NY Philharmonic wrap up (and US national anthem)…

UPDATE 2 (2013-6-24): A documentary was made of the NY Phil’s visit to Pyongyang.  You can watch both parts here:

Part I:

Part II:

UDATE 1 (2008-11-17): Suki Kim wrote about the experience in Harpers.  Download the PDF here:  harpers.pdf

ORIGINAL POST (2008-2-27): Its difficult to say anything about the NY Phil’s performance that has not already been reported on by numerous other forums, but I think I managed to put together enough interesting material to meet the high standards of North Korean Economy Watch readers:

Pyongyang and the Star Spangled Banner

This site claimed that the philharmonic’s performance would likely be the first time that the US national anthem was broadcast on North Korea’s airwaves.  The Joong Ang Daily backs this claim up with a caveat:

The Unification Ministry of South Korea said the U.S. national anthem was played in Pyongyang in 2005 at an international boxing match. It is, however, the first time the Star Spangled Banner has been broadcast live across North Korea. (Joong Ang Daily)

The first public performance of the Star Spangled Banner in Pyongyang was in honor of US female boxer Yvonne Caples (official biography here).  Here is how it was reported in KCNA:

DPRK Female Pro Boxer Choe Un Sun Wins World Championship

Pyongyang, June 28, 2005 (KCNA) — Female pro boxer Choe Un Sun of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea captured the championship title of the WBCF in the women’s light flyweight category (48.98 kg). Choe Un Sun settled the bout by a unanimous decision over Yvonne Caples of the United States.
The champion belt, trophy and certificate were awarded to Choe.
The match was held at the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium in Pyongyang Tuesday.

In the interest of fair reporting, here is Ms. Caples’ side of the story:

…Yvonne traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea to be a part of the historic first professional boxing matches in North Korea to fight for the WBCF Jr. Flyweight World Title against North Korean Eun Soon Choi. During Yvonne’s bout the American National Anthem was played for the first time in North Korea. Yvonne knew that in order to get a decision she would probably have to get a knock out. Eun Soon Choi proved to be very strong and skillful. Fighting in front of 13,000 cheering North Koreans, Yvonne fought what she felt was the best fight of her career. Despite the intimidating crowd Yvonne felt relaxed and confident throughout the fight. “I fought the fight of my life and came on very strong in the last five rounds. Even though I felt I won the fight, I knew I wouldn’t get the decision. It is no joke fighting in an arena with 13,000 people cheering against you. I was so proud of myself for keeping my composure and fighting so hard in this fight. I do have to take my hat off to the North Korean fighters. I expected them to be strong and well-conditioned, but they were also very skillful fighters. I don’t think anyone would be able to go over there and completely dominate them or knock them out.”

Ms. Caples aside, the editor of this site sang the US national anthem on a bus full of tourists and north Korean guides traveling to Wonsan in August 2005. For the record, this counts as the second live, “public” performance of the Star Spangled Banner.  The NY Philharmonic is only now taking the bronze.

Jazz also made its debut.  According to Defector Kim Chol-woong:

[“An American in Paris”] is a masterpiece, a mixture of classical and jazz. I am amazed that they will play jazz, because the genre is strictly forbidden in North Korea.

[W]hat musicians are allowed to perform is strictly political. Jazz is forbidden because it is American music. Jazz is considered lewd and immoral. (Joong Ang Daily)

What are North Korea’s full musical capabillities?
Dr. Petrov sent in a great Washington Post article on North Korea’s musical capabilities on which I wrote a separate post.

How many people heard the performance?
The theater holds 1500.  According to the WSJ, there were a minimum of 150 foreigners likely in the audience (they flew in with the orchestra).  Who knows if any of the small business, NGO, and diplomatic community residing in Pyongyang were able to attend.  There was also a dress rehearsal for 1200 earlier in the day.

The Daily NK reports (Via the Japanese Mainichi) the the performance was not boradcast on radio, only on television.  This means that relatively few people saw it since the penetration of radios is far more significant than television in the DPRK.

Addendum: Who attended?
In the comment section below, “Gag Halfrunt” (clever handle) links to a list of VIP attnedees in KCNA.

Don Kirk notices who did not attend.

Here you can listen to the perfomrance:

In the comment section below, Greg Halfrunt posts a link to http://www.medici.tv/.  Beginning Friday, Feb 29 (happy leap year), 2008.

The full stories cited in this post can be found here:
Americans in Pyongyang
Joong Ang Daily
Kim Ho-joung and Ser Myo-ja

Philharmonic is hopeful sign for defector
Joong Ang Daily
Ser Myo-ja

North Korea Criticizes the US during the New York Philharmonic Performance
Daily NK
Park In Ho

A Sour Note in Pyongyang
Asia Times
Don Kirk


4 Responses to “NY Philharmonic wrap up (and US national anthem)…”

  1. Gag Halfrunt says:

    The KCNA report of the concert concentrates on listing the senior officials who were present. The works performed aren’t mentioned until the fourth paragraph.

  2. Gag Halfrunt says:

    You can watch the concert online for free at Medici.tv. (The website says that Medici.tv will open in April, so I suppose that they’re using the Pyongyang concert as an opportunity to promote the site and test their infrastructure with real users.)