South Korean troops may be conducting live fire exercises near the North Korean frontier, and Pyongyang may be ramping up its anti-southern rhetoric, but there may be more harmony on the musical front.
Next week, for the first time, musicians from North Korea will perform in Paris with a French orchestra led by a South Korean conductor, Myung-Whun Chung, in a minor diplomatic victory for the international maestro.
"I've been trying to do this for 30 years," he said this week. "For practically all Koreans, outside the world of politics, there are not two Koreas, there's only one country, a family divided.
"I don't know a single Korean who doesn't want at least a rapprochement between the two Koreas, a normal situation, if not reunification."
Despite the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in December and Pyongyang saying last week it would suspend its nuclear tests and uranium enrichment program in return for U.S. food aid, tensions remain high.
The north, under its new leader Kim's son Kim Jong-Un, has recently staged huge anti-southern rallies, following claims that South Korean troops display placards attacking Pyongyang's leadership at military facilities.
Both sides have staged live fire exercises near the tense demilitarized zone along their mutual border, the world's last Cold War frontier separating the totalitarian north from the democratic, economically-successful south.
Nevertheless, 90 musicians from North Korea's Unhasu Orchestra will arrive in Paris on Saturday to begin rehearsals ahead of a performance next Wednesday of traditional Korean works and Brahms' Symphony Number One.
Myung-Whun Chung said it was "too early" to get the North Koreans to play German composer Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which includes the "Ode to Joy", anthem of the European Union and one of the symbolic high spots of Western culture.
The South Korean pianist and conductor has been director of the Radio France orchestra since 2000 and since 2005 also the artistic director of the Seoul Philharmonic in his South Korean hometown. His mother is from Pyongyang.
"All my life, I have lived in this situation of a family divided. When we don't know each other, we can imagine the worst of others," he said, adding: "Music can take us beyond daily life and the politics of division."
The first crack in the wall appeared in September 2011, when former French culture minister Jack Lang opened a French cultural centre in North Korea, with which France has no formal diplomatic relations.
Myung-Whun Chung, in his capacity as the leader of a French orchestra, was finally allowed to visit and to meet two young orchestra leaders, one of whom had studied in Moscow, the other in Vienna.
He spent four days in the country -- normally closed to outsiders and South Koreans -- and worked with two orchestras, including Unhasu, which was founded in 2009 and whose musicians have an average age of 20.
"I chose the youngest orchestra because their energy gave me lots of hope for the future," he told Agence France Presse adding that his northern counterparts have good technique but little experience of the Western repertoire.
Myung-Whun Chung returned last week for two days to prepare for the Paris visit.
"It's true that once a rehearsal is underway, I'm someone who speaks very freely, while -- on their side -- they are not allowed. Not yet," he said.
"I told them 'you should consider me a dangerous person, because I talk of freedom', but they're ready to take this risk," he added, promising to make sure his guests enjoy the best of French gastronomy during the visit.
And, if next week's show is successful, the maestro's next challenge will be to organize a joint performance of musicians from both Koreas.
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