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South Korea Travel News

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NY Philharmonic reps travel to N. Korea to discuss concert
NEW YORK - New York Philharmonic representatives were en route Friday to North Korea to discuss the possibility of a history-making performance in the communist nation.

Philharmonic President Zarin Mehta and public relations director Eric Latzky were expected to arrive Saturday in North Korea. They said they planned to explore venues and other arrangements for a potential February concert in the capital, Pyongyang.
"It's a country that none of us have ever dreamed of going to. The next three or four days are going to be very eye-opening for us," Mehta said by telephone Thursday from Beijing.

He and Latzky said they were embarking on the discussions with U.S. government support. A State Department official was accompanying the Philharmonic representatives on the trip.
"In as much as this is something that both sides are interested in exploring, we will do what we can to facilitate it," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Relations between the United States and North Korea have been tense for years. President Bush once branded the country part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. But after North Korea tested a nuclear bomb in October, the U.S. softened its policy to facilitate progress on the North's disarmament.

In July, North Korea shut down its sole operating reactor at Yongbyon, which produced plutonium for bombs. The nation agreed this week agreed to provide a complete list of its nuclear programs and disable its facilities at its main reactor complex by Dec. 31.

Washington plans to remove North Korea from a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, one of the country's key demands.

Latzky said orchestra representatives had spoken with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill last month about the potential concert, and he was "very encouraging."

North Korea's Ministry of Culture sent the renowned orchestra an invitation in August. The Philharmonic has played in South Korea, as well as in other parts of Asia.

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