New York Philharmonic to play in N.Korea

Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:38pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Striking a note of musical diplomacy, the New York Philharmonic said on Monday it plans to perform in North Korea -- the first major U.S. cultural visit to the reclusive country.

North Korea's invitation to play a concert came as the reclusive communist country was beginning to disable its nuclear facilities and starting to see a thaw in relations with the United States.

The orchestra said details of the trip will be announced on Tuesday by Christopher Hill, the lead U.S. negotiator with North Korea, Pak Gil Yon, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, and Paul Guenther, the orchestra's chairman.

"It would signal that North Korea is beginning to come out of its shell, which everyone understands is a long-term process," Hill was quoted as saying Monday in The New York Times.

"It does represent a shift in how they view us, and it's the sort of shift that can be helpful as we go forward in nuclear weapons negotiations."

The U.S. State Department, South Korean companies and the Korea Society were helping with the logistics of getting 250 people and bulky instruments to impoverished North Korea, the Times reported.

The performance is set for February 26 at the end of the Philharmonic's planned tour of China, the Times said, with the orchestra expected to stay in Pyongyang for two nights to teach and attend a ceremonial dinner.

The United States' oldest symphony orchestra said in August it was considering an official invitation from the North Korean government to perform in Pyongyang.

North Korea turned off its nuclear reactor in July and has agreed to disable its main nuclear fuel plant. Hill delivered a letter last week from President George W. Bush to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il -- their first direct communication.   Continued...

<p>North Korean soldiers look south at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, December 5, 2007. Striking a note of musical diplomacy, the New York Philharmonic plans to visit North Korea in February -- the first major U.S. cultural visit to the reclusive country, the New York Times reported on Monday. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak</p>