The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the DPRK

Today, media in Beijing announced that the Moranbong Band, the all-female ensemble associated closely with Kim Jong-un, will be travelling to China for five days of performances. An academic paper I delivered last month about the Band is available in audio on SoundCloud; the accompanying Powerpoint is available at the following link: Moranbong Band presentation. Citation: Adam Cathcart, “The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the … Continue reading The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the DPRK

On the disbandment of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra and the reported death of several of its members

With respect to the matter of the Unhasu Orchestra “executions” which has been bubbling about since late August 2013, augmented by  JoongAng Ilbo reports of “stadium executions” in Wonsan in November 2013, and raised again with reports of grizzly executions of yet more musicians in spring 2015: Obviously, none of us is in possession of anything resembling a conclusive data point which would prove or … Continue reading On the disbandment of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra and the reported death of several of its members

Notes on Kim Ki-nam, and on North Korean Cultural Production

The Chosun Ilbo carries the news that Kim Ki-nam, head of North Korea’s Ministry of Propaganda and one of the few remaining members of the famous funeral cortege of December 2011, has finally stepped down from his post.  I previously analyzed the possibility of Kim Ki-nam’s retirement, and his place in the North Korean system, in this June 2014 article on musical propaganda. Earlier in spring 2013, I … Continue reading Notes on Kim Ki-nam, and on North Korean Cultural Production

Researching the Moranbong Band: An Abstract

Even before Kim Jong-il’s tremulously-announced death in Dec. 2011, the North Korean musical-cultural apparatus-elite-complex was in valedictory mode, producing huge orchestral canatas that expressed a perfect –and complete– vision of the Dear Leader’s full contribution to the ongoing North Korean revolution. Had Kim Jong-un chosen to take up only these modes of cultural commemoration, they were clearly within his grasp. Instead, months after his father’s … Continue reading Researching the Moranbong Band: An Abstract

String Crossings: Tracking the Evolution of North Korea’s Moranbong Band

One of the advantages of staying at the top North Korean hotel in Shenyang, the Chilbosan, is that the nightly broadcasts from Pyongyang are available in real time. Earlier this month, I made a visit to the hotel and was rewarded with a news broadcast from Pyongyang which featured highly the return of the Moranbong Band. The first violin/concertmaster Sonu Hyang-hui finally reappeared with the … Continue reading String Crossings: Tracking the Evolution of North Korea’s Moranbong Band

Blockages and Breakthroughts: Cultural Diplomacy and North Korea

[A cross-post of an essay which I posted on SinoNK.com. — AC] Yesterday, Corée_Actualités launched a short missive which functioned as a kind of bouleversement of the normal: a 90-member delegation of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra (consisting of 70 players) will be performing at the Salle Pleyel in Paris this coming March 21.  The French Radio Symphony Orchestra (l’Orchestre de Radio France) will be playing alongside Unhasu, under the direction … Continue reading Blockages and Breakthroughts: Cultural Diplomacy and North Korea

Shanghai Impressions, or, What Cellistic Ennui Tells Us about Cultural Dynamics in the Sino-North Korean Relationship

A few days in Shanghai rarely fails to reorient one immediately from wherever illusory place one has been prior.  In Shanghai, China’s upward thrust is paired with its revolutionary guts, its past foreign dominance juxtaposed at every turn with the new impositions of 1949.  Art of various kinds slides past taxi windows, and the low and sulfurous scent of commerce being transacted hand over fist … Continue reading Shanghai Impressions, or, What Cellistic Ennui Tells Us about Cultural Dynamics in the Sino-North Korean Relationship