The NY Philharmonic announced a couple of days ago that they'll be traveling to North Korea in early 2008, where they'll give a concert in Pyongyang. The next stop on the tour is Seoul, South Korea, and they're performing there as well.
Discussion has been brewing in the blogosphere about this for a few weeks, with Greg Sandow and Terry Teachout both taking the position that the NYPO shouldn't be visiting a totalitarian country and Drew McManus and a few others taking the position that music can open doors as part of a universal artistic message, etc.
I've been chewing over the issue without having been able to figure out where I stood until this morning, when I read Terry's report on the NYPO press conference where they discussed the visit. The key words, for me, were "with the support of the State Department."
This visit is major, it's important, and it looks to me as though it's part of a new diplomatic initiative aimed at opening discussions with North Korea and starting the process of bringing the country back into the world. North Korea is among the poorest and most isolated countries in the world; the country has been ruled for decades by one family and its insane cult of personality.
The Bush administration supported keeping North Korea in isolation and labeled the country part of the axis of evil. Yes, there is plenty of evil there, and, like the Soviet Union, North Korea is starting to collapse from its own isolation and poverty. The State Department's support of the NYPO tour means that in this area the Bush administration is, finally, willing to follow the words of Winston Churchill: "It is better to jaw, jaw, jaw, than to war, war, war." At least for now, I'm in favor of this visit.