Let’s DMZ – Peace Maker Concert, Gyeonggi, South Korea

“Let’s DMZ” (Let’s Demilitarize)

South Korea | Goyang & Uijeongbu | Kintex Centre & Centre of Arts | 19 & 22 September 2019

Since 1953, Korea has been divided. A demarcation line coexistence. Now the time for reunification has probably come. It was a challenge and a great honor to be one of the co-producers of the DMZ Festival in Gyeonggi, the province of the demilitarized zone, and to participate in the artistic concept and in the production of the opening and closing ceremonies.

With US astrophysical Menas Kafatos & biologist Susan Yang on stage
With pianist Henning Schmiedt & singer Jung Tae-choon

Artists and personalities from around the world had come to Gyeonggi to help build bridges and develop concepts so that a reunification between South and North Korea could one day become a reality. My partner in South Korea and co-producer of the opening and closing ceremonies, the director of the Gyeonggi Province Art Center, told me: „Since American President Donald Trump made the symbolic step across the border, we hope that a reunification with North Korea will be possible. We want to show that the demilitarized zone can change from a symbol of the Cold War to one of Peace … The beautiful sky that now shines above us should also shine over North Korea. We hope to hold the DMZ Forum next year in North Korea … The sky is sadly beautiful.“

Soprano Sunyoung Seo, the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Uijeongbu City & the Grande opera Choir, under the direction of conductor Jung Nara

For me, as someone who grew up in a divided Germany and whose family history was determined by the Greek civil war, this trip was something very strange. One day or even hours before the „Fall of the Wall“, it was impossible to think that Germany would be united just one year later.

In South Korea, on the other hand, everyone is talking about reunification, everyone wants reunification, everyone is looking for possibilities of cooperation. In the demilitarized zone economic enterprises are founded. Workers from the South and North work together there, a railroad line is being built between the two countries, but it is not (yet) a bilateral connection; for the time being the train only takes the workers into the „zone“.

Maria Farantouri & Henning Schmiedt
During rehearsal with Maria Farantouri

And DMZ Forum, in which I participated last year, experts from many countries came together to discuss all aspects of the reunification process and to find solutions. Politically, economically, culturally, ecologically, psychologically. Mr. Lee, an entrepreneur from Seoul, told me: „We will have a lot of problems. It will be a long road. There will perhaps also be losers. But none of that is important. All that matters is that reunification comes.“ Mr. Lee added: „South Korea is already one of the top five economies in the world. After unification with North Korea, we will also overtake Japan.“

During rehearsal with soprano Sunyoung Seo, the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Uijeongbu City & the Grande opera Choir, under the direction of conductor Jung Nara

The DMZ Forum was held at the Kintac Center. Suddenly there, in a black dress, Kim Phúc stood in front of me. A happy, always smiling, impressive woman. The photo, which showed her as a nine-year-old in 1972 during the Vietnam War, naked, flying after the bombing of Trảng Bàng, went around the world. The photo helped to end this war. She says to me with a disarming smile: „We had the division between South and North Vietnam. Now I am here to talk about hope. And also about the fact that some things can change very quickly.“ Phan Thi Kim Phuc, now UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, known as the “Napalm Girl”: it was June 8, 1972 when the then nine-year-old Vietnamese shocked the world with a photograph depicting her naked running to escape a napalm bombing in Vietnam.

With Kim Phúc
Composer and singer Jung Tae-choon

Demilitarized zone (DMZ), region on the Korean peninsula that demarcates North Korea from South Korea. It roughly follows latitude 38° N (the 38th parallel), the original demarcation line between North Korea and South Korea at the end of World War II.

I co-produced these DMZ events commemorating the first anniversary of the Joint Declaration of the Leaders of North and South Korea to ease military tensions between the two countries.

Maria Farantouri, accompanied by pianist Henning Schmiedt, performs well-known and popular songs by Mikis Theodorakis during the opening ceremony of the DMZ Forum. (19.09, Goyang, Kintex Centre).

Peace Maker Concert. In the first part of the concert, soprano Sunyoung Seo with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Uijeongbu City & the Grande opera Choir, under the direction of conductor Jung Nara, performs the 3rd Symphony of Mikis Theodorakis. In the second part, Maria Farantouri -with Henning Schmiedt on piano- performs well-known songs by Mikis Theodorakis, including Denial, in poetry by Y. Seferis, in which the Korean composer and singer Jung Tae-choon collaborates, in Korean, with his musicians. (22.09, Uijeongbu, Arts Center).

Concert with soprano Sunyoung Seo, the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Uijeongbu City & the Grande opera Choir, under the direction of conductor Jung Nara

Many thanks for the excellent cooperation to Susan Keun-Hang Yang, Menas Kafatos, Maria Chatzara and to all other great South Korean Team!