Clapton in Pyongyang?

Because music appreciation is the biggest issue facing North Korea:

North Korea asked America to arrange an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang, saying that it could help to persuade Kim Jong-il to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

A confidential cable dated 22 May 2007 from the US ambassador in Seoul to Washington reveals North Korean officials “suggested” to the Americans that because Kim Jong-il’s second son, Kim Jong-chol, was “a great fan” of the British guitarist, a “performance could be an opportunity to build goodwill”. The report adds that “arranging an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang”¦ could be useful, given Kim Jong-il’s second son’s devotion to the rock legend”.

The suggestion was unusual: rock and pop are forbidden in North Korea because of their western influences. But it appears to have met with some success: in 2008, it was reported that Clapton had “in principle” agreed to perform in North Korea in 2009.

The request was portrayed by North Korea as a way to “promote understanding” between the communist nation and the west. “These cultural exchanges are a way of promoting understanding between countries,” a North Korean official said at the time, referring to plans by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to perform in Pyongyang, while the North Korean State Symphony Orchestra would perform in London.”We want our music to be understood by the western world, and we want our people to understand western music.”

The plan later appeared to stall, however, with Clapton denying that he had agreed to take part. His spokeswoman put out a statement saying that he “receives numerous offers to play in countries around the world”, and “there is no agreement whatsoever for him to play in North Korea”.