In a historic and controversial first, today the Philharmonic became the first major Western institution to perform in North Korea, which remains under the iron grip of Kim Jong Il. Director Lorin Maazel led the musicans—including eight of Korean descent—in works by Gershwin, Dvorak, and Wagner as well as the Korean folk song Arirang. When introducing Gershwin's "American in Paris," Maazel quipped that a composer might someday write a work titled "Americans in Pyongyang.” (You can read an account of the event here.)
The North Korean government has granted unusual access to the Americans, who were greeted with a traditional music and dance performance, an opulent banquet, and tours of the capital. Curious to see what one of the least-visited cities in the world looks like? You can get a peek by checking out our slide show and an excerpt from the coffee-table book, Welcome to Pyongyang.
Newsweek's Beijing bureau chief Melinda Liu wrote a blog post with insights into the political implications of the Philharmonic's visit, where the musicians are staying, and what they're allowed to experience. The magazine also managed to enlist fashion designers to make over Kim Jong Il. You can view the decidedly less dictator-like results—and even create your own outfit!
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