New York Philharmonic Was Too Late—Missed Opportunity

The New York Philharmonic trip to North Korea is a dramatic development that may speed up better relations between the US and Pyongyang.

Such a significant cultural visit by Americans to North Korea could actually have occurred much earlier.

I was involved in setting up a visit by David Copperfield, the magician, to North Korea in 1995, and I visited Pyongyang (with Tony Namkung), funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to negotiate the visit with the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee at the request of Kim Jong Il, who very much desired to have the magician perform there.

I took three trips to Pyongyang to prepare for the visit. In the US, I escorted the DPRK UN representative, Ambassador Han Song Ryol, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to have him attend a Mr. Copperfield performance. We met Mr. Copperfield there to discuss the visit. A team from Mr. Copperfield’s troupe then visited Pyongyang with me to make the preparations.

Everything was set except that Mr. Copperfield, who waived any fee, requested that a private plane be made available to transport the troupe and equipment to North Korea. North Korea had no budget for this so we approached the South Korean government and private enterprises there, but they would not support the trip.

We then tried to get some US commercial funding but could not raise sufficient funds.

The project thus collapsed, but had it been realized, the possibility of warmer ties between North Korea and the US might already have existed before the administration of US President George W Bush came into power in January 2001.

Deborah Krisher-Steele is the deputy publisher of The Cambodia Daily.

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