The One Orchestra project proposes a unique concert involving young North and South Korean musicians in Germany this year in a bid to build communication through a shared passion. The project has gathered increasing momentum as South Korean President Park Geun-hye has pushed unification to the top of her agenda, suggesting she would be pursuing more inter-Korean cooperation in Germany Friday.
The ‘One Orchestra’ plans to bring 41 musicians from each of the two Koreas together in Germany, which has been keen to play a mediating role in interactions between the North and South. The musicians will form a full orchestra which will practice over the course of a week and finally perform a concert together. Interest is high with all the parties involved in the proposed concert.
“We had a difficult time to communicate, even though we have the same language” said Won Hyung Joon, a violinist and CEO of Lindenbaum Music. “But music for example is common, it’s a universal language. Especially orchestra, when different sounds of different instruments gather together, in order to make harmony you have to listen to each other,” he added.
The project fits in neatly with President Park’s drive to move the Korean Peninsula towards unification through the Trust-Building Process policy. Park announced that she will be focusing on building towards unification by improving ties between the two Korea’s. In a speech in Dresden Friday the President highlighted the importance of cultural and art exchanges between ordinary North and South Koreans. In the speech she also mentioned her intention to form offices of communication in the two nations’ capitals. The offices are intended to assist in projects like One Orchestra for South Korea to have more direct channels of communication with North Korea. Mr. Won met with Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-Jae recently to discuss the project.
Won believes ‘One Orchestra’ can pave the way toward unity. “(President Park) has strongly suggested unification since the beginning of this year” he said. “I think orchestra stands for unification through music. Imagine North and South young musicians together in one orchestra, they produce such a beautiful harmony, so they must be together.”
Lindenbaum Music has already held numerous concerts, including a musical ensemble performing the traditional Korean song ‘Longing for Kumgang Mountain’ in the Joint Security Area in October last year. Mr. Won also presented his vision and inspiration in a lecture at Oxford University early in 2013.
However there remain potential obstacles in the way of the project. Joint U.S.-South Korea military have drawn an angry response from North Korea, suspending the previously improving relations between the two countries. President Park has also been accused in recent weeks of endangering inter-Korean relations after allegations that the government blocked fertilizer aid to North Korea. Meanwhile the South Korean media has remained deeply distrusting of the intentions of the North Korea regime.
“The negotiations have been a case of threading the eye of a needle” admitted Raphael Rashid, one of the organisers behind project. However Germany has so far been able to play the role of broker. “We have found that while communication directly between the two Korea’s have effectively been blocked, they have been able to maintain an atmosphere of mutual understanding about our project” Rashid added.
There are other examples of classical music being used as a medium to improve communication between estranged states. East and West German musicians performed together to mark the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and similar efforts have been made in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Also, the Goethe Institute initiated a successful joint concert with German and North Korean musicians in Pyongyang last year.
Organisers schedule October 3 and October 4 due to their symbolic significance for all three countries. October 3 is the National Foundation Day of Gojoseon, the first Korean state, and it also marks Unification Day in Germany. Meanwhile October 4 was the date of President Roh Moo Hyun’s meeting with Kim Jong Il in 2007. “This project will not bring peace, but it I think it is definitely a stepping stone to achieving a first step in reconciliation between the two sides” said Rashid. “The two sides can meet each other in a non-political way, and I think it is probably a very new approach to inter-Korean relations”