Section: Global Kenyon

Global Kenyon: North, South Korea use musical diplomacy

Global Kenyon is the Collegian’s recurring international news feature. Because these pieces will be short, we hope they will inspire readers to conduct research about the global world on their own.

South Korea will host the Olympic Winter Games XXIII this February. While international and regional tensions have escalated, music has become a critical source for improving the diplomatic relationship between North and South Korea.

The two countries will use this moment to “present an image of Korea as part of the world,” according to Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer. International focus should be on how the nations attempt to “flout an image of being globalized,” he said.  In recent talks, the North promised to play traditional Korean folk, as well as classical music according to a January 15 New York Times article.  According to the same source, the South Korean government hopes that this musical diplomacy will “contribute to improving relations and recovering the cultural homogeneity.” This motion toward peace comes at a time when tensions have been high between President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un.

In 1988, South Korea hosted the Winter Games in Seoul. Through the games, “South Korea reintroduced itself to the world,” according to a Dec. 18 Los Angeles Times article.For three years prior, North and South Korean delegations discussed their roles in the games. Despite diplomatic efforts, North Korea rejected their proposed role, and withdrew from the 1988 games altogether, according to a Dec. 20 Business Insider article.Nine months before the 1988 games, North Korean agents bombed a Korean Air Flight in which there were no survivors, according to a Jan. 3 Reuters article. The games could act as a symbol for deescelating tensions between the nations. Assistant Track and Field Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Brian Clymer said the games are “a mirror of our globalized world.” Fortunately, the 1988 games were  successful.

The success of the 1988 games was a surprise. Today, a relatively peaceful success seems to be the predicted outcome, according to a Jan. 18 CNN article. This is largely due to the careful talks between the two Koreas surrounding musical performances.

K-Pop, short for Korean pop music, is one of the fastest growing genres in the world. It is expected that K-Pop will be featured alongside traditional South Korean and North Korean Orchestra music, according to a Jan. 15 New York Times article and a Jan. 23 ABC News article. The two delegations agreed upon musical acts in about two weeks, according to a Jan. 15  Independent article. As a result of these improved relations, North and South Korea are set to march across the international stage as one united Korea, under one unified flag according to a Jan. 22 NPR article. Despite opposition protests throughout Seoul and Pyeongchang, North and South Korea will also compete as a unified women’s hockey team.


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