What to do when you’ve had a bad year? How to press forward, gamely or doggedly, with the new tasks thrust upon you by time and those relationships whose original justifications have long since slipped away?
Liu Xiaoming, the dapper Anglophone and Tufts-educated Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK, is being reassigned to London. Reflecting North Korea’s tenacious reliance on the PRC at present, Liu and his wife (Hu Pinghua 胡平华) were feted by North Korea’s elite at a farewell New Year’s Party on January 14.
Kim Yong-il gave a speech praising China’s ability to weather the global financial crisis (perhaps prompting a collective snicker at American debt levels), talking up the CCP’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan, and promising that the DPRK would emerge stronger than ever with a revolutionary upswing.
The departing Ambassador praised North Korea for its promise to attend the Shanghai Expo in May 2010, talked about developing responsibilities in the alliance, and pledged to always remember North Korea, stating “No matter where I go from here, Sino-North Korean friendship will eternally be etched upon my heart 今后不管我到什么地方，中朝友谊将永远铭刻在我心中,” which might be his way of saying that 3.5 years in the job gave him an ulcer.
The party (not to be confused with the Party) ended in a Meistersaenger song contest, a veritable revolutionary karaoke battle. A trio of North Koreans well trained in the art combined their manly skills for a version of “With the Mood of the General [跟着将军的心情/Genzhe jiangjun de xinqing].”
Yet, not to be outdone, a Chinese diplomat took the mike to sing “Blue Sky of the Motherland (祖国的蓝天 Zuguo de lantian).” Lest you think he was acting the “Shandong big man” or the “gusty Northeasterner,” using a Chinese song to assert some claim to Mount Paektu, referring to the blue waters of Lake Cheongi, think again!
Blue Sky of the Motherland is not only a fine vehicle for a mellifluous baritone, it is an epic North Korean song! This karaoke version on Youku indicates the lengths to which Chinese diplomats will go to keep the North Koreans happy — a two minute entr’acte as part of a 7.5 minute song? Now that is serious commitment. Lips and teeth may have initiated this alliance, but it is the vocal chords that are going to keep it together.
And by the way, if you think the North Koreans have nothing to be proud of in juxtaposition to the Chinese, take a gander at the Chinese analogue of the song, “I Love the Motherland’s Blue Sky.” It’s really quite profane in comparison.
Finally, the Japanese press (via NK Leadership Watch) reports that the U.S. and North Korea are talking about finally dropping the other shoe and getting a North Korean symphony orchestra to visit the United States.
Now, if we can just get a bunch of soju-infused North Korean violinists into a karaoke room on Wilshire Blvd. or South Tacoma Way and woo them with a little “Blue Skies of the Motherland,” then the Korean War might be over before you can say “Next up: Can do! Can go!”