Music – a political tool. The example of the Moranbong Band in North Korea

Recently North Korean (also know as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-DPRK) politicians try to show that their country is normal despite of the purge of Jang Sung Thaek and Choe Ryong Hae. Before his execution, Jang Sung Thaek was highly implicated in the management of entertainment activities. He was the secretary of the 37 members State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission. Jang Sung Thaek was also involved in the visits of former Japanese sportsmen to North Korea (including Antonio Inoki, a former Japanese wrestler involved in the tumultuous Japanese-DPRK relations) and in the management of musical and artistical groups (sucha as the Mansudae Orchestra).

Ri Sol Ju (en bleu): source chinoise
One of the top DPRK music band is the Moranbong Band (the name is derivated from the Moran hill, one of the 19th district of Pyongyang, the main city of the DPRK) which was out of the musical scene in North Korea between 2011 and 2013 and which was co-managed by Jang Sung Thaek. Surprinsingly on the 6th April, the band came back to the musical scene by giving a concert in the County of Taehongdan in the Province of Ryanggang. This band is not only playing North Korean music but also from other countries. During a concert performed in 2014, the band played the theme song of the American movie “Rocky” and a clear and brightful instrumental version of the Sinatra classical “My Way”. According to North Korean source, Ri Sol Ju, the wife of Kim Jong Eun, is involved in the management of the Moranbong. She’s a former dancer of the Unhasu orchestra. She probably married Kim Jong Eun, the current leader of the DPRK, in 2012. The Moranbong band is using modern technologies for its concert such as laser, big screen and other elements. On the other side, this band is satisfying the the demand for popular music by the civilian population as well as by soldiers by singing military sings. Depending on the particular situation of North Korea, the function of music (with the example of the Moranbong Band) was extremely variable. On the one hand, it is an important component of tolerated culture; on the other, it is a means of propaganda and distraction for the top DPRK leadership. The Moranbong Band is nevertheless no more than a political tool as this orchestra is belonging to the Korean Workers Party by singing songs praising the top leadership.

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