2008 New York Philharmonic visit to North Korea

The New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, on February 26, 2008, was a significant event in North Korea–United States relations. The orchestra played in East Pyongyang Grand Theatre,[1] with the entire concert broadcast on North Korean state television.[2]



New York Philharmonic at a performance at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in North Korea.
2006 photo of Lorin Maazel conducting the Philharmonic.

The program, conducted by Lorin Maazel, included the national anthems of both North Korea ("Aegukka") and the United States ("The Star-Spangled Banner"), the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World", and George Gershwin's An American in Paris. Encores included the Farandole from Georges Bizet's Second L'Arlesienne Suite, Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide, and concluded[3] with the popular Korean folk song "Arirang".[4][5] The Dvořák, Gershwin, and Bernstein works were each originally premiered by the New York Philharmonic, which is the oldest U.S. orchestra.[6]


North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il did not attend the concert, but vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Yang Hyong-sop and the Foreign Ministry’s America chief Li Gun were present.[7]


At the request of the New York Philharmonic, a live national broadcast was aired on Korean Central Television.[8] The TV recording of the concert was produced by the German production company EuroArts Music International and was broadcast live internationally on CNN in Canada and the United States, CNN International, MBC in South Korea, and SMC in China. Time delayed broadcasts were shown amongst others on Arte in France and Germany, on Thirteen/WNET and on PBS in the United States, on SVT in Sweden, on DR in Denmark, on RTBF in Belgium, on MTV in Hungary. The concert was also streamed live on the New York Philharmonic's website.[9]

The concert may have been remarkable in North Korea for its live coverage alone. Evan Revers, president of the Korea Society and a negotiator of the visit, stated he believed it to be unprecedented, as other major events are broadcast from videotape footage.[8]


In spring 2008 the New York Philharmonic’s Pyongyang concert was released worldwide on DVD (Medici Arts / EuroArts / Naxos).