Saturday, December 15, 2007

N. Y. Philharmonic to North Korea

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.


Anonymous said...

Some of the people who disapprove of a tour to North Korea also disapproved of the US tour by the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra; I say if the young Venezuelans were broadminded enough to make music in the country that's currently making unprovoked war on Iraq and almost certainly sponsored an unsuccessful coup attempt against their elected President, the NYPO ought to be broadminded enough to go play for an audience of North Koreans.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Bwahaha, very good points.

pjwv said...

Rootlesscosmo made the point I wanted to make. It's a complex issue, but I'd feel a little better if our own government were a positive force in the world in at least one or two areas. I was a little suspicious when all this came up during the tour of the Venezuelan orchestra. I don't want to defend Hugo Chavez -- it's probably not a good idea to defend anyone who's power-hungry -- but he's also very vocal about opposing Bush, and he's used oil industry revenues for social spending -- and all of a sudden the government that defends torture has moral qualms about letting Venezuela's youth orchestra play here? Maybe there was a time America could get away with a superior moral attitude, but not now.

David B said...

Leonard Bernstein famously took the NYP to the USSR, which was a fairly well-known totalitarian country. Was that a Bad Thing?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Nope. I'm curious what public opinion was at the time, if you know.

Patrick, yes. We have no legs to stand on.