New Harmony for North and South Korea: A Joint Concert

After a long spate of hostility, cross-border cooperation starts with a joint classical music performance

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The same day that news broke about some deadly spy drama between North Korean defectors, the latest hindrance to the already strained relation between North and South Korea, the two hostile neighbors reached a remarkable agreement in a very different arena: They're planning a joint symphony performance in Pyongyang and Seoul later this year. The governments haven't given a final sign-off on the plan, but according to the Guardian, the orchestras have come to an agreement and Myung-whun Chung, the director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, has already started rehearsing with musicians in Pyongyang. The two Koreas have had a very rough relationship since last year, when the South blamed the North for torpedoing and sinking its warship, the Cheonan. Since then the two sides, which are technically still engaged in the 1950 Korean War, have exchanged artillery fire and extremely hostile language. Chung played down the importance of a cross-border musical collaboration. "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," he told the Guardian. But if there's going to be long-term peace on the Korean peninsula, commonality has to start somewhere, and the string section is as good a place as any.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.