Koreas Join For Symphony

South Korea’s most famous classical music export, conductor Chung Myung-whun, has announced an agreement with a group of North Korean musicians to stage joint performances.

Chung said during a Sept. 17 press conference that though he understood such exchanges won’t do anything to “change the entire regime,” it could at least “move the hearts of people a little bit.”

Chung leads the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

He went to North Korea for four days with several orchestra officials to meet with counterparts.

The participants in the meetings signed agreements to carry out music exchange programs, though the agreements still need to be approved by the respective governments.

A proposed joint orchestra would be made up of an equal number of musicians from each side, with performances held in Seoul and Pyongyang on an alternating basis. The first is tentatively scheduled for December.

While in North Korea Chung conducted the country’s state symphony, and though he found their technique good “their repertoire wasn’t that rich.” He tried taking them through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a piece they had never played before.

The project started when Chung, who is the music director of the Radio France Philharmonic, was introduced to a North Korean musician by French culture minister Jack Lang. At the time, the French government was promoting cultural exchanges with Asian countries.

Chung had originally planned to visit North Korea in 2006 but the trip had to be canceled after the north conducted a nuclear test.