December 07, 2023

Music, diplomacy, and dictatorship: North Korean concerts in Beijing

More important than the optics were the meetings that took place on the sidelines

A North Korean musical delegation has now concluded nearly a week of residency in Beijing, a visit which resulted in one of the more sustained interactions we have seen in recent years between the leading members of China’s Politburo and Central Committee and the Korean Workers’ Party.

There are, consequently, a number of Kremlinological-type data points to be worked through. However, to see the concerts only as a political staging terrain would deny a necessary reflection on the utilitarian role of music and the arts in the Party-state, and in facilitating such interactions as we have seen.