North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Unhasu Orchestra Performs in Paris

The U’nhasu Orchestra gave its first performance in Paris on Wednesday, 14 March to a sold-out audience.  The concert was divided into two parts with the U’nhasu playing its own set of DPRK chestnuts, followed by a joint performance of Korean and European pieces with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France.  KCNA reports:

The Unhasu Orchestra of the DPRK gave a performance before full house at Pleyel Theater in Paris on Wednesday.

The Pleyel Theatre opened in 1927 is one of the modern theatres for orchestra in France.

Enjoying the performance were Frederic Mitterand, minister of Culture of France, the general director of the Radio Broadcasting of France, the former minister of Culture, personages of various strata, music experts of France, people from all walks of life in France, the chief and staff members of the DPRK mission and staff members of various foreign missions in France and Koreans living in different parts of France.

Prior to the performance, the French minister of Culture and the general director of the Radio Broadcasting of France made speeches.

They welcomed the visit of the Unhasu Orchestra to France and introduced it.

In the first part of the performance, the Unhasu Orchestra gave a separate presentation and its second part was devoted to a joint concert with the French orchestra.

Staged in the first part were numbers like orchestral music “Swinging Girl”, duet of national musical instruments “Vinalon Extending 3 000-ri”, orchestral music “Attraction”, unaccompanied violin solo “Nilliriya” and orchestral music “Sinau”.

Staged in the second part were numbers like “Brahms Concerto No.9”, orchestral music “Arirang” and “Carmen Suite”.

They sent warm applause to the performers, expressing admiration at the Korean musicians’ high level of rendition and conducting skill with deep understanding of the Western music, to say nothing of the national music.

Organizers of the performance expressed thanks to the dear respected Kim Jong Un with broad magnanimity and noble traits who made sure that the excellent orchestra perform in France.

The audience expressed their hope that the Unhasu Orchestra would often come to France to give performances.

Yonhap reported:

A North Korean and a French orchestra held a landmark joint concert in Paris on Wednesday, helping to boost cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Pyongyang’s Unhasu Orchestra performed North Korean songs and French composer Camille Saint-Saens’s Violin Concerto at the packed Salle Pleyel theater before holding a joint concert with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France.

The joint orchestras performed Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Korean folk song called “Arirang” under the baton of renowned South Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun.

Chung, who organized the joint performance, said after the concert that he chose Arirang because it is the most well-known and loved song by Koreans before the division of the Korean Peninsula.

North and South Korea have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The sold-out performance was broadcast live by a French network.

It marks the first time the Unhasu Orchestra has held a concert in Paris, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

On Tuesday, the Unhasu Orchestra paid a courtesy call on the general director of the Radio Broadcasting of France.

The general director expressed hope that the cultural exchanges between the two countries would develop in the future, noting the joint performance would be of significance in showing the development of bilateral cultural relations, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.

Kwon Hyok-bong, who leads the Unhasu Orchestra, also voiced hope that the joint performance would offer an opportunity to boost cultural exchanges between the two countries and expand their relations in various fields, the KCNA said in a dispatch from Pyongyang. Kwon made the comment in a news conference on Tuesday.

North Korea and France do not have formal diplomatic relations, but France opened an office in Pyongyang last year to foster cultural exchanges.

Chung unsuccessfully pushed for an inter-Korean concert due to lingering political tensions over the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.

Kwon Hyok Bong (2nd Row, 2nd R) stands behind Kim Jong Un at an U'nhasu Orchestra Concert. Kim Ok, Kim Jong Il's widow, is at the right (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee Vice (Deputy) Director Kwon Hyok Bong has given media interviews and conducted other public activities whilst in Paris.  During 2011-2012, this has been the second occasion Kwon led a DPRK performing arts group on a tour outside the country.  Kwon also ferried the P’ibada Opera Troupe through its tour of China from late October 2011 to January 2012, although he was not present for the entire tour.  KCNA reports:

Kwon Hyok Bong, advisor to the Korean Traditional Music Institute who is heading the Unhasu Orchestra on a visit to France, was interviewed by foreign reporters on Mar. 13.

The news conference followed the trial joint performance by the Unhasu Orchestra and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra which was videoed by 41 leading mass media of the world including AFP, various TV channels and radios of France and Reuters, CNN, Yonhap News of South Korea and Asahi Shimbun of Japan.

Answering the reporters, Kwon said he was pleased to hold a joint performance at the invitation of the French government.

The cultural exchange between the two countries had already begun in the 1970s with the Mansudae Art Troupe’s visit to France, he said, adding the bilateral cultural exchange is given continuity by the orchestra’s visit.

The performance will be given, divided into two parts, and in the first part the Unhasu Orchestra will perform Korean music and French traditional music, he said, adding: In the second part the Unhasu Orchestra and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra will jointly perform.

He stressed that this joint performance would mark an important occasion for boosting the bilateral cultural exchange and expanding the bilateral ties in various fields.

On Tuesday [13 March] Kwon met with the director of Radio France:

Kwon Hyok Bong, head of the Unhasu Orchestra on a visit to France, who is advisor to the Korean Traditional Music Institute Tuesday paid a courtesy call on the general director of the Radio Broadcasting of France.

Present there were leading officials of the Unhasu Orchestra, the chief and staff members of the DPRK mission in Paris, those related to the Bureau of the Radio Broadcasting of France and the music director of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France.

The general director warmly welcomed the Orchestra’s visit to France, saying that a joint performance of the Unhasu Orchestra and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France would be of great significance in showing the development of cultural relations between the two countries as well as the DPRK’s level of culture and arts.

The general director expressed hope that the cultural exchange between the two countries would develop in all aspects in the future on the basis of the achievements made in the joint performance under the concern of the French government.

Kwon Hyok Bong said that this performance would mark a watershed in boosting the cultural exchange between musicians and, furthermore, expanding the bilateral relations to various fields.

He noted both France and the DPRK have rich potentials to comprehensively promote the development of the cultural relations for the commonness in long-standing cultural tradition and history.

He also expressed expectation that the concert would offer an important occasion in helping the French people understand the musical art of the DPRK and boosting the ties of friendship between the two peoples.

The U’nhasu Orchestra also met with the director of Radio France:

The Unhasu Orchestra led by Kwon Hyok Bong, advisor to the Korean Traditional Music Institute, on a visit to France Tuesday paid a courtesy call on the general director of the Radio Broadcasting of France.

Present there were leading members of the Orchestra, the chief of the mission of the DPRK in Paris and its staff members, officials concerned of the Radio Broadcasting of France and the music director of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France.

The general director welcomed the Orchestra’s visit to France, saying that a joint performance of the Unhasu Orchestra and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France would be of significance in showing the development of cultural relations between the two countries as well as the DPRK’s developing culture and arts.

The general director expressed hope that the cultural exchange between the two countries would develop in the future on the basis of the success made in the joint performance to be given under the concern of the French government.

The head of the Unhasu Orchestra had a press conference on the same day.

Attending it were reporters of 41 major media of the world including AFP, various TV channels and radio broadcasting services of France, Reuters, CNN, Asahi Shimbun and Yonhap News of South Korea.

The head of the Orchestra, answering the questions raised by reporters, expressed belief that the joint performance would offer an opportunity of boosting the cultural exchange between the DPRK and France and expanding the relations between the two countries in various fields.

Former Minister of Culture Jack Lang, member of the National Assembly of France, visited the Unhasu Orchestra in the run-up to the performance and asked the head of the delegation to convey sincere thanks to the DPRK government for sending the prestigious or

3 comments on “Unhasu Orchestra Performs in Paris

  1. Pingback: Unhasu Orchestra Performs in Paris | Korea Watch

  2. Pingback: DPRK unveils new fusion technology on Paris concert platform | London Korean Links

  3. Gag Halfrunt
    03/25/2012

    Note that KCNA never refers to Chung Myung-whun by name, referring to him only as “the music director of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of France” and leaving out any indication of his nationality.

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