December 07, 2023

Are We Over-Analyzing Musical Dipomacy?

Diplomacy can come in many shapes and sizes, from the ping pong diplomacy of the 70s to China’s current panda diplomacy. These direct interactions and exchanges are a form of diplomacy that can prove more palatable and understandable to the general public. After all, the imagery of a cute panda frolicking in zoo is a more preferable image in the papers to that of hardnosed diplomatic negotiations; where such cuteness comes at a minimum. As attention spans for politics shrink, views of nations can thus increasingly be shaped by arts, images, and events.

Can North Korea capitalize on this with a new push of cultural diplomacy fronted by its musicians? Its Unhasu Orchestra are wrapping up their high-profile visit to Paris and they performed Wednesday last week. The eventwas unique in many ways; it is the first time this orchestra and most of it's members have played abroad - France is one of the few remaining EU nations not to have diplomatic relations with North Korea - and on top of this the whole performance was conducted by South Korean Chung Myung-Whun (whose mother is from Wonsan in the North).