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,
"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.