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The Power of Music: North and South Koreans brought to tears by emotional performance

ByMichael Koenigs, Christopher Casey, Dana Langer, and Rachel Jandak via Localish logo
Thursday, March 17, 2022
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If you had any doubt about the power of music, watch this. #PyeongChangPeaceForum Sponsored by Gangwon Province South Korea.

NEW YORK -- In 2008, Michelle Kim and other members of the New York Philharmonic gave an unprecedented performance in North Korea. Michelle's own father had fled from North Korea at the end of the Korean war, making the performance all the more emotional for her. So emotional that she began to cry on stage mid-performance.

"Even talking about it now gives me a little bit of goosebumps," Michelle says. "My parents have talked about something called Han. Han is something that we have carried as Korean people It is deep sorrow deep feeling."

In the middle of Michelle's performance in North Korea, she felt the overwhelming presence of 'Han' come over her. On live television, tears began leaking down her face. "All of a sudden the war, the people, and their history all came together. And I thought, 'this is what Han is'."

Choi Moon-Soon, the Governor of Gangwon Province, was there to witness the emotional moment. "Michelle was very emotional and when people saw her crying when she was performing on stage, that actually made other people emotional."

Governor Choi Moon-Soon believes that performances, like Michelle's in 2008, are an important part of their efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula. "This music is so powerful. More powerful than any diplomatic effort."

Michelle's New York Philharmonic colleagues also felt the power of music at the performance and reflected on it at this year's PyeongChang Peace Forum.

"It's a clich to say that music is the universal language, we all say that," Notes Carter Brey, Principal Cello for the New York Philharmonic, and one of the musicians who performed in 2008. "But it was remarkable, at that time, that there was tangible proof of that."

The PyeongChang Peace Forum is an international conference that aims to bring peace between North and South Korea and foster diplomacy through dialogue, music, and sports. It's held annually in February to help maintain the spirit of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

Sponsored by Gangwon Province South Korea