Philharmonic to explore venues in Pyongyang

Joong Ang Daily
10/8/2007

Representatives of the New York Philharmonic were set to arrive over the weekend in North Korea to discuss the possibility of a history-making performance in the communist nation.

Philharmonic President Zarin Mehta and public relations director Eric Latzky said they planned to explore venues and other arrangements for a potential February concert in Pyongyang.

“It’s a country that none of us have ever dreamed of going to. The next three or four days are going to be very eye-opening for us,” Mehta said by telephone Thursday from Beijing.

He and Latzky said they were embarking on the discussions with United States government support. A State Department official was accompanying the Philharmonic representatives on the trip.

“In as much as this is something that both sides are interested in exploring, we will do what we can to facilitate it,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Relations between the United States and North Korea have been tense for years. President George W. Bush once branded the country part of an “axis of evil” along with Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

But after North Korea tested a nuclear bomb last October, the U.S. softened its policy to facilitate progress on the North’s disarmament.

This week, the North pledged arms talks with Washington and other regional powers to disable its main nuclear facilities and declare all its programs by the year’s end.

Latzky said orchestra representatives had spoken with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill last month about the potential concert, and he was “very encouraging,” The New York Times reported Friday.

North Korea’s Ministry of Culture sent the renowned orchestra an invitation in August.

The Philharmonic has played in South Korea, as well as in other parts of Asia.

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