After the Philharmonic
The U.S. flag to the left, DPRK flag to the right, Lorin Maazel’s New York Philharmonic playing the Star Spangled Banner to a crowd of 1400 in the East Pyongyang theater—forgive me for suspending disbelief, but I was quite overwhelmed by the moment and from the looks of those in attendance, including the North Koreans, I wasn’t the only one. Maazel spoke a few words in Korean like “Have a good time” (although at one point he butchered the pronounciation of “Pyongyang”) and joked that one day someone might write a symphony called “An American in Pyongyang.” The audience applauded and laughed. The Philharmonic concluded with a lovely rendition of “Arirang,” followed by a several-minute long standing ovation and cheers of “bravo.” Kim Jong Il wasn’t in attendance and neither was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But according to Chosun Ilbo, several top North Korean officials were present including like Yang Hyong-sop, the vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the Foreign Ministry’s America chief Li Gun. Joongang Ilbo believes this concert is an important step forward for North Korea. Quoting unnamed “North Korea watchers:”
Kim Jong-il’s decision to invite the orchestra from the country his citizens are taught to despise signals a willingness to open up the country and establish diplomatic relations with Washington, North Korea watchers said.
Here is the New York Philharmonic playing Arirang:
Perhaps this is the start of a “Western Wave” in North Korea? Next up may be Eric Clapton.