New York Philharmonic Across the Axis of Evil

Monday, February 25, 2008

Korean American listeners and Charles Armstrong, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), weigh in on the Philharmonic's trip to North Korea. John Schaefer, host of WNYC's Soundcheck, calls in from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, where he is traveling with the New York Philharmonic.


Charles Armstrong and John Schaefer

Comments [9]

John from Upstate NY

I watched the whole concert live via a PBS stream. What an historic event. Couldn't believe what I was seeing & all the media coverage, some of it in real time. WOW! It looks like they were well received. PBS will broadcast it tonight, as will WNYC. Check listings.

Feb. 26 2008 01:26 PM

Thanks for your insights and clarification, John. I know lots of non-US folks spending time or even living in N Korea so I assumed the block was from the US side. Look forward to viewing your referenced site.

Feb. 26 2008 07:40 AM
John from Upstate NY

For those who are interested there are some great photos, press coverage & info on last years 5 City Good Will tour of the USA by their Taekwon-Do team, visit:

This was the 1st such exchange in history between the USA & nK, in the USA.

Feb. 25 2008 11:21 AM
John from Upstate NY

My exchanges with people of north Korea in various countries around the world, including our Country & theirs, shows me 1 very important thing: they are the same as we are, PEOPLE. Having a neutral love that is shared by 2, in the present case, music, in my case Taekwon-Do, the Korean Art of Self Defense, overcomes barriers & allows people to see through some of the obvious physical differences. It really does just get better after that.

Feb. 25 2008 11:17 AM
John from Upstate NY


Actually there is no restirction on travel for Americans. There are several safety travel advisories that the Govt puts out. In the case of Cuba, there is a rule against spendng money there, not going there. Since you can't spend money there, it is difficult to go there, unless you get a license or some other way to get around the spending restriction.

The problem with travel to the north of Korea is that the govt of Pyongyang will not let Americans in, unless you had pre-approval in hard to come by visas issued to Americans.

I was one of the 1st Americans to go there & have been there several times. I also helped bring the north Korean Taekwon-Do National Team to the USA last fall for a 5 City Good Will Tour, which was very well received. I agree with Prof. Armstrong that any peaceful exchanges between the citizens of the 2 countries is a good thing. I love the U.S. & am very proud to be American, but I am worried to think of the alternative to these peaceful civilian cultural exchanges.

Feb. 25 2008 11:10 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

I worked for a cultural exchange foundation in late 70s and early 80s sending US non-professional (high school, college, community) performing groups to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Through the foundations, groups performed free concerts in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, USSR -- also India and China. They were not allowed "officially" to perform sacred music -- Ave Maria, Bach Motets, etc. (But often they were asked to perform religious music in various churches that were privately taped.) However, spirituals were allowed; they were considered ethnic. Mostly audiences wanted to hear real American music -- Broadway show tunes and popular songs. Our groups were greeted enthusiastically where ever they went. We wandered relatively freely; there were many uexpected and wonderful encounters. Though music we did bring people together in a lasting and meaningful way. We called our programs "life changing" -- and they were.

Feb. 25 2008 11:09 AM
nk from Brooklyn, NY

The mere act of the NY Philharmonic entering into N. Korea signifies change. In my opinion, a positive one. It's beautiful that people are becoming open-minded through music.

Feb. 25 2008 11:01 AM
Robert from NYC

As for the program, why this composer and not that may be based on discussions with the powers that be in North Korea and decided upon based on what they like to hear. Has that crossed anyone's mind?

Feb. 25 2008 10:59 AM

Aren't Americans not allowed in or familiar w N. Korea because of a ban on entry to the country by the US govt. itself?

As I understand Brits, French, Canadians, Australians, Singaporians, Chinese etc. are operating in (banking, etc.) N. Korea as in other "regimes" like Cuba.

Feb. 25 2008 10:45 AM

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