She and the other student singers spent years perfecting the same movements and voice, so that the group would perform as "one mind, one body."
"The ideal," she said, "was to see one million people in a chorus singing the same song without a mistake.
"I think it's possible only in North Korea because we were trained since such a young age. It takes years to learn to smile the same way, to tilt the head the same way."
She escaped to South Korea, where she found a small ensemble to perform with ( "It's impossible for any North Korean artist to perform alone"):
In the North, her audiences were captive and she performed, she said, for honor. In the South, a foreign element - money - came into the equation.
"If our group is to survive here, we can't do anything without money, though, of course, money can't be our objective," she said before the concert here. "It became a crisis for me. I thought that only when our group is good enough will audiences pay to see us. So I felt I have to make extra efforts to survive." ...
"In South Korea, the audiences are spontaneous," she said. "If they don't like it, they'll just walk out. It they like it, they'll show their emotions. In North Korea, the audiences are mobilized, so they will clap systematically. They won't show their individual feelings, since to do that in the North is considered chaotic. In the South, the audiences show exactly what they are feeling at the moment. So I prefer performing here."
This is a very profound encounter with individualism. According to the article, though, the performing North Koreans, singing their traditional songs, seem quite strange to young South Koreans. A teenager--sounding like a character in Ghost World--comments: "It's funny ... This is hilarious."