Bill Eddins posted a very insightful piece in defense of the New York Philharmonic’s recent decision to perform in Pyongyang, North Korea on his blog Sticks and Drones. Though the hairs on the back of one’s neck may rise when envisioning this American orchestra being welcomed by this creepy and repressive regime, I think that this is a real opportunity for cultural exchange.
Though one could see this move as a legitimization of the North Korean government, Bill makes some really excellent points in favor of the trip, writing:
The problem is not legitimizing the North Korean regime. There is no one involved in this exchange, including said regime, that doesn’t think that Kim Jong-Il is anything but a megalomaniacal lunatic. But this concert is not about him. This concert is about the fact that human beings are connecting with other human beings.
Read Bill’s complete post here.
Drew McManus wrote a follow-up post on this subject describing his experiences as a teenager interacting with USSR military bands and how these interactions taught him how much people from the USSR and the Unites States really had in common. Drew writes:
I still firmly believe that music is a universal language that transcends politics, bigotry, and centuries of other such learned hatreds.
I definitely agree.
Although I visited Russia after the Soviet Union had fallen, I know that I learned more from those few weeks abroad playing music for the Russian people than I ever could have from books, movies, television, or even as a regular tourist. Music brings people together, and even though I discovered that Russian civilians are allowed to fly commercial aircraft for fun, I wouldn’t trade the trip for anything.
One can draw some pretty obvious feelings between Cold War era US/USSR relations and present day North Korea/US relations. Orchestras visited the USSR during the Cold War as cultural ambassadors. Why should it be different with North Korea today?
One can’t deny the utter bizarreness of this military dictatorship. Check out this video filmed by a tourist in North Korea. One is only allowed to take photos or film of things that glorify the North Korean nation, making for a weird homemade propaganda film glorifying the North Korean military.