The Philharmonic and the U.S. State Department revealed the news to The New York Times, which published it in this morning's edition. A press conference officially announcing the orchestra's visit to North Korea will be held tomorrow at Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra's home in Lincoln Center.
The performance, scheduled for February 26 in Pyongyang, the capital, will come at the tail end of the orchestra's upcoming tour of east Asia, which had been originally announced as a 14-day trip to Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. The orchestra will give an additional concert in Seoul after the Pyongyang visit: according to the Times, the South Korean television network MBC agreed to pay for a chartered Asiana Airlines jet to transport the musicians, support staff and journalists to and from the North Korean cpital in exchange for the rights to telecast a Seoul performance.
The invitation for the Philharmonic to perform in Pyongyang came unexpectedly last August, just as relations between the U.S. government and the secretive North Korean regime appeared to be thawing after several years of higher-than-usual mutual suspicion.
"We haven't even had ping-pong diplomacy with these people," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher R. Hill told the Times. The expression "ping-pong diplomacy" refers to the early days of the West's rapprochement with the Chinese Communist government in the 1970s, an endeavor that began with international table tennis matches.