The Rise and Fall of the Unhasu Orchestra
Korhonen, P., & Koidl, W. (2018). The Rise and Fall of the Unhasu Orchestra. European Journal of Korean Studies, 18 (1), 63-96. doi: 10.33526/ejks.20181801.63
Published inEuropean Journal of Korean Studies
© British Association for Korean Studies, 2018
The Ŭnhasu Orchestra was a major North Korean ensemble in 2009-2013. It was established by Kim Jong Il [Kim Chŏngil] and was composed of young musicians and singers of both genders, several of them having studied in foreign higher educational institutions in countries like Austria, Italy, Russia and China. Its members represented the core class of the North Korean society. It was ostensibly meant to display the high quality of North Korean art and engage at this level also in international cultural diplomacy, both in terms of physical visits, and in terms of DVD and internet publishing. In addition to domestic concerts, the Ŭnhasu Orchestra performed with visiting Russian artists, and gave a concert in Paris in 2012. Ŭnhasu Orchestra exemplifies also the problems with regime transition in North Korea. It was so closely tied with the Kim Chŏngil regime that the change at the end of 2011 to the Kim Jong Un [Kim Chŏngŭn] regime did not proceed altogether smoothly. In August 2013 it was disbanded rather abruptly, causing an international uproar, and signalling the beginning of a wave of other purges leading up to the highest leadership levels. The article attempts to shed light on the nature of the Orchestra as a North Korean cultural phenomenon and the reasons for its sudden ending, trying to dispel some of the disinformation surrounding the event. ...