American Culture in the Capital of Communism

On Feb. 26, at the insistence of the Philharmonic, the DPRK has agreed to broadcast the concert live within the country, so North Koreans will be listening along with the rest of the world. The orchestra pushed for this because it thought it was important that North Koreans be able to at least see real Americans, playing music. Back in 2005, most people I met said they had never seen an American before.

It's not like this is the first time "cultural diplomacy" has opened a door. Leonard Bernstein conducted the Philharmonic in 1959 behind the Iron Curtain in the USSR. And American Ping-Pong players were the first to travel to communist China, back in 1971.

Nobody can argue that symphony music, or Ping-Pong, has political content. Nobody knows, too, what kind of difference a concert like the one on the 26th will make.

Thanks for reading, and I'll keep posting over the next few days as we continue our trip here.

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