With apologies for use of the first person pronoun, I have been very much on the move in August. Mainline destinations have included Liaoning province (Dandong, Dalian, Shenyang), with shorter time spent moving in and through Seoul; failing to sleep at all in Pusan and having evacuated Manchuria, I was re-awakened this morning with some footage of Kim Jong Il’s trip to Russia.
Two factual notes left by the wayside by such sterling outlets as the New York Times in their analysis of the Russia trip (as usual, the narrative is all about nukes, food, armored trains, and whiskey): Le Monde’s writing from 2009 (translated here for your Anglophone pleasure) is much more informative as to tensions between the two states, the role of North Korean diplomats in Vladivostok, and Russian opinion on Kim Jong Il. Russophone reporter Marie Jego reigns supreme. Secondly, Kim Jong Il is reaping at least minor benefits from an extended smattering of pro-Russian orchestral-cultural diplomacy in Pyongyang. Russian orchestras don’t play for free, and Kim is, by all accounts, an attentive audience.
(Much much more to come later on this blog about musical diplomacy with North Korea, as I’m fresh from a couple of relevant sessions with North Korean performers in Dandong.)
On cultural diplomacy, I can testify as well to how hard the US staff at the Consulates and Embassy are working to make the current trip by V.P. Biden a success. For every basketball brawl (oh yes, writers and orchestral musicians tend not to do this sort of thing, bringing to mind the dangers of sports diplomacy), there is a p.r. coup in the form of a Seattlite ordering his own coffee.