Conductor Turns Down N. Korea

South Korean newspaper Joong-ang Ilbo recently reported that Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa received two personal requests from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2006 to come to Pynongyang and work with the North Korean national orchestra.

The messages were conveyed to Ozawa through the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan while he was receiving medical treatment in Tokyo.

The 71-year-old conductor diplomatically declined the first offer, saying that his work with the Vienna State Opera, of which he is the musical director, left him no time to work in North Korea.

When Kim sent a second message asking him to reconsider, Ozawa, according to the Korean newspaper, became more candid and replied that he didn’t think he could "focus on music in the political environment in North Korea."

North Korea is currently the object of considerable enmity in Japan because of its recent missile tests and admitted abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s.