Philharmonic Arrives in Pyongyang
Call it what you want: symphonic diplomacy, violin diplomacy, orchestral diplomacy, ping-pong diplomacy round II, Kim Jong Il’s propaganda coup—the New York Philharmonic has arrived in Pyongyang and soon we will find out the viability of so-called “soft engagement” tactics. While the largest delegation of Americans to visit Pyongyang since the end of the Korean War enjoys the festivities—including a traditional Korean performance at the Mansudae Art Theater and a lavish banquet at the People’s Palace of Culture, critics around the world are debating the merits of the visit. Sentiments range from Christopher Hill and Lorin Maazel’s gushing optimism to Bloomberg’s Norman Lebrecht deriding the concert as an event “somewhere along the scale of morally inappropriate and aesthetically offensive (via NPR).”
The big question of the evening is whether Kim Jong Il will be in attendance. As of now, Pyongyang officials remain tightlipped.
NPR notes this is not the first time a U.S. orchestra has visited an enemy territory:
The New York Philharmonic is not the first American orchestra to participate in what some might call symphonic diplomacy. In September 1956, the Boston Symphony was the first major U.S. orchestra to visit the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and in the fall of 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra made an unprecedented trip to China.