New York Philharmonic Performs in North Korea The New York Philharmonic is in North Korea as part of a historic cultural exchange. The philharmonic is the first major American cultural group to visit the isolated communist nation. The group will perform a concert Tuesday night that will be aired on state-run radio and television.

New York Philharmonic Performs in North Korea

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Before you hear this next story, remember that North Korea and the United States are still technically in a state of war. It was only a truce that stopped the shooting in Korea back in 1953. But today, for the first time, a major American cultural group has performed in North Korea.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn is at the concert of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang.

ANTHONY KUHN: It was a massive entourage of nearly 300 musicians, journalists and staff who arrived by chartered flight here yesterday. A convoy of trucks brought tons of equipment from South Korea to broadcast the concert around the world.

(Soundbite of music)

Last night, North Korea's government feted conductor Lorin Maazel and his musicians at an official banquet and later a performance of Korean music. It featured dancers in colorful peasant dress and a tribute to North Korean struggle against Japan in World War II.

Ms. TRA HI OUCKS(ph) (Resident, Pyongyang): I heard about the concert tonight.

KUHN: At a monument to North Korea's revolutionary ideals, tour guide Tra Hi Oucks said Pyongyang residents are talking about the concert among themselves.

Ms. OUCKS: We are very pleased to hear that the symphony orchestra have come to our country. I also think exchange is necessary.

(Soundbite of music)

KUHN: This morning North Korean men in suits and Kim Jong-Il lapel pins and women in traditional robes watched politely as Lorin Maazel rehearsed tonight's program. It includes Dvorak's New World Symphony, Gershwin's An American in Paris, and the U.S. and North Korean national anthems.

Critics say that tonight's concert could just serve to burnish the image of North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il.

In an interview before the concert, Lorin Maazel points out that North Korean musicians are participating in the concert, as well as master classes with the philharmonic. He says that these cultural exchanges are planting the seeds of art. That is more powerful than any individual leader.

Mr. LORIN MAAZEL (Conductor, New York Philharmonic): It would seem in the long run that this would benefit the image of the state, but, in fact, it benefits the people who have been trained, who are receiving training, and who will be there to pass on that training when the politicians who are in power today are long since dead and gone.

KUHN: What everybody here is waiting to see is whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-IL shows up to take in the performance.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Pyongyang.

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