jong Un in attendance


December 12th – 15th 2015
Beijing Series of concerts / DPRK-China Friendship concerts
Concert Venue: National Centre for the Performing Arts
Beijing China

In December 2015, the band was scheduled to play a series of friendship concerts between December 12th and 15th. The Moranbong Band traveled all the way to Beijing, but unfortunately, the concerts never came to fruition due to last-minute disagreements between the two parties.

Featured above is a video of the Moranbong band rehearing in Beijing before the concert cancellation


2016 Performances


February 13th, 2016
Concert Title: Celebration for the successful launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite
Concert Venue: Mokran House

The first of two concerts held to celebrate the successful launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite on February 7th 2016. This one features only the Moranbong Band with Marshal Kim Jong Un present in the audience.


February 18th, 2016
Concert Title: Celebration for the successful launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

A second concert held by the Moranbong Band and State Merited Choir to celebrate the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 Sattelitle on February the 7th 2016.


May 11th, 2016
Concert Title: Joint Art Performance Given by Moranbong Band, Chongbong Band, State Merited Chorus, “Following Our Party Forever”
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

A performance featuring the DPRK’s three major bands at the time. This performance heavily focused on songs about the Worker’s Party of Korea and was attended by WPK officials, foreign diplomats, members of the Chongryon association and normal Pyongyang citizens.


December 28th, 2016
Concert Title: Honouring the participants in the First Conference of Chairpersons of the Primary Committees of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

The Merited State Merited Chorus and Moranbong Band back at it again with a performance in appreciation of the participants in the First Conference of Chairpersons of the Primary Committees of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Attended by mostly Military as well as Marshal Kim Jong Un.


2017 Performances


May 20th, 2017
Concert Title: Ardent celebration for the Hwasong-12 missile
Concert Venue: Mokran House

Moranbong Band

A concert held for the testing of the Hwasong – 12 Missle a solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile that was tested on May 14th, 2017.

Video footage of this performance was never released, but the audience was made up of Scientists and Technicians who helped towards the successful test.


July 9th, 2017 – July 12th, 2017
Concert Title: Celebrating the successful launch of the first Intercontinental Ballistic Rocket Hwasong-14.
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

series of concerts held to celebrate the launch of North Korea’s first proven Intercontinental Ballistic Rocket Hwasong-14.

The concerts featured the Moranbong Band. State Merited Choir, Chongbong Band singers and Wangjaesan Art Troupe dancers.

In attendance were military officials and those who assisted in the successful launch.


July 30th, 2017
Concert Title: Celebrating the second successful launch of the Intercontinental Ballistic Rocket Hwasong-14
Concert Venue: People’s Theatre

Celebrating the Launch of North Korea’s second successful Launch of their ICBM. This concert came at a time of extremely heightened tensions with the United States and featured a video backdrop of an ICBM hitting the continental USA.


Moranbong Band 2017 Grand Domestic Tour

In September of 2017, the Moranbong Band would go on a grand domestic tour of the country playing in various provincial cities. The theme of the series of concerts was the “Grand Provincial Tour to harden the faith and will of the working people.”

While not much video exists of the provincial performances information available shows that most of the performances followed the same setlist and some days the band would perform up to three times.

The Grand Domestic tour led to the Moraonbong Band being interviewed twice by state media something which is very rare. You can see these interviews below:



Concert Dates and Locations:

September 13th – September 21st / Songdowon Youth Open-Air Theatre in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province

September 24th – September 30th / Hamhung Grand Theatre in Hamhung City, South Hamgyong Province

October 4th – October 13th / North Phyongan Provincial Art Theatre in Sinuiju City, North Phyongan Province

October 18th – October 29th / People’s Art Hall Kanggye City, Jagang Province

November 2nd – November 12th / Anju Theatre in Anju City, South Phyongan Province

November 16th – November 26th / Nampo City Art Theatre, Nampo Special City, South Pyongan Province

November 30th – December 6th / North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theatre, Sariwon City of North Hwanghae Province

After a total of 68 Days of concerts, the Moranbong Band would return home to Pyongyang in December of 2017 for one more performance held on December 29th, 2017. Unfortunately, this performance was no broadcasted on State media but can be seen as an end to the Grand Domestic Tour.


2018 Performances


January 1st, 2018
Concert Title: New Years Day Performance “Appearance of Korea”
Concert Venue: Pyongyang Arena

A joint performance between the State Merited Choir and the Moranbong Band would mark the beginning of the band’s tradition to play a New Year’s Concert and signal the end of the number of Moranbong Band performances we would get.

In fact, since the 2018 New Years Day performance, the band has only given two more known performances.


2019 Performances


December 31st / January 1st, 2018-2019
Concert Title: New Year’s Eve Performance 2018-2019
Concert Venue: Kim Il Sung Square

The first appearance in a year for the Moranbong Band came at the end of a massive New Year’s Eve concert in Kim Il Sung Square.

The performance featured other groups such as the Phibada Opera Troupe, National Folk Art Troupe and members from the Kim Won Gyun University of Music.

The Moranbong Band came out at the end, but it was not a complete performance. Full songs were not played, but instead snippets from the bands most popular over the years.


2020 Performances


December 31st / January 1st, 2019-2020
Concert Title: New Year’s Eve Performance 2019-2020
Concert Venue: Kim Il Sung Square

For a second straight year, the Moranbong Band made an appearance in Kim Il Sung Square on New Year’s Eve.

There second year performing on New Year’s was a much larger affair than the first year featuring about 25 minutes of performance including classics such as “Let’s Study,” “We Will go to Mount Paektu” and perhaps the coolest moment of the concert was when “Please Let the Snow Fall on New Year’s Eve” came on exactly after midnight with artificial snow raining down from the sky.

Check out the exact moment in the video below captured on our YPT New Years Eve Tour:

How to see the Moranbong Band?

Right now, the best chance to see the Moranbong Band is on our Annual New Year’s Eve in the DPRK tour.

Occasionally in the past, chances have come up while on tour to attend a concert. However, this is almost impossible to predict in advance, as tourist eligibility to participate is only usually announced a day or two before the concert.

CONTACT US TODAY TO PLAN YOUR TRIP TO NORTH KOREA

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