Oct 4, 2019

NEW YORK – Sympathizers of North Korea’s regime will carry out a propaganda coup this Saturday at the Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Concert Hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Pretending to host an “orchestral music event” featuring the likes of Mozart and Mendelssohn, the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra will also perform hardline North Korean anthems that celebrate “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-un and his tyranny.

“This is an outrageous public relations swindle,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “Right under the noses of unsuspecting New Yorkers, the orchestra will be playing the North Korean equivalent of Nazi marching band music. Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, the state media will feature this concert in prime-time reporting as a triumph of North Korea’s dictator, deep in the heart of enemy territory. It’s geopolitical chutzpah of the cultural kind.”

On Saturday, the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra will play Mozart and other classical favorites in between music advertised as “Korean chamber orchestral music.” In truth, this militaristic music will most likely have unpublished titles such as “Triumphal March,” “I Shall Remain Loyal Single-Heartedly,” and “Nothing to Envy.” The musicians hired by Ureuk may not even realize they are advancing a cult of personality.

“The monumental significance of this yearly event is that Kim’s sympathizers are given an open platform from which to subtly celebrate him,” said Halvorssen. “While the concert may receive little attention in New York, North Korean media exalt this annual campaign as a triumphant victory for their tyrannical ‘Dear Leader.’

“Sympathizers of the North Korean regime have every right to openly express themselves, but they should be honest about precisely what they are celebrating with such a concert and not pretend this is a Mozart event. Concert organizers should be transparent about the fact that attendees are literally and figuratively supporting one of the worst tyrants responsible for the suffering of untold millions, in a nation where simply listening to Western music is punishable by life imprisonment.”

Named after a 6th century Korean musician, the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra performs this concert to celebrate the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the dictatorship since its establishment. The orchestra’s conductor, Christopher Joonmoo Lee, regularly travels to Pyongyang and has praised North Korea’s nuclear program. Interestingly, the event is attended not just by American sympathizers of the North Korean regime, but by its agents of influence and by the highest officials to the United Nations who represent North Korea. The concert’s sponsor is the fraudulent Korean American National Coordinating Council, which serves as a propaganda front for the Kim regime in New York, in blatant violation of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act.

North Korea is the world’s most repressive state. It has trampled the rights of its people since its formation. All civil and political liberties are restricted. Civil society is forbidden, as is all independent media, all trade unions, all organized political opposition. Religious freedom does not exist. Those who defy the regime face lengthy sentences in the world’s worst prisons. The regime is responsible for countless atrocities. Its citizens endure a widespread famine as food supplies are cut off and political prisoners are starved in gulags to force confessions. Meanwhile, top regime officials live in luxury. Since coming to power, Kim Jong-un has barbarically — and very publicly — executed hundreds of people, some for acts such as falling asleep, slouching, or not clapping hard enough in a government meeting. The regime blocks access to outside information — a fundamental human right — that threatens to unveil the truth of its brutality. North Koreans are not allowed to leave North Korea — it is a vast prison camp.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

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