Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Modern "Ping Pong" Diplomacy?

Well, it's come and gone. The New York Philharmonic has been in North Korea for one day and they performed tonight in Pyongyang.

According to reports, the melody that got the most applause was, not surprising, the Korean folk song called Arirang.


아리랑, 아리랑, 아라리요...
아리랑 고개로 넘어간다.
나를 버리고 가시는 님은
십리도 못가서 발병난다.


Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo...
Arirang gogaero neomeoganda.
Nareul beorigo gasineun nimeun
Simnido motgaseo balbyeongnanda.

(check the comments below for a correction of this translation. Thanks 제니퍼)

Walking over the peak at Arirang
you left me behind.
You will be tired before you reach one mile.

Walking over the peak at Arirang
the sorrows in my heart
are as many as the stars in the sky.

Here is a midi file of the Arirang song.

Here is a link to I don't know how many Arirang .mp3 files. Pick a version and learn the song.

Mike's explanation of the song is a very good and nicely succinct one (there are also some great links on his page):
Arirang is a very old, traditional song from Korea. The people of Korea hold this song close to their sense of national pride and even would like it to be the national anthem of Korea once the reunification of the country has occurred. There are many variations of the song but the one that is here is simply known as Arirang. The Translation of the name is the English equivalent to "la-la-la." This might seem strange to some, but this melancholy piece is well suited to it. The rough translation of the text of the song talks about a scorned lover. This lover is not ready to let go and tells of the heart ache that is felt. This song truly speaks tales just through its simple melody line.

This could be used to learn about another culture. It also gives students a chance to use another language in an authentic context.

The song is also pentatonic. Students could examine the five intervals and explore another tonal system.
For what it's worth, there will be a multi-country rally, the Gumball 3000, attended by the rich and famous which will head many destinations including Pyongyang this summer.

So it seems North Korea is trying to open up, at least to tourists with money.

We'll see how far this goes into other areas. Currently, North Korea and the US is in a game of chicken as to who will blink first regarding the Yongbyon nuclear plant issue.

Maybe it's the start of some modern "ping pong" diplomacy. Considering that ping pong diplomacy led to a thawing of relations between China and the US, maybe there is hope for orchestras and auto rallies consisting of the very rich rolling through Pyongyang.

Considering the dearth of diplomacy with North Korea during the Bush era, I'll take it.

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