Following news that Communist-era rock band Laibach will perform in North Korea for ‘Victory Day’ celebrations, Gregory Scarlatoiu – a former Eastern European citizen and Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) – shared his initial thoughts about the potential impact of the concert series with NK News:
I grew up in communist Romania, the one Eastern European country that was most similar to Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. The 1980s were bleak, dull, oppressive and cold. But Romanian teenagers loved their Scorpions, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
All purchased their music on the black market. Some of us had record players, most of us didn’t. Nevertheless, we figured it out. Romanian rock bands, underground or quasi-underground, helped play an awakening role. No surprise then that Romanian rockers were out on the front lines, in the streets in December 1989, when the communist regime fell.
Now news has emerged that Laibach, a band that emerged in 1980s communist Yugoslavia, will perform in Pyongyang this August, coinciding with local “Victory Day” celebrations.
The question has been previously raised as to whether Laibach is a neo-Nazi band, due to its use of Nazi symbols and very name, once used by Nazi Germany to describe Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. As one of several European rock bands suspected of relaying pro-Nazi messages, my comments here should thus not be taken as any endorsement of such messages.
That matters less under the current circumstances. A lot of rock bands issue controversial messages, and it is often difficult to get a grasp on what, exactly, they are really saying. So on balance, it will be very interesting to see a Slovenian rock band perform in Pyongyang (one of Eastern Europe’s oldest surviving rock bands, as a matter of fact).
While I am fully aware that the regime is allowing this because it is presumably a celebration of Victory Day, if a performance by Laibach can contribute to the North Korean youth developing a taste in rock music, so be it.
Of course, I am aware that, as terrible as things were, communist Romania was not as oppressive as North Korea is today. I am also aware Laibach are no Scorpions. But let us follow closely, and see where this goes in North Korea.
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