"We have just very recently received an inquiry about the possibility of [the orchestra] performing in Pyongyang," Philharmonic director of public relations Eric Latzky told the Reuters news agency yesterday. "It came from an independent representative as an official invitation of the Ministry of Culture."
In its 77-year touring history, the New York Philharmonic has given concerts in hundreds of cities all over the world, including a number of performances in South Korea, most recently in November 2006. But the orchestra has never yet played in North Korea, a nation whose Communist government generally keeps the outside world at a distance.
"We appreciate any invitation to the New York Philharmonic," Latzky told Reuters, "and will explore the possibility of this as we would any other invitation."
Latzky did tell Agence France-Presse that the orchestra would not accept the invitation without consulting the U.S. federal government, which has had an embargo on travel to and trade with North Korea for decades.
On the other hand, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told AFP, "I think, you know, it's really up to the Philharmonic whether or not they accept such an invitation." The orchestra will be in the neighborhood this coming winter, Latzky observed to AFP: a Philharmonic tour is already scheduled for February.
Early this year, a South Korean newspaper reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had tried to recruit Seiji Ozawa to become music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Ozawa and his management agency in Tokyo denied the report.