Koreas sound out orchestral maneuvers, but are strings attached?

Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:30am EDT
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By Joonhee Yu and Jeremy Laurence

SEOUL (Reuters) - Bitter rivals South and North Korea could come together later this year to stage combined orchestral performances in the two capitals, a renowned conductor said on Friday, amid signs of improving relations on the divided peninsula.

On the diplomatic front, South Korean media reported on Friday the neighbors had also agreed to a second round of negotiations on restarting stalled regional talks on disabling the North's nuclear weapons program.

The meeting of the two sides' nuclear envoys in Beijing next week comes after they met in July for the first time in over two years. In another conciliatory gesture, Seoul this month sent humanitarian aid to the isolated North to help it deal with flood damage.

Chung Myung-whun, the director of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, told reporters after a four-day trip to North Korea that an agreement had been reached to try to push for regular joint performances of the two Koreas' symphony orchestras.

"We reached an agreement to hold a joint concert in Pyongyang and Seoul at around December," he said. "The rest is up to the politicians which I have no say or control over, but hopefully our plan will be realised."

A government official in Seoul said the matter had yet to be discussed. South Koreans must get state approval to travel to secretive North Korea.

Chung, 59, said he worked closely with local musicians while in the North's capital, conducting rehearsals and auditions as well as meeting officials from the cultural bureau.

"I don't realistically hope that this might bring any changes to the North Korean system, though I did make some genuine, individual connections through our shared love for music.   Continued...

<p>North Korean soldiers talk as they patrol at the truce village of the Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won</p>