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Diplomatic flurry surrounds Philharmonic concert

Feb 22,2008
Tuesday’s historic concert of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra scheduled in Pyongyang promises to be both a diplomatic and cultural event.
William James Perry, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, and Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to Korea, are expected to visit North Korea to attend the concert and urge the North’s regime to step up efforts to end its nuclear program.
The concert will be broadcast live nationwide in both South and North Korea. Some have speculated that the North’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, may make an appearance and that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will go to the event after attending South Korea’s presidential inauguration ceremony on Feb. 25.
According to sources in the Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry, Perry and Gregg are scheduled to visit Pyongyang to attend the concert next week with an entourage of hundreds. They might meet Kim Gye-gwan, North Korea’s chief negotiator in the six-party talks intended to disable its nuclear program.
Evans Revere, president of The Korea Society and a former U.S. State Department official, is expected to accompany the group. The officials will attend the presidential inauguration ceremony for Lee Myung-bak, then cross the demilitarized zone and the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas to reach Pyongyang, a highly unusual action that required approval by North Korea’s government.
“This is involving a couple of hundred people. The preparations are extensive, and the aftermath will be extensive,” Gregg said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Washington. “I call it a 16-inch broadside of soft power fired by the Philharmonic.”
The concert will be broadcast live from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A crew of more than 80 from MBC, the South Korean television station that will broadcast the event, are expected to leave for the North tomorrow, according to an MBC official.


By Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [hawon@joongang.co.kr]


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