[KS] The second James Church novel: If you liked that, you may enjoy this
Afostercarter at aol.com
Afostercarter at aol.com
Tue Apr 15 08:27:13 EDT 2008
Inspector O's many fans - and those yet to meet him -
might also enjoy a less well known exercise in what
may be deemed a similar genre. Not literally so, but
a parallel hermeneutic exercise in the all-important
quest to understand what and how North Koreans think.
I refer to Erich Weingartner's imaginary conversations
- a fine form, pioneered by Walter Savage Landor but
now sadly fallen into desuetude for the most part -
published from time to time on CanKor.
As many will know, this was a very useful weekly clippings
service on North Korea. Lack of funding has regrettably
made its appearance only intermittent now.
But the silver lining, at least for readers, is that this has
enabled Erich to give us more of Pak Kim Li: his (of course)
deliberately malnamed composite of a DPRK official like
many he met when living in Pyongyang.
If the moderators permit, I append the latest of these,
on a much touted concert. Earlier instalments can be read at
- although the archive seems not to be up to the date;
perhaps Erich will point us to nos 2-4.
The first in the series can be found at
(a confusing URL, as it actually features issue no 257)
AIDAN FOSTER-CARTER _afostercarter at aol.com_
(mailto:afostercarter at aol.com) _www.aidanfc.net_ (http://www.aidanfc.net/)
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds
CONVERSATION WITH THE PATRIOT -- Part 5
Erich Weingartner, Editor, CanKor, 23 March 2008
Pak Kim Li: Please don't interview me about the New York Philharmonic.
Erich Heinz Weingartner: I thought you'd be pleased to talk about it.
PKL: To say what? How pleased we were to receive the blessings of
"real" music? To respond to patronizing insults about our lack of a
musical culture? To comment on the political coup we achieved in
convincing America's foremost cultural institution to pay homage to
our leader? Or is it to comment on the political coup the Americans
achieved by convincing us to broadcast the concert live by TV and
radio throughout our own country as well as worldwide?
EHW: Actually, I'm more interested to know what this event meant to
people in your country.
PKL: And how am I supposed to know that?
EHW: You attended the concert, didn't you? Didn't you talk to your
compatriots about it all afterwards?
PKL: For me this was a working visit, Mr. Erich. It's only because my
Ambassador resides in the USA that we were asked to accompany the
orchestra to my country. For me this was not a social home leave.
EHW: It sounds like you at least had time to read foreign news
PKL: There were more than 80 foreign journalists in Pyongyang,
grinding out story after story! For weeks my desk and part of the
floor in my office were littered with hundreds of papers and articles
on the Americans in Pyongyang. Do you have any idea how many articles on the
concert my Ambassador asked me to translate into Korean? I have had it up to
here with talk about the NYPO.
EHW: What about your own personal reaction to the concert?
PKL: Personal or official?
PKL: Okay, I'll tell you: I believe in the separation of politics and
culture. I think cultural exchanges are a very good thing, and should
be handled by our respective cultural organizations, and they should
leave us political workers damn well out of it.
EHW: I was referring to the music.
PKL: You know, of course, that music was never my forte, much to my
EHW: Did he attend the concert?
PKL: Well of course! As former head of the music department at Kim Il
Sung University, he and a number of his retired colleagues were guests
EHW: And your good wife, the piano teacher?
PKL: She joined at the dress rehearsal. Numerous teachers and students
from the conservatory got to attend the rehearsal. And the following
day, members of the orchestra visited the Children's Palace, where she
teaches. That was the highlight of her experience!
EHW: So what did she think?
PKL: She's a bit of a romantic, you know. She believes that music has
the power to heal the whole world. So of course she wept through most
of the concert.
EHW: I understand that there was hardly a dry eye when the orchestra
PKL: She said throughout the piece she saw the face of our daughter
EHW: The one who died at age three.
PKL: The one who died as a result of American sanctions!
EHW: Mr. Pak...
PKL: No, I'm sorry. Let's not talk about it, shall we?
EHW: It's alright. I know how painful a subject this is for you. What
about your father's assessment?
PKL: Oh, he enjoyed all the pomp and circumstance. He doesn't get out
to too many functions these days. Often feels somewhat left out of the
loop now that he's retired. This was grandiose for him. Reliving his
EHW: Except it wasn't his past. He was listening to music played by
PKL: He doesn't see it that way. Since these were not politicians or
military but professional musicians like himself, he regarded them as
EHW: As a member of the older generation who lived during the time of the
Korean War, doesn't he hold a grudge against all Americans?
PKL: I don't think he ever saw it that way. My father was a teenager
when he was drafted for the Great Patriotic War. By his own admission,
he was a rather bad soldier. Instead of killing Americans, he once
actually saved one's life.
EHW: An American soldier?
PKL: A young man no older than himself. Had been left behind when our
side pushed the Americans back.
EHW: What happened?
PKL: My father tended his wounds. Then he was taken to prison camp. My
father never saw him again. But he thought of him from time to time
and wondered if he might still be alive, maybe the beneficiary of a
EHW: So he might have had more than a musical interest in the concert.
PKL: Quite likely. He asked me to interpret for him when he went
backstage to shake hands with orchestra members immediately after the
EHW: That should have been interesting.
PKL: It was a little embarrassing. Since there was quite a line-up of
people waiting to shaking hands, the "conversations" were mostly
one-liners. My father's line was, "Music is an expression of the human
EHW: Why is that embarrassing?
PKL: Well, after the first three repetitions, I was no longer sure
what I was translating made any sense.
EHW: I think it is a beautiful thought.
PKL: Most of the American musicians smiled and nodded politely -- then
looked at me as though I must have mistranslated. One of the older
members of the orchestra told him, "Yes, I agree that music is an
expression of the human heart. But some hearts are filled with
EHW: What did your dad say to that?
PKL: My father replied, "Then you and I and all those in our
profession must together illuminate the darkness of their hearts."
End CanKor # 303
In a message dated 14/04/2008 15:20:57 GMT Standard Time, mjcgibb at yahoo.com
This was the JoongAng Daily's take on the book back in December. I think
this series can run and run.
Brother Anthony <ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr> wrote:
I might be wrong, but I do not recall having seen anyone writing to indicate
the publication late last year of the second James Church novel, Hidden
Moon, after A Corpse in the Koryo. I am currently enjoying it, and I would
certainly recommend it, but it would be very interesting to know how people who are
really familiar with life in the North respond both to the setting, and,
above all, to the central character. The idea of a western writer setting out to
represent the thoughts and reactions of any North Korean, let alone a police
detective, is quite mind-boggling. Especially when this one proves able to
quote words from a poem by Robert Burns.
Sogang University, Seoul
Deputy Editor (Features), JoongAng Daily, Seoul
_mjcgibb at yahoo.com_ (mailto:mjcgibb at yahoo.com)
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