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Will 'music diplomacy' warm inter-Korean ties?

2011/09/13 | Permalink | Source

South Korean maestro Chung Myung-whun, center, receives a bouquet of flowers upon arriving in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, Monday with two other South Koreans. He is expected to discuss a variety of cultural exchange programs with officials there. / Yonhap

By Park Si-soo

South Korean maestro Chung Myung-whun is visiting North Korea to promote musical exchanges between the two countries.

Landing in Pyongyang on Monday, the music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, will stay there until Thursday, during which time he will discuss with North Korean musicians a project to launch a musical education program for North Korean children and host an orchestral concert in the reclusive state, according to officials in Seoul.

Experts here don't rule out the possibility that he could meet with high-ranking North Korean officials to discuss relevant matters. They said any concert in the North, if realized, would help ease strained relations between the two nations - as seen in 2008 following the New York Philharmonic's historic performance.

Raising the expectation is that his visit came as the South and its allies have stepped up efforts to resume dialogue on the North's nuclear ambitions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has suggested a moratorium on nuclear testing and weapons production if the multilateral talks resume.

"His visit and consequent musical events in North Korea will surely set the mood in which inter-Korean dialogue proceeds smoothly", said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University.

Before departing for Pyongyang, Chung said in a statement, "I'm pleased to get an opportunity to make the two Koreas closer with music". He added music is the strongest tool to promote peace.

The New York Philharmonic's performance in Pyongyang in February 2008 was widely viewed as a bold step toward the opening of warmer U.S.-North Korea relations.

The concert brought a "whole new dimension from what we expected", the New York Times quoted Lorin Maazel, the Philharmonic's music director, as saying in a report following the concert. "We just went out and did our thing, and we began to feel this warmth coming back".

The concert evoked other orchestral missions with diplomatic purposes, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's visit to the Soviet Union in 1956, followed soon after by a Philharmonic visit, and the Philadelphia Orchestra's trip to China in 1973.

In 2006, the Korean musician was invited to participate in a peace concert in North Korea as a conductor, but the event was called off after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test that year.

Meanwhile, President Lee Myung-bak said during a panel discussion televised live on Sept. 8 that he was willing to have an inter-Korean summit on the condition that the North demonstrated its commitment to peace and ceased make further provocations.

Relations between the two Koreas have been tense since President Lee took office in early 2008 with a pledge to link aid to the impoverished neighbor to progress in efforts to end its nuclear programs. The already-frayed ties plunged to the lowest level in decades after the North committed two deadly attacks on the South last year.

정명훈의 '음악외교' 남북대화 윤활류 될까?

정명훈 서울시향 예술감독 겸 유니세프 친선대사가 추석인 12일 평양에 도착했다.

조선중앙통신은 "서울시립교향악단 음악감독 정명훈과 일행이 12일 평양에 도착했다"고 밝혔으나 구체적인 방북 목적과 일정 등에 대해서는 언급하지 않았다.

정 감독은 북한 조선예술교류협회와 어린이를 대상으로 한 음악교육과 교향악단 교환연주 등을 논의하기 위해 방북했으며 15일까지 평양에 머무를 예정이다.

정 감독은 이날 오후 1시20분(한국시각 오후 2시20분) 중국 베이징(北京) 서우두(首都) 공항을 통해 북한으로 출발하기에 앞서 취재진에게 "처음 북한에 가게 돼 기분이 매우 좋으며 북한에 가서 음악가들을 만나고 싶다"며 "한 명의 인간이자 음악가로서 더 자연스럽게 남북한이 가까워졌으면 하는 바람을 갖고 있다"고 말했다.

이번 방북에는 김주호 서울시향 대표이사 등 2명이 동행했다. 정 감독은 지난 2006년 평양에서 열린 '윤이상 평화음악축전 2006'에 참가해 북한의 평양 윤이상관현악단과 함께 베토벤의 교향곡 제5번 '운명' 등을 연주할 예정이었으나 공연 직전 북한의 핵실험으로 무산됐다.

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