Historic concertThe New York Philharmonic’s concert in Pyongyang yesterday, will go down as a landmark event in the history of U.S.-North Korea relations. Since the Korean War broke out in 1950, North Korea has regarded the United States as its worst enemy and the United States has seen North Korea as a rogue state. That two countries that have been enemies for six decades agreed to hold a concert in the capital of the communist country signals that relations between the two countries will thaw.
Music is said to be a non-political art because no words are necessary in music. But music is more political than other acts in some ways. It has the power to move people’s minds and souls. In the Cold War era, for instance, concerts by orchestras of Western countries in socialist countries contributed to creating an atmosphere for political reconciliation. The 1956 concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the Soviet Union and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s tour to China in 1973 warmed the hearts and minds of the people in China and the Soviet Union who had felt cold due to confrontation with the United States. These musical events helped the socialist countries remove the bars from their doors. In this context, we hope the New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang will serve as a reveille to wake up the hermit kingdom.
It was North Korea’s idea to invite the U.S. orchestra to its capital. North Korea met the New York Philharmonic’s demands, without hesitation, that the concert be broadcast live to all of North Korea and the world. The program included works that reflect the American spirit, such as Dvorak’s “New World” symphony. A North Korean state-run media outlet reported the U.S. philharmonic’s program in advance. Given that North Korean authorities brainwashed North Korean residents with the idea that America is their worst enemy, this is a truly dramatic change and historic moment. The leadership in Pyongyang made a determined decision.
The question is whether North Korea will maintain its course. Thanks to the American orchestra’s tour to Pyongyang, U.S.-North Korea relations will improve. There remains a long journey ahead, however, before the countries normalize ties. North Korea must shed its isolation which has lasted more than half a century. Most of all, it must make a resolution to end its nuclear program. If the two conditions are unmet, normalization of ties is impossible. With North Korea aiming to have 2012 recorded as the first year of economic revival, there is no time to hesitate.