20702
S Korean Violinist Wants Border Concert With North
Art And Culture

S Korean Violinist Wants Border Concert With North

Violinist Won Hyung Joon wants to bring North and South Korean musicians together next month to perform on each side of the world’s most heavily armed border. Standing in the way is the rivals’ long, frustrating inability to move past their painful shared history.
Won says North Korean diplomats in Berlin have tentatively signed off on a plan for a renowned German conductor to lead a 70-member South Korean orchestra through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Korean folk tune “Arirang” while accompanied by a choir of 70 North Koreans just across the border on Aug. 15, the 70th anniversary of the 1945 liberation of a single Korea from Japan’s 35-year colonial rule, reports AP.
Wary South Korean officials, however, want a more formal endorsement from Pyongyang before they give their agreement to a concert at the border village of Panmunjom, where an armistice ended the three-year Korean War in 1953. Won and his German partners are pushing for that formal go-ahead from Pyongyang.
Dozens of Korean musicians joining their instruments and voices in harmony across the border, Won says, could dramatically illustrate the continuing tragedy of the Korean Peninsula, which, after liberation from Japan, was divided into a pro-U.S South and Soviet-backed North and remains in a technical state of war because a peace treaty formally ending the eventual Korean War has never been settled.
“We won’t be able to talk to each other or hug each other. We’ll just stand face to face and communicate through music,” Won said. “We want to do something meaningful at a meaningful place on a meaningful day.”
First, though, he has to win support from two governments whose reluctance to cooperate, even on the most seemingly mild proposals, is often ingrained.
The countries, which enjoyed a period of rapprochement in the 2000s, bar their citizens from exchanging visits, phone calls, letters and email without government permission. Naval skirmishes occasionally happen. And Pyongyang, which faces global condemnation for its nuclear bomb program, has recently responded with fury to the opening of a UN office in Seoul meant to monitor what defectors, activists and many countries call an abysmal human rights record.
Won and some outside analysts believe the concert will likely happen. Pyongyang may see it as a way to improve ties with Seoul, which could then stimulate a flow of aid and investment that the impoverished country needs to help revive its decrepit economy. Better relations with Seoul could also help offset North Korea’s fraying ties with China, its only major ally.
German maestro Christoph Poppen, who has agreed to do the conducting on Aug. 15, called music the only “language which you can understand all across barriers.”

 

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