New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Conductor Lorin Maazel on a Historic Visit to Pyongyang Korea (DPR)

It is a shame that my deceased friend, Professor Kim Youn-Soo, a great Korean patriot during an academic lifetime devoted to the reunification of Korea, is not alive to witness this event, as the New York Philharmonic orchestra with Conductor Lorin Maazel is today in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

As reported by Daniel J. Wakin and Graham Bowley at the New York Times, the orchestra plays:

[I]n the East Pyongyang Grand Theater, where music of Gershwin, Dvorak and Wagner, not to mention the American and North Korean national anthems, is to be broadcast live on state radio and television….

In a special gesture, the orchestra planned to play a folk song deeply resonant to all Koreans, “Arirang,” as an encore.

The trip has been stirring for the eight orchestra members of Korean origin….

The vice minister of culture, Song Sok-hwan, gave a speech calling the visit a “big stride in cultural exchange.”

A resident Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate position of envoys here, reported the words of one foreign ministry official: “Yes, this is something big.”
” [emphasis added]

The visit of the New York Philharmonic reflects a slowly developing policy in the DPRK under Kim Jong-Il, who ” has cracked open [the] door to outside businessmen, sports teams and diplomats….
and now, music….

Events of this nature are gratifying to this observer, who – as a founding and board of directors member of Professor Kim Youn-Soo’s German Korea-Studies Group in Kiel, Germany, in the late 1970’s, witnessed a period in which that group was virtually the only academic group anywhere openly propounding and actively working for the re-establishment of Korean relations, with a view toward peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Indeed, for a number of years we annually held a conference in Malente-Gremsmühlen on the subject of the reunification of Korea, inviting scholars, also from Korea, to participate in the discussions. Professor Kim Youn-Soo’s family hailed from what is now the DPRK, where his father had been an industrialist, and the many capable members of this family are now strewn around the world, including also Germany and the United States.

In those days we were very impressed by the capabilities of the Koreans we met, so that the success of modern commercial enterprises such as Samsung or Hyundai or LG are no surprise to us at all. Indeed, in 2005 Samsung surpassed Sony as the world’s Number 1 electronics brand, small wonder when one considers that 25% of the company’s employees have a Ph.D. or equivalent.

When high intelligence, realism, hard work and capital are combined, a very likely result is success. When capital begins to flow into the DPRK, as it will in the case of normalized relations, the people in the DPRK will also begin to enjoy the fruits of greater success in the modern world.

The present author might note that – at this same time in the late 1970’s – he also participated at the Berlin meetings of “Kuratorium Unteilbares Deutschland” (Committee for an Indivisible Germany). This committee stopped its work in 1992, after the ultimate successful German reunification.

We have always predicted that reunification on the Korean peninsula would take longer, but that it was inevitable. Perhaps we are now moving toward that possibility. All Koreans agree that there are two Korean States, but only one Korea.

We might also add that we came to Germany from the USA in the mid-1970’s to work not only on the problems of divided nations, but also on the problems of the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) following Professor Dietrich André Loeber’s prediction to us in 1974 that the Soviet Union (USSR) would most certainly fall apart within the following 20 years, and that Latvia would not only regain its independence, but would need a modern legal basis to begin that independence, upon which we worked, already in the 1970’s. Loeber’s prediction turned out to be true as the Soviet Union was disbanded in 1991, 17 years after my arrival on European soil.


Kim, Youn-Soo. “The Foreign Policy of the Korean Democratic People’s Republic.” In Kie-Taek Kim and Andis Kaulins, eds. The Foreign Policies and Foreign Trade of the German Democratic Republic and the Korean Democratic People’s Republic. Kiel, West Germany: German Korea-Studies Group, 1979.

Kim, Kie-Taek and Andis Kaulins, eds. The Foreign Policies and Foreign Trade of the German Democratic Republic and the Korean Democratic People’s Republic. Kiel, West Germany: German Korea-Studies Group, 1979.

Professor Frank wrote in 1999 on the KoreaWeb

I would like to recommend on the issue of the GDR-DPRK relationship:

– Chon, Tuk Chu: Die Beziehungen zwischen der DDR und der Koreanischen Demokratischen Volksrepublik (1947-1978) (The relationship between the GDR and the DPRK), Muenchen 1982 (in German)

– Kim, Kie-Taek and Andis Kaulins (eds.): The Foreign Policies and the Foreign Trade of the German Democratic Republic and the Korean Democratic People’s Republic, Kiel 1979

(Kim Kie Taek became the 7th President of Yeungnam University)

Dietrich Andre Loeber, East-West Trade : A Sourcebook on the International Economic Relations of Socialist Countries and Their Legal Aspects, January 1977 (the present author edited that book)