2008 New York Philharmonic visit to North Korea

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The New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, on February 26, 2008 was a significant event in North Korea-United States relations. The orchestra played in East Pyongyang Grand Theatre,[1] with the entire concert broadcast on North Korean state television.[2]

Concert[edit]

Program[edit]

New York Philharmonic at a performance at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in North Korea.
2006 photo of Lorin Maazel conducting the Philharmonic.

The program, conducted by Lorin Maazel, included the national anthems of both North Korea (Aegukka) and the United States (The Star-Spangled Banner), the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World", and George Gershwin's An American in Paris. Encores included the Farandole from Georges Bizet's Second L'Arlesienne Suite, Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide, and concluded[3] with the popular Korean folk song Arirang.[4][5] The Dvořák, Gershwin, and Bernstein works were each originally premiered by the New York Philharmonic, which is the oldest U.S. orchestra.[6]

Attendance[edit]

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il did not attend the concert, but vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Yang Hyong-sop and the Foreign Ministry’s America chief Li Gun were present.[7]

Broadcast[edit]

At the request of the New York Philharmonic, a live national broadcast was aired on Korean Central Television.[8] The TV recording of the concert was produced by the German production company EuroArts Music International and was broadcast live internationally on CNN in Canada and the United States, CNN International, MBC in South Korea, and SMC in China. Time delayed broadcasts were shown amongst others on Arte in France and Germany, on Thirteen/WNET and on PBS in the United States, on SVT in Sweden, on DR in Denmark, on RTBF in Belgium, on MTV in Hungary. The concert was also streamed live on the Internet[9]

The concert may have been remarkable in North Korea for its live coverage alone. Evan Revers, president of the Korea Society and a negotiator of the visit, stated he believed it to be unprecedented, as other major events are broadcast from videotape footage.[8]

DVD[edit]

In spring 2008 the New York Philharmonic’s Pyongyang concert was released worldwide on DVD (Medici Arts / EuroArts /Naxos).

Political context[edit]

On August 13, 2007, the New York Philharmonic announced it was considering an invitation to perform in North Korea that it had received via "an independent representative of the Ministry of Culture".[10]

On October 4, 2007, officials from the New York Philharmonic traveled to Pyongyang, accompanied by the executive director of the Korea Society and a member of the U.S. State Department's Office of Korean Affairs. They toured three concert halls including the Moranbong Theater and the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, which was chosen for its larger capacity.[11][12] The group discussed permission to meet with local musicians, accompaniment of an international press corp, international broadcast issues, and logistical issues concerning transport and venue preparations.[13]

The invitation was formally accepted on December 11, 2007 at a news conference attended by the president of the New York Philharmonic, the chairman, and North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Kil-yon.[14]

According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the possibility of civilian exchanges was discussed at the six-party nuclear disarmament talks in July 2007. The New York Philharmonic was specifically mentioned.[15][16] Orchestra president and executive director Zarin Mehta billed the concert as "a manifestation of the power of music to unite people."[17]

Effects[edit]

The North Korean government allowed unprecedented access to the country to more than 300 foreigners. Internet access and almost completely unrestricted international telephone calls were allowed for foreign journalists, something which is usually highly restricted.[1]

The event was the first significant cultural visit from the United States to North Korea since the Korean War. The visit was anticipated as an opportunity to broaden relations with one of the world's most isolated nations.[18] The U.S. State Department viewed the invitation as a potential softening of anti-U.S. propaganda.

Song Sok-hwan, North Korea’s culture minister, said, "We hope this will be a big step toward increased bilateral cultural exchange between our two countries.”[19]

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said, "I think at the end of the day, we consider this concert to be a concert, and it's not a diplomatic, you know, coup."[7]

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "The North Korean regime is the North Korean regime," before attending the inauguration of the new President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak in Seoul, adding, "I don't think we should get carried away with what listening to [the concert] is going to do in North Korea."[20]

As their homeland song "Arirang" played, some North Koreans in attendance sang along, some even weeping.[citation needed]

Funding[edit]

The orchestra received a donation from Yoko Nagae Ceschina, a Japanese philanthropist who lives in Italy.[21] Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president, is a friend of Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam Koo, who provided the Asiana Airlines Boeing 747.[22] Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation offered to pay for the rights to broadcast a concert by the Philharmonic in Seoul after the visit to North Korea.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Herskovitz, Jon (2008-02-26). "North Korea tunes in to New York Philharmonic". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  2. ^ "DPRK seeks gain in orchestra visit". Yomiuri Shimbun. 2008-02-28. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  3. ^ Wakin, Daniel (February 27, 2008). "North Koreans Welcome Symphonic Diplomacy". New York Times. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Kuhn, Anthony. "New York Philharmonic Heads to North Korea". National Public Radio. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  5. ^ "Cultural diplomacy: Soft power and a rapturous ovation". The Economist. 2008-02-28. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  6. ^ Herman, Burt (2008-02-22). "US Orchestra to Play in North Korea". Time. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 29 February 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "U.S. Anthem Gets Orchestral Airing in Pyongyang". The Chosun Ilbo. 2008-02-27. Archived from the original on 1 March 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Wakin, Daniel J. (2008-02-19). "Concert in North Korea to Be Broadcast Live". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  9. ^ Lee, Chris (2008-02-26). "The New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang and Seoul". New York Philharmonic. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  10. ^ Michelle, Nichols (2007-08-13). "NY Philharmonic considers North Korean invitation". Reuters. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  11. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (2007-10-05). "New York Philharmonic Might Play in North Korea". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2 March 2008. 
  12. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (2007-10-13). "Orchestra Considers Invitation to Korea". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  13. ^ "New York Philharmonic Podcast". New York Philharmonic. 2008-02-22. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  14. ^ Taylor, Kate (2007-12-12). "The Philharmonic In North Korea". The New York Sun. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  15. ^ "NY Philharmonic considers North Korean invitation". Yonhap. 2007-08-12. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  16. ^ Edidin, Peter (2007-08-14). "New York Philharmonic Is Invited to North Korea". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  17. ^ "N.Y. Philharmonic tunes up in N. Korea". CNN. Archived from the original on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2008. [dead link]
  18. ^ a b Wakin, Daniel J. (2007-12-10). "Philharmonic Agrees to Play in North Korea". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  19. ^ "Music and diplomacy are just the ticket in N. Korea". The Hankyoreh. 2008-02-27. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  20. ^ Powell, Bill (2008-02-25). "A Gershwin Offensive in North Korea". Time. Archived from the original on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 29 February 2008. 
  21. ^ "Yoko Nagae Ceschina". Forbes. 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2 March 2008. 
  22. ^ Demick, Barbara (2008-02-27). "North Korea concert is a logistical feat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 March 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kim, Suki (December 2008). "A Really Big Show: The New York Philharmonic's Fantasia in North Korea". Harper's Magazine 317 (1903): 61–70. 

External links[edit]