By Thor Halvorssen
North Korea is a horrible dictatorship ruled by a family of psychopaths that shows no respect for human rights. So why is Manhattan-based Ureuk Symphony Orchestra celebrating North Korea’s Kim Jong-il at the Kaufman Music Center on Saturday?
No, the orchestra’s ads don’t mention the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, but the agenda is obvious to anyone who knows how the North Korean propaganda machine works.
This performance is titled “February Spring,” a phrase used in North Korea to refer to Kim Jong-il’s birthday on Feb. 16.
As it has in past years, the Ureuk concert will play Beethoven or Tchaikovsky intermingled with North Korean cult songs praising the regime and its dictators, presented innocently as simply “Korean folk tunes,” “music from a North Korean composer,” etc.
The propaganda value isn’t that some unsuspecting Upper West Side 1-percenters are listening to militaristic songs; it’s that back in North Korea the concerts are touted as a triumph in the land of the “American bastards.” It’s cultural warfare at its finest.
The underwriter of Ureuk’s concerts is the Korean American National Coordinating Council, a fanatically pro-Pyongyang front group once reportedly investigated by the US government for tax evasion and for serving as agents of North Korea.
KANCC blatantly propagandizes for the Kim regime in America. Its official statements and Web site content show enthusiastic support for and even loyalty to the regime.
The site denies that dictators run North Korea, calls defectors “human scum” and has even compared the dynasty’s founding dictator, Kim Il-sung, to Jesus Christ.
Asked to comment for this article, a KANCC representative refused to give his name or answer any questions, and hastily hung up the phone — so hastily that the line was left open, and I heard two people chatting in Korean and then playing back a recording of the conversation.
Lawrence Peck, the foremost authority on North Korean activities in the United States, says, “The North Korean regime considers KANCC to be the pre-eminent pro-North entity in the US today.”
He notes that Chris Joonmoo Lee, the Ureuk Symphony’s conductor, is a KANCC board member and a zealous supporter of the North Korean dictatorship. Lee has even participated in Pyongyang’s “April Spring Friendship Art Festival,” a major yearly Kim-cult event.
After a January 2016 North Korean nuclear test, Lee wrote a poem lavishly praising the North’s nukes, posted on the KANCC site. He rejoiced that the sound of the nuclear explosion could be the “death rattle” of the “big-nosed” Americans.
The Kim dynasty controls North Korea without mercy. It has brainwashed tens of millions of citizens, forced more than 1 million to starve by cutting off food supplies to the cities, sent hundreds of thousands to suffer in concentration camps and forced children to watch barbaric executions of anyone who opposed it. Dissenters get rocks shoved into their mouths so they can’t curse the ruling Kim as they’re being publicly executed.
Also pushing pro-Kim propaganda is the NYC-based Nodutdol, which appeals to “unification” and the ills of “division” to sanitize its pro-dictatorship stance, while never mentioning the regime’s atrocities or other outrageous violations of human rights. Nodutdol regularly engages in “public education” and “training” events in New York to spread this dangerously selective history.
North Korean fronts like the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra operate comfortably in cities like Los Angeles and New York. On Saturday, Ureuk will perform North Korean propaganda to a mostly ignorant audience in a theater steps from Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
These musicians have the right to free speech. But in the era of fake news and alternative facts, audiences should know this concert is organized by sympathizers and agents of the world’s worst dictatorship. America’s artistic community shouldn’t accept musical tributes to a tyrant like Kim Jong-il, especially in New York.
Instead, the city’s creative community should make it a priority to expose and shame those who use the performing arts to praise evil and support North Korean fascism.