Friday, February 29, 2008

Have you hear about "Dvorak Diplomacy?"

SEOUL (Reuters) - The New York Philharmonic will try a dash of Dvorak diplomacy with an unprecedented concert in North Korea next week, hoping America's oldest orchestra can bring a change of tune to one of the world's most isolated countries.
U.S. government officials may be expecting some rare harmony between the bitter foes, but analysts say they should brace for a different note from the North's propaganda machine, which is likely to bill the concert as homage to its jump-suited leader Kim Jong-il.
The New York Philharmonic arrives in Pyongyang on Monday for a stay of about 48 hours which will culminate in a concert on Tuesday featuring the works of Antonin Dvorak and George Gershwin played before the hermit state's elite members.
"If we are gradually to improve U.S.-Korean relations, such events have the potential to nudge open a door that has been closed too long," the orchestra's music director Lorin Maazel wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
The orchestra has tried to break the ice between Cold War foes before with a celebrated visit to the Soviet Union in 1959.
The Bush administration has called the North an outpost of tyranny and part of an axis of evil.

The North's official media say Washington is run by political philistines bent on toppling its leaders and igniting nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.The two states have no diplomatic ties, are technically still at war and have troops staring each other down across the heavily fortified border that has divided North and South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease fire.
It will be the biggest group from the United States since North Korea seized the U.S. spy ship Pueblo 40 years ago and held its 82 crew members for months.
The concert will be broadcast live in both North and South Korea.
One person who will be watching intently is Kim Cheol-woong, a classically trained piano prodigy from North Korea who defected to the South to pursue his passion for Western music.
"The message that will be delivered to North Koreans is: 'the U.S. is kneeling to our Dear Leader Kim Jong-il'," he said.
But pianist Kim believes the concert does have the potential to change hearts and minds in the reclusive state.
Access to foreign music is banned and under normal circumstances, listening to the works that will be played at Tuesday's concert could land a person in prison, he added
The concert will be a study of contrasts.
The North's "Dear Leader" is a music buff whom state media says has penned revolutionary operas. A staple of state TV are broadcasts of groups of school girls playing accordions to tunes such as "Our General is Best."
The New York Philharmonic's program includes Gershwin's "An American in Paris," about a foreigner discovering the "the city of light."
A shortage of electricity means most of impoverished North Korea is in the dark at night.
The other piece, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World," highlights an immigrant's discovery of America's music. It will be played in a country that forbids most citizens from leaving.
Brian Myers, a North Korea specialist who teaches at the South's Dongseo University, said U.S. and New York Philharmonic officials are mistaken if they think the concert will create any goodwill with the North's leaders.
"The United States is seen as a very duplicitous paper tiger. In other words, as a country that is very frightened of North Korea and its strength and is now trying to while its way into the hearts of the North Korean people," Myers said.
An emboldened North often says it developed nuclear weapons to fend off a hostile United States and that the might of its 1.2-million man military can turn back an invasion.
The chief U.S. envoy in international talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program said he hopes this concert will help draw the hermit state out of its shell.
"Sometimes the North Koreans don't like our words," Christopher Hill told reporters in Seoul earlier this week.
"Maybe they will like our music."

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