An Open Letter to Mr. Teachout*
*Mr. Terry Teachout (Drama Critic, The Wall Street Journal)
There is a segment of American public who has been keenly aware of the progress of the idea of New York Philharmonic playing in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and that is the Korean Americans that number over 1.5 million.
The overwhelming majority of them are with the opinion that it will be a historical event that will be remembered as a watershed of the beginning of the improved relationship between their home country and their adopted country, United States that will eventually lead to the reunification of the peninsula, which is the ardent hope of every Koreans whether they are in North, South or overseas.
For this reason, Korean Americans are stunned and outraged to read your articles appearing in the Wall Street Journal; 1. “Serenading a Tyrant (October 27, 2007) and 2. “Now That It’s Official” (December 22, 2007).
Let us begin with a statement that there is only one Korea. The Korea was divided into two halves near the closing days of World War II by the United States and Soviet Russia for the ease of disarming its colonial occupier Japan. The ensuing cold war led to the war of proxy on the peninsula, the Korean War, which to this date has never ended thus codifying the de facto presence of two different regimes on the peninsula. In the minds of every Korean, current situation in the Korean peninsula is a transient historical product and the reunification is imperative. We like to point out the fact that actually more than half the Korean Americans living in the United States currently were born in North Korea.
It is true that North Korea had been relatively isolated from western world especially since the fall of Russia and eastern European countries. Prior to this, they had close and frequent cultural exchanges with Russia and other socialist countries in classical music. Many well known classical musicians had played in North Korea and Pyongyang had heard many eastern European orchestras. For their part, they have Kim, Il-jin who won the second place (without the first place that year) at the Karajan Contest. They have Paik, Ko-san who serves routinely as one of the judges at the Tchaikowski Contest. They have Kim, Byung-hwa, one of their conductors well known for his excellence in interpreting the difficult works of Yoon, I-sang, famous Korean-German composer. Since I am not a musician I cannot claim any expertise at professional level, thus I shall refrain from commenting any further. But I feel free to add at the personal level that I have an older sister living in Pyongyang, who is a retired western opera singer, who is intensely proud of the quality of their artists.
Therefore, when you said in your articles; “North Korea, by contrast, does not have anything remotely resembling musical culture---“, or “How can symphony orchestras help inexperienced listeners open their ears to difficult pieces of classical music?” or “( the symphony will be played) for 1,500 hand-picked servants of the regime” and go on in a cynical tone belittling the whole society and people, without quoting any objective facts, we Korean Americans become outraged and then stunned that such writings did appear in the Wall Street Journal, an eminent daily in our country.
We understand that you are a drama critic, the situation is akin to you providing a critical review on a drama that you had not even seen!
Lastly as member of American public, we are horrified by your undisciplined and disrespectful description of North Korean United Nations ambassador, Mr. Pak, Gil-yon, as being “---a smirking representative of Kim, Jong-il, etc.---“ North Korea may be a small country, never-the-less it is a member of the UN and he represents 24 million North Korean people in that world organization, that happened to be led currently by another Korean diplomat, Secretary General Mr. Ban, Ki-moon.
Mr. Teachout, your first article in the WSJ was entitled “Serenading a Tyrant”. Nothing can be farther from the truth; the New York Philharmonic, the world’s most preeminent symphony orchestra is going to Pyongyang to “Serenade Peace”!!
For this reason, 1.5 million Korean Americans are eternally grateful to the musicians of the Orchestra (of which seven members are Korean Americans), the officers of the organization; Mr. Lorin Maazel, Mr. Zarin Metha, Mr.Paul Guenther, MS. Fiona Simon, and Mr. Eric Latzky and others. We believe history will remember them and the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
Korean American National Coordinating Council
Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chairman, US-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee(UDMEDEX)