[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
(http://www.nautilus.org/pipermail/cankor/) .
- 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)
Best wishes
Aidan FC
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 
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?

EHW:    Personal.

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 
father's chagrin.

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 
of honour!

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 
played "Arirang".

PKL:    She said  throughout the piece she saw the face of our daughter 
before  her.

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 
the  archenemy.

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 
POW exchange.

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.

Brother Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul
_http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/_ (http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/)   

Michael Gibb
Deputy Editor (Features), JoongAng Daily, Seoul  
office 82-2-751-9206 
mobile 82-10-3237-6873  
fax 82-2-751-9219 
_mjcgibb at yahoo.com_ (mailto:mjcgibb at yahoo.com) 
_http://joongangdaily.joins.com/_ (http://joongangdaily.joins.com/)  

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