Photo by Chang W. Lee, courtesy of NYTimes.com.
They aren’t state officials, tourists, or even professional athletes. No, the largest group of Americans to set foot on North Korean soil since the Korean War is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYTimes.com).
The orchestra played a repertoire of music including the North Korean and American National Anthems, classical pieces by Wagner and Dvorak, and “Arirang” a traditional folk song profoundly significant to both North and South Koreans. The program was scrupulously selected to serve as a musical expression of goodwill toward the North Korean audience. Is it appropriate to characterize the concert as “symphonic diplomacy?” New York Times journalist Daniel J. Wakin explored this contention in an article in the newspaper's online edition.
As Wakin pointed out, this is not the first time that an American cultural
institution like the Philharmonic has embarked on such a seemingly audacious
mission of ambassadorship. The Boston Symphony orchestra paid a visit to the
Soviet Union shortly after the onset of the Cold War in 1956, and the
Despite involvement of state department envoys in
planning the Philharmonic’s trip to
Regardless of whether the concert was explicitly intended to pacify underlying tensions between the two nations, the evocative, transformational power of music knows no boundaries—it transcends political geography. While diplomats may mull over logistics, security, and the potential implications of the visit, onlookers in the audience Tuesday night appeared to care little about such details. The concert demonstrates the connectedness and shared humanity of the international community--regardless of the political acts of state bodies. And it can’t do any harm. Or can it?
Tell Us: What do you think about the New York Philharmonic's concert in North Korea as an act of diplomacy on behalf of the United States?
For more on the concert in Pyongyang, check out these articles:
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