“Asked whether the Philharmonic would be handing North Korea a propaganda victory by playing in Pyongyang, Mr. Mehta replied, ‘We’re not going to do any propaganda. We’re going there to create some joy.’ Somehow I doubt that playing Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Dvorak’s New World Symphony for 1,500 hand-picked servants of the regime will bring joy to the inmates of the North Korean Gulag…”
Archives for December 22, 2007
My “Sightings” column in today’s Wall Street Journal goes after the management of the New York Philharmonic for agreeing to send the orchestra to North Korea:
Zarin Mehta and Paul Guenther, the president and chairman of the Philharmonic…shared a platform with Pak Gil Yon, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, and announced that America’s oldest orchestra would be playing in Pyongyang next February. It horrified me–no other word is strong enough–to see them sitting next to the smirking representative of Kim Jong Il, the dictator of a brutally totalitarian state in whose Soviet-style prison camps 150,000 political prisoners are currently doing slave labor.
In public as well as in private, the management of the Philharmonic has made it clear that the orchestra is going to North Korea with “the encouragement and support of the U.S. Department of State” (to quote from the press release announcing the trip). While Mr. Mehta went out of his way to say that no pressure was put on the orchestra, it’s widely believed that the White House means to use the concert as a bargaining chip in its ongoing negotiations with Pyongyang.
I leave it to more qualified observers to predict whether anything of value will emerge from these negotiations. But it is not the job of the New York Philharmonic to enact foreign policy, much less to besmirch its own honor by taking part in what, in a previous column on this topic, I called “a puppet show whose purpose is to lend legitimacy to a despicable regime.” Nor do you have to be a diplomat to know that Mr. Guenther was blowing smoke when he compared the trip to the 1989 concert that Leonard Bernstein and members of the Philharmonic gave at the soon-to-be-dismantled Berlin Wall. Nobody is tearing any walls down in North Korea….
Read the whole thing here.