In re: Cultural Diplomacy

The Philharmonic accepted the North’s invitation to play last year with the encouragement of the U.S. government at a time of rare optimism in the long-running nuclear standoff involving the two countries. …Ahead of their arrival, North Korea was even tearing down the anti-American posters that line the streets of Pyongyang, Mehta said Sunday, citing a diplomat based there who briefed the orchestra before its departure from Beijing, the last stop on a tour of the greater China region…. (From CNN.com)

“I’ve had a lot of moral reservations based on wondering what a concert for the elite is going to do to help the people starving in the street,” said Irene Breslaw, 58, a violist” While statements like this show that there are different sides to visits and to some cultural exchanges and the like may sound like silly cold war relics of melting the ice, with the New York Philharmonic playing in North Korea (to standing ovation for both North Korean and US National Anthems no less) and Eric Clapton set to play a concert next year in the sealed off country I think it shows that building cultural ties (rather than say calling them names) may be the way to crack the ice and be a way to bring about the end of the suffering of the North Koreans (it is believe that over 2 million have died from famine during the 1990s as the government is unable or unwilling to feed its people). I’ve long felt that engagement (as we are w/ China rather than Cuba, only a bit hypocritical I say) is the best way to reform regimes and to bring about stability. It may be slow and the results hidden but over time I think these can work. (Do you think that’s naive? or too idealistic? Maybe but its gotta be better than what we’ve been up to before…)

See Symphonic Diplomacy, With Odd Overtones in Washington Post

Also see Guardian (UK) Article on Clapton going to North Korea next year.

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