05 January, 2013

Strange developments in North Korea

The BBC news website has a fascinating piece on North Korea by the German conductor Alexander Liebreich. Mr Liebreich has made a number of cultural trips to North Korea over the years. On his most recent trip, with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, he was astonished by the changes he observed in Pyongyang. There seemed a new openness in the air, with the members of his orchestra being able to walk the streets of the city without the company of official minders. Furthermore, the locals seemed far more relaxed in the presence of foreigners (when previously association with anyone from outside the DPRK would excite the suspicions of the authorities). And the North Koreans he interacted with seemed far less inclined to quote the wise words of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-Il than previously, with current leader Kim Jung-un being conspicuous by his absence. Mr Liebreich also noticed a considerable presence of Chinese tourists and a general smartening up of Pyongyang.

Who knows what these changes signify. Maybe they are merely superficial, but maybe the wind of change is starting to blow through what has long been one of the world's most isolated countries.


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