Forum

As many of my readers notice things of Moranbong Band that I do not, you can comment on them here. Authors with a previously approved comment should get through without moderation; new authors require a tick by me on the acceptance box. May sometimes take some time; I am not always online. Sometimes WordPress does not seem to recognize the computer of a previously approved commentator.

You can also write to me to morandisco@gmail.com

723 thoughts on “Forum”

  1. I created a page about MBB. It contains some of my opinions about the band and I also invite people to view this site. My first commentary involves merited artiste Ra Yu mi
    (Pekka, I used some of your photos and made it a collage.)

    https://www.facebook.com/Moranbong-Band-fanpage-565349613672373/

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Very good. A nice site. None of the pictures are originally mine, I have only cut or otherwise edited them somewhat. Freely usable, as far as I am able to permit it.

  2. SilentObserver95 said:

    Explore DPRK uploaded song “The Heroes” on their website
    http://exploredprk.com/music/the-heroes/
    Is it new song?

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Yes and no. MBB has performed it in March 2014, with Ra Yu-mi as the solo singer. The singer here apparently is also her. But we have never before heard it, because a complete video from the concert series has never been published. It is no. 11 in the list of songs on this page:
      https://morandisco.wordpress.com/2014-03-28/
      Whether this now indicates a return of Ra on stage or not, will be seen.

      • MBfan said:

        Let’s see in about two weeks. Maybe a party foundation concert will happen.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Yes, let’s see. Totally impossible to predict anything.

  3. kennethm said:

    I just uploaded a couple of videos to my new Youtube channel with focus on audio and video quality. Lossless audio uploads and videos are upscaled to 1080 HD at 50 frames/sec. The idea is to try to preserve as much detail as possible. I will try to add English subtitles although me Korean skills are very basic. Any help with translations is welcome…
    I will not publish complete concerts. The channel can be found at:
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOjDX4zlqAp4JSelt-p3Eqw

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      A good channel. As you said, quality is excellent and very welcome. You apparently aim for publishing specific artistically exceptional performances.

  4. A little bit off-topic, but it seems that the mystery about PEE musician, People’s Actor Kim Won-il is finally solved.
    His name reappeared on sheet music for some songs on DPRK Today website, and in a recent airing of TV documentary about Arirang song his presence on stage with PEE is not edited out, although it is very brief. Possibly he was just purged and sent to a camp for some crime, and editing of PEE performances may be done because of his position in the band – apart from composers and conductors, he was the second highest-ranked PEE member (pianist Jon Kwon is higher with People’s Artist, Kim Kwang-suk and Jon Hye-young are equally ranked).

  5. pekkakorhonen said:

    Thanks. These changes in the statuses of artists are always interesting.

  6. New Song

  7. Jon Hye-ron played the bass in the latest SMC concert.
    blob:http://umutdog.imgur.com/61ed57fa-4e48-42d9-9d1e-3255b044bce1
    (She played also bass in the latest CB concert in august.)

  8. suki jin said:

    I pray that Korea’s reunification as soon as possible and raise a song
    *Nostalgic Mount Kumgang*(70th anniversary of Independence from the performances. In S.Korea)-

  9. David Houston said:

    Does anyone know a source for sheet music for Moranbong hits? I am in a band in the United States, and would like to play some of these songs with my own group.
    “Without a break” for example.
    Also, just want to say I really appreciate this site. thanks to all who have contributed.

  10. David Houston said:

    I can’t read Korean, but the one called “artworks-000138011401-9g3nym” sounds like it may be “Without a Break”. I am not playing it very smoothly yet.
    Thanks again folks

  11. suki jin said:

    1. Lee Sul-ju has not been publicized for 7 months
    http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2016/10/28/0200000000AKR20161028155600014.HTML?input=1195m

    Lee Sul-ju has not appeared since March 28
    People’s guess………
    – Kim Yo-jong(KJU,s sister) checks
    – Pregnancy possibility
    – Dissension between KJU
    etc
    Whether the MBB is related to it…..
    I feel a bit ominous and hope MBB will not be affected.

    2. North Korea suffered severe flood damage this summer.
    http://blog.unikorea.go.kr/6518

    I guess that could be one reason why MBB does not show

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Yes, Ri Sol Ju romanized with McCune-Reischeuer. These disappearances are often long and difficult to explain.

  12. Ri Ok-hua is alive!

    New Song 《우리에겐 우대한 당이 있네》

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Very good. ありがとうございます。噂は色々ありますね。

    • 과학자 said:

      Did anyone else who watched the clip notice a couple of interesting things? Private consumption is emphasised more than it ever was in music videos before (people pictured receiving small houseware gifts from the party, the Marshal visits a supermarket and some light industrial factories etc.); south of the peninsula (1:21) is blurred and quickly skipped, focus being clearly on the northern part; during a schoolkid’s birthday celebration a bilingual Korean-English sign on the wall is shown (2:15). Military are practically omitted in their traditional ‘arms-presenting’ role. As far as my latter three points are concerned, it may indeed be a coincidence, like a person in charge of producing the clip was being too tired to notice these small things and gave it a go-ahead, but still, these do make quite a fertile ground for speculations on possible changes in domestic policies of the DPRK.

      • MBfan said:

        Well, the music video mainly features the rehabilitation efforts in N. Hamgyong province after the flood. The young ones were sent to Songdowon Schoolchildrens’ Camp and the military helped in reconstruction of homes. The message is stated in the title of the song. Yeah, I believe that NK is changing under KJU.

  13. A link to the above described song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0eVwLz4Ptg

  14. MBfan said:

    For the new NK film, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Lt4Jsy5m_w
    The theme song was done by MBB.


    I am not familiar with the names of the singers. I only recognize Ri Ji song (maybe he’s not the MBB lyricist.)

  15. mblover123 said:

    Hi, do you have the sheet music to 가리라 백두산으로? I very much appreciate your work. I love MB~~~

  16. https://goo.gl/i85m4M

    This is my new Youtube channel where I host complete concerts in good quality ( not so good as Moranbong Band HD, but anyway).

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Very good. But can you use the Mokran Video logo on your own channel title page?

      • Do you mean the header?

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Yes, in the header the text under the flower says “Mokran Video” (= magnolia video), and the logo is that of the NK video publishing company. If you use the logo, you imply that you are a representative of the company – which may not be true. Magnolia/목란/mokran/木蘭 is the national flower of North Korea, and thus the flower as a metaphor implies the nation. In the south they seem to write the name of the tree/flower as 목련 mokryön. May be this is not a big issue, but the logo has an organizational meaning. The Moranbong Band photo in the background is no problem.

      • Done (and thanks for the information).

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        !!!!!!!! Worker’s Party of Korea now.

      • It should be ok now.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        No problem.

  17. Bawris said:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMy7jaFKRp4 check out there is a new video from samjiyon band.

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thank you for informing us. I heard in summer 2014 from a member of the Finnish-North Korean Friendship Association that Samjiyon Band had been established again, but as no concerts appeared, I dismissed it as one more baseless rumour. But clearly it has at least now been re-established. The conductor is different, and I did not recognize any of the musicians either; most quite young, with some a bit older looking members. The orchestra also has now an electric guitar and perhaps bass, which I do not remember it having in its earlier incarnation. It now sounds more like Unhasu Orchestra, although the arrangement and dress of musicians is different.

      Some singers were from the UO. I was very happy to hear and see Pak Kum-hui 박금희 performing again from 04.04 onwards. There were also Kim Ung-sam 김웅삼 & Ri Chun-il 리춘일, the former from 49.21 and the latter from 50.53 onwards, though both could be seen among other singers also during the 20.29 number. And of course Kim Ki-nam was sitting in the audience; he never retires.

      If Sonu Huang-hui is still performing somewhere, this would have been an ideal ensemble for her, because in SB she started and the music would have fit her. But she was not there.

      Anyway, North Korea again has a large chamber orchestra playing light classical style music, including even (very short) foreign music pieces. A welcome return to the musical scene.

      The concert was performed in 16 November 2016. I do not know why that date was decided for Mother’s Day celebrations in North Korea. As the date was established in 2012, it clearly is a Kim Jong Un era decision, but it is not his mother’s, grand mother’s, or aunt’s birthday.

      • There was a outdoor-concert series in september 2014, so the member of the KFA was right.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        You had found even this 1:31 min concert. Very interesting. This one looks more like the old Samjiyon Band, with Ri Sune 리순애 acting as the conductor. Pity that the whole concert has never been published.

      • Re. the date of the Mothers’s day in the DPRK:

        “Another notable change is the addition of “Mother’s Day” on November 16th [2015] as a national holiday for the first time in North Korean history. In May 2012, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly declared this day “Mother’s Day,” commemorating the First National Meeting of Mothers held on November 16th, 1961, during which Kim Il Sung’s essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children” was released; however, until now, it was never observed as a public holiday.”

        (source: http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?num=12682&cataId=nk01700 )

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thanks! Now we know also this.

    • My impressions about this new Samjiyon Band video

      – I would describe the outer appearance of the female musicians as “Retro Style”, best characterized by the Long, slightly wavy hair and the typical “chosonot” of the female singers
      – more intriguing the uniform hair style of the male musicians: all showed thei hair shaved about 2cm over their ears …

      some reamarks about the soloists.
      Choe Kum Ju (11′): she is a singer of the Pibada Opera troupe, her most notable performance was in 2009 in Pyongyang in the Chinese-Korean opera “Dream of the Red Chamber) with Wen Jiabao and Kim Jong Il as spectators
      Kwon Mi Hwa (46′): she can be viewed in 2008 Pochonbo-Moranbong video
      Han Hae-Ok (59′): she is mentioned in the 2009 Ameblo-list 2009 as a member of the Mansudae Art Troupe

      further information about the conductor Kim Ho Yun – in Korean language only:
      https://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%EA%B9%80%ED%98%B8%EC%9C%A4

  18. pekkakorhonen said:

    The Korean version of Rodong Sinmun reported in 2016.11.26 that Wangjaesan Art Ensemble had started a series of performances in Pyongyang. http://www.rodong.rep.kp/ko/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2016-11-26-0013
    Most of the ensembles destroyed in August 2013 have thus been reassembled, and staffed at least partly with younger musicians. Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble with a young staff is still missing from the list, as well as Unhasu Orchestra, but otherwise the scene now resembles quite much that of the late Kim Jong Il period. Even the musical style and the arrangement of concerts is quite similar. There is a number of active ensembles giving concerts, and opera singers whom we have not seen for a few years return to the stage. The period when the Moranbong Band reigned supreme appears to have passed. This is not to say that MBB would have been disbanded, even though we have heard nothing since May, but nowadays it seems to be only one ensemble among many.

    • suki jin said:

      I obviously think Ri Sol Joo and MBB are connected politically.
      RSJ is likely to be their sponsor
      In July 2012, RSJ made his official debut with ‘First Lady’ at the same time as MBB’s demonstration
      At that time North Korea needed a social atmosphere like a ‘New Generation’, ‘A New Leader’ . I think the MBB was supposed to be responsible for this mission.
      But now this role has been completed and their guardian she has not seen for eight months. Nobody knows why.
      MBB’s performances are gradually decreasing since 2015, and most of them were joint performances.
      If the MBB appears again, it is expected that the members will be replaced drastically.
      Perhaps the early members Ryu Jin-a, Kim Yu-kyung, Park Sun-hyang, Yoo Eun-jung, etc may not be able to see.
      Of course all of this is my guess…
      I expect them to be on stage for at least two years.

    • 과학자 said:

      Oh, just wait until the launch of geostationary satellite that Rodong Sinmun wrote since so long about, and you’ll see them again, surely.

  19. MBfan said:

    I think this is some kind of a late discovery, but did Ryu Jina separate from MBB to do solos wit the SMC in 2014? Here is the thing: the date of publishin the video was some weeks before MBB had their first concert that year. She was not there.


    I also remembered someone saying here that the above version of 희망넘친 나의 조국아 was sung by her. I also doubted then, but I’m pretty convinced now that this is her solo done in the SMC.

    • hellonc said:

      I think the first track (그이 없인 못살아) sounds like a collaboration of the SMC with the band. The second, I’m not so sure.


    • The second one is also with the SMC.

    • hellonc said:

      Maybe the solos had something to do with her nomination as Merited Artiste in July 2013. It’s not the best answer, but I think it’s the most plausible one considering she had no “special treatment” in the Victory and WPK anniversary concerts that year. Still, there is one caveat: why did she only appear in April 2014 when the band had prior concerts that year?

  20. moalian said:

    Already in November 2013 Mark Barthelemy posted about his visit to Pyongyang with Rod Rodman. They were treated to a private performance of the Moranbong Band and Mark played the sax on stage !

    https://www.betabrand.com/blog/6/the-week-i-spent-in-pyongyang-was-fairly-eventful-actually.

  21. Ri Myong-hui

    //s.imgur.com/min/embed.js

    Ri Myong hui performs now with the Wangjeasan Art troupe (photos from the latest concert).

    • moalian said:

      This link does not seem to work ?



      • MBfan said:

        Ri seems to fit in the MBB setup, but why does she need to transfer? Oh well, I’m already used to lots of unanswered questions anyway.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Yes, the number of unanswered questions keeps on piling up. Do we actually have a link to the Wangjaesan Art Troupe concert itself somewhere? I may again have missed something while concentrating on my work.

  22. moalian said:

    Searching on this picture I found also on http://dope.vn/denis-rodman-toi-bac-trieu-tien/ the following

    Do you recognize all the singers ?

    • kwaximus said:

      SHH has rejoined the band?!! That’s just an awesome news!

      • These pictures are from november 2013. Read moalians comment above.

      • kwaximus said:

        Yes, I apologize as I didn’t pay attention and was overexcited as I thought this was fresh news. The Rodman’s visit in 2013 is a well known event and it’s nice to see the pictures. But nothing to be excited about unfortunately.

      • No, these pictures are from around the end of February, 2013. Please look at Ri Sol Ran on the picture. In April 2013, band’s bassist was changed from her to Jon Hye Ryon.

  23. moalian said:

    And the Moranbong Band watched the game, see 2:27 http://www.vice.com/en_uk/video/lunch-with-the-north-korean-basketball-team

    Again do we recognize the band members ?

    • MBfan said:

      There are definitely some fresh faces on the photos. Maybe they are the “substitute members” in the MBB organization, or new graduates from university. A very surprising discovery!

      I kinda recognize the face of Anon2(right) on the photo with Pak Son hyang.
      Yes, the second violinist is Hong Su kyong. Her hair is quite unusual.
      From left to right on your first post, there is Hong Su kyong, Ri Myong Hui, Kang Pyong hui, Ri sol lan (?), Ri Yun hui, Choe Jong im and Ri Hui kyong
      The tall man who’s dancing with Dennis Rodman could be Ri Myong hun who was publicized during KJI’s funeral: goo.gl/cgMmw

    • kwaximus said:

      This is from the 2013 visit by Rodman and the Globetrotters. But from the pictures above I understand that it has happened again recently.

      • kwaximus said:

        I was wrong. Sorry.

      • MBfan said:

        I was again surprised by the appearance of Ri Ok Hwa beside Hyon in the game. That’s one more piece of evidence of her involvement in the band. Interesting, as well as intriguing.

  24. 과학자 said:

    It seems that a new song is about to be released. Or might already have been, in Korea. A fragment of it was played in a documentary clip released by uriminzokkiri on 22nd December about construction in Kangwondo. The tune is not particularly ‘fresh’, and refrain does resemble that of the last released song (“We indeed have a great Party”) a bit. I am almost starting to believe the composer is getting tired.

    The link to the song in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsJe7e7v5EE#t=7m11s

    • 《아름다운 생의 자욱 새기여가가》
      “Let’s Embroider the Traces of Beautiful Life” (2002)

      Lyrics: Pak Sang Min (박상민)
      Composition: Jong Chun Il (정춘일)
      Song: Kim Hui Ok (김희옥)
      Performance: Wangjaesan Light Music Band (Currently Wangjaesan Art Troupe)

  25. 과학자 said:

    Thanks. I didn’t know of that song before. But it seems indeed to be a trend in DPRK today to ‘re-sing’ 90s/00s songs having arranged them differently.


  26. Is there any source, can someone confirm that?

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      I have not seen any source mentioning this, except the links you had. Imgur does not appear to be a highly reliable source on anything. Instead, Arthur Yabe just tweeted that there has been a joint concert by MBB & SMC. Whether a video will follow soon, or whether it was a rehearsal for a New Year concert that then will be released as a video, will be seen.

  27. moalian said:

    MBB back on stage in presence of KJU and in a prominent role. SMC split in a left and a right wing with MBB as the pearl in the crown, not seen before. MBB appears with at least 6 singers, all in a new uniform, white cap and blouse, dark skirt and shoes. This is a big set up with cameras and will most likely be televised, lets hope they will show the concert in full soon.

  28. MB & SMC Joint concert https://imgur.com/a/Ew0Wg
    Newest pictures, MB now even has male members.

    • suki jin said:

      Faint but from the left
      It looks like Park Mi-Kyung, Yoo Bong-mi, Jo Guk-hyang, Kim Yu-kyung, Park Sun-hyang, anonymous

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Can well be; very faint. Better photos will hopefully follow in time. In one photo there were shown 7 vocalists. The seventh one could be 리옥화 Ri Ok-hua. But we’ll see.

      • suki jin said:

        Really!! So great. Pekkia
        It is incredible how you can distinguish 리옥화 with that photo.
        Anyway, it’s a good night for them to come back.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Only a guess. Ri has been in the air lately, as a song with her as the lead singer was published some time ago. And in one of the photos there is a lady who looks like she; this one, though with her hair short. https://i.imgur.com/iWJwH0B.png

        In this one it looks like Kim Yu-kyong is in front, but the shape of the lady singer further back to the right looks like 정수향 Jong Su-hyang

        Can be mistakes, however.

    • hellonc said:

      The new male members sure are unusual, the fact that they seem to be seated behind the strings trio most of the time more so. The cellist seems to be a new member as well.

  29. Bawris said:

    It seems that choe jong im and one of the strings is missing (Kim Un Ha?)…I see that choe jong im has been replaced by one of the male saxophone players sitting on the far right behind the cellist

  30. Mikko said:

    The images are probably from this news broadcast:

  31. Wow…
    Ri Ok-hwa 100%
    Jong Su-hyang 90%
    Some even look like Ri Myung-hee…
    Ri Myung Hee 50%
    This is a surprise if Jong Su-hyang and Ri Myung-hee are back.

    • MBfan said:

      Lots of dance performances, new male and female members, a couple of old singers reentering the band and lovely new uniform. The stage setup has changed too. I’m so excited for the whole concert to be published.

    • MBfan said:

      Here’s a clear shot of Ri Ok hwa.

  32. pekkakorhonen said:

    While waiting for the concert video, I created a preliminary song list on the basis of info in KCNA and Rodong Sinmun. This is a traditional party concert. Many old songs for the party and the leadership + a couple of new compositions.
    https://morandisco.wordpress.com/2016-12-28/

    • MBfan said:

      The concert was held at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung auditorium, only the stage was moved to the wider side of the auditorium.

  33. Song Junhoe said:

    Full Concert was just broadcasted on state television

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thanks. The first versions will probably be soon uploaded to YouTube. There was the possibility that another concert would have been given during New Year, and we would have needed to wait until January.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        There is supposed to be a rerun of the concert on North Korean TV tomorrow, New Year’s Eve at 7 pm. May be that will be the New Year’s concert for the nation; it will probably be the video, not a new concert, but I am not sure. As Pyongyang time is 30 mins out of sync with the rest of the world, this map may help those who would like to watch it in the way it comes from TV. https://www.timeanddate.com/time/map/

  34. pekkakorhonen said:

    I have now listened through the concert once. Appears to be ok in terms of music. Lots of personnel changes, but I have not yet tried to track them closely. No names for the newcomers. Kim Yu-kyong appears to have the rank of a major now. MBB is more and more a section of the State Merited Chorus, though it has not yet completely melted within it, but the invasion of male musicians within MBB was a long step towards that direction, as well as locating MBB in the middle of SMC. Could we perhaps say that SMC has become the leading ensemble in North Korea by now? Bringing the kayagum on front stage for a solo performance implies taking on the manners of Unhasu Orchestra. Combining very modern with very traditional means taking control of very large artistic territory. Opera singing alternating with jazz dance (kind of). Uniforms are different, but if some singers start appearing next year on stage in josönot, I would not be surprised. Well, maybe that will not happen.

    • kwaximus said:

      Jong Su Hyang is back, which is great. But Pak Mi Kyong is not there. I am sad.
      It looks like Ri Ok Hwa has been fed on increased rations for the past few years.

    • no.
      Kim Yu-kyung has brought the 소위 class.
      not a major.
      Major has two lines on the base of the rank.(Refer to Ri Ok-Hwa rank)
      Was she demoted again?

  35. Song Junhoe said:

    Some observations from the concert: a new female cellist – I noticed a much slimmer face unlike that of Yu Un-Jong – a different synthesiser replacing Kim Yong-Mi , and a new drummer which has significantly longer hair than that of Han Sun-Jong, a new bass player also which looks very similar to the old chongbong band bassist. Clearly some significant changes in the band, however I could be wrong, the quality of the concert video is not great .

  36. moalian said:

    Yes Pekka, many changes, Choe Jong-im (sax) gone, Yu Un-jong (cello) gone, Kim Yong-mi (keyboard) gone, Han Sun-jong (drums) gone, Jon He-ryon (bass guitar) with SMC, Jo Kyong-hui (guitar) a look-a-like or demoted, Kim Yu-kyong (singer) demoted (again)? and probably some yet to discover……

    • Yes, she’s demoted again, but she’s not avoided by the cameras. Cha Yong mi was also demoted by one rank. Everything should be fine for them.

      Did anyone notice the pins the band members wore? It looks like the ones the NK youth use. Older members such as Ri and the high ranking violinist wore the usual pin. Just an observation.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        I went through the pins in the concert, but I think they were ordinary pins, not Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League pins. When seen sideways, the ordinary ones can look round. But I may be mistaken; one could seldom see anything sharply. The new drummer at least wore an ordinary one.

        However, I noticed something else. Everyone was not wearing pins. In the case of SMC, only the conductor wore one, but the rest of the ensemble did not. In the case of MBB, the guitarist and bassist did not wear them, probably because the belt would have hidden them. There appear to be complicated rules regarding the pins.

  37. Bawris said:

    It also looks like that Cha Yong Mi,viola aka.first violin now has also been demoted

  38. Jeffrey said:

    Any one have any idea what would cause one of them to get demoted?

    • suki jin said:

      Now I doubt that they are real soldiers.
      Their uniforms are merely military uniforms, so ranks may be just accessories.
      We may not have understood the characteristics of the North Korean society mixed with the party, the government and the military.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        I have thought a lot about this idea, but in the end I cannot believe in it. On simple methodological reasons we have to think that it is possible to understand what is happening in North Korea, that it is populated by fairly ordinary human beings, and that if one can understand something about, say, the Republic of Korea, one can understand something also about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Understanding is not a qualitative (yes or no) matter, but a quantitative (something though not everything) matter.

        So I think MBB members are soldiers, though not ones who would be sent to the front line. If one looked at the ceremony at the end of 2015, where new military and artistic ranks were bestowed, it appeared to be a very serious and solemn ceremony. I think rank matters a lot, just like in the rest of the world. A silence of 8 months, many demotions in military rank, many expulsions of experienced members, their replacement by young girls, and the consequent safety measure of strengthening the instrumental section by three older experienced males, could imply high tensions on the artistic style and the position of the MBB in NK musical scene. Some people have disagreed strongly with some others, and some people have been angry. Some of the angry people have been in superior positions. Who is who I do not know.

        The end result of that kind of situation showed also in the lack of spirit in the sound of MBB. Artists need to be treated carefully. I am a bit disturbed by all this.

      • suki jin said:

        Reasons why I think they are not soldiers.If they are women but soldiers, the rank is very important to them.

        A. Review the official award ceremony in October 2015.
        It seems too unfair.In the case of the first year members, the rank was mostly one star(소위)
        Normally, it is natural to be promoted from 소위 to 중위 after two or three years of experience. Rather, they were late for promotion.But they were promoted as if they were rewarded and announced with this.There were no discrimination between the seniors(Park Sun-hyang, Park Mi-kyong..) and the younger(Kim Hyo-sim, Jo Kuk-hyang)
        It may be that the seniors were rather insulting to them.
        In the Korea, the order of the senior and younger is very important
        So I suspect this event is just a performance or a show.

        B. The part of this performance that I do not understand
        1. All member`s rank were demoted to 소위 except for the new member
        2. One of the male members seems to be in his 20s and early 30s, but his rank is colonel.
        3. Have members been punished in the last eight months? There were so many members who were punished, so they brought in a lot of new members, even allowed male and retired Jong Su-hyang? It’s awkward. How can sinful people perform in front of Kim Jong-un?

        Everything is not explained properly. So I think they may not be soldiers.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        I readily agree that everything is not explained correctly. The unfairness of the whole situation is totally clear. Yet, if this elevator phenomenon happened only to MBB, I would be more puzzled, but the same thing happens also to generals. One can question whether they are soldiers, as one can get high military ranks in NK without long military training, but at least the elevator going up and down takes place also among them, as commented on by Andrei Lankov a couple of years ago. http://m.koreatimes.co.kr/phone/news/view.jsp?req_newsidx=175674

        It may be that one explanation to the phenomenon is nearness to Kim Jong Un. If you are near, things are windy. If you are somewhat removed, normal bureaucratic rules of promotion and seniority prevail. In the case of SMC, the latter seems to be the situation. MBB may be a rather difficult work place.

  39. I would say these were the Members from the concert:
    1th female violin: Cha Yong-mi
    2nd female violin: Hong Su-kyong
    Male violin: unknown
    Female cello: someone new
    Male cello: someone from the SMC
    Sax: unknown
    Guitar: Jo Kyong-hui
    Bass: Old CB-bassist
    Piano: Kim Jong-mi
    Drums: Han Sun-jong
    1th Synthesizer: Ri Hui-kyong
    2nd Synthesizer: unknown

    Singers:
    Kim Yu-kyong
    Yu Bong-mi
    Jang Su-hyang
    Jo Guk-hyang
    Ri Ok-hwa
    Pak Song-hyang (completely ignored by the cameras)
    and someone who looked like Kim Hyo-sim

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      I am approaching a similar list. I am still doubtful about the drummer, though make-up always changes female faces. One singer certainly looks like Kim Hyo-sim.

    • kwaximus said:

      Only 7 members left from the original line up. So sad. You can only dilute a substance to a certain extent after which the substance is gone. Hope we will see some returns in the future like Jong Su Hyang (spoiler: actually not).

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        I calculated only 6 original members, if Pak Son-hyang was on the stage. If she was not, then only 5. Though Kim Jong-mi is almost original.

      • kwaximus said:

        2 violins, piano, synthesizer, 3 singers
        Kim Jong Mi while was not with the band from the beginning counts for me as original. I am sure Pak Son Hyang was on stage.

      • hellonc said:

        Pak Son Hyang can be seen clearly (albeit quickly) during 우리는 만리마기수. I had some reservations about this concert, probably because of my bad feelings about not seeing Yu Un-Jong on the cello! She never missed a concert before, so seeing another transformation of the band into something else, even by just a bit, is a little sad.

    • Song Junhoe said:

      The male cellist is most certainly from the SMC, he can be clearly seen at the front of the SMC during the October 2015 joint concert, ironically very close to the MBB. There seems to be an unusual switching pattern taking place in the top 3 ensembles, which appears to have started after the joint concert in May. Jon Hye-ryon from MBB moved to the CBB, a CBB member came to the MBB, then she moved to the SMC, now a member of the SMC is in the MBB with the addition of another CBB member. Very unusual to see so much switching, especially from the top 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if Yu Un-Jong turns up in the SMC, however I doubt this, lets hope she returns at the next concert.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Very interesting observations. To me this all, personnel changes, expulsions, demotions, subduing of individuality of performers, new compositions that sound like old ones, etc. seems like some kind of nervousness, or like an attempt to create results by force in an area where force is not the adequate tool. Art is not like drilling a hole in a mountain, where force matters the most. North Korea is without doubt world’s most sovereign state at the moment, as it opposes the whole rest of the world alone. There must be a lot of pride in it, but without doubt it also is a big burden. They have to show advances also at the cultural sphere, not only in nuclear weapon and missile technology, and the answer has been increasing discipline and administration. Artists do not function well in that kind of situation; they become timid and tight, loose their skills, or display antagonism and are demoted. They would function much better is they were simply left alone to do what they actually want to do. All the symptoms seem to me to be the results of too much leadership. I have no idea how much would come from KJU, how much from Kim Ki Nam and other high level art bureaucrats, and how much from middle level bureaucrats, but I suspect that there are more than one person involved in the guidance, perhaps quite many. The mess seems to be so comprehensive, at so many levels. Just like in the case of the economy, less hands on leadership would produce better results.

      • Song Junhoe said:

        Perhaps this sort of force is a result of the 200 day campaign which saw mobilisation in all sectors, the stress from this could have resulted in many in the art sector simply forcing the art to come out instead of the usual relaxed way. The music in which is played in this concert, and many other concerts in and around the campaign have seen a huge amount of encouraging propaganda music and a very different atmosphere to those concerts outwith the campaign. Those high up in the art sector, as well as artists and musicians, may have been pressured into meeting demands of the campaign, and as a result, created something of a mess in this sector, hopefully this will be temporary now that the campaign is over, but we simply don’t know what could happen at the next concert.

  40. kwaximus said:

    Happy New Year from Moscow!

  41. Song Junhoe said:

    In my opinion, the Moranbong Band appears to be highly influenced by the Chongbong band, and the influence was greater in this concert than ever before. What was said about the recently released song “advancing socialism” being very chongbongish, and the dancing style of the concert in May approaching the same level as the Chongbong band may just be the first step in the CBB direction, the additional male members, similar to the CBB , and the type of songs sung in this concert, for example “we are mallima riders” of which was also sung at the CBB concert in August, back up the CBB highly influencal characteristics which are appearing in the Moranbong Band. 2 members of the CBB are now in the MBB of which may have brought the influence over. Nevertheless, I hope this is only temporary, and the removed members of this concert, and classic MBB style return for a new MBB-only concert soon.

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      I agree, CBB is visible at many levels. But will it mean that from now on CBB will rule the musical scene in Pyongyang, acting as the most creative ensemble there, while MBB will be amalgamated with SMC? If CBB rises, something may hit also it. I think most of us would hope for the return of the classical charming MBB style, but that might require a much more relaxed political atmosphere in Pyongyang. The behaviour of all ensembles tell about very tight control, supervision, discipline, and emphasis on traditionality.

  42. Song Junhoe said:

    It appears that the Samjiyon band has held another concert, this time for New Year. The full concert can be seen on Uriminzokkiri’s Youtube Channel. At the last concert in November there was a foreign music medley, this time there is a Disney music medley with similar songs the MBB played in their first medley. A very nice concert, with excellent music, ‘hand of destiny’ is sung and played beautifully too in a sort of Western way – singer performs while playing piano. Definitely a much more relaxed atmosphere in this group, musicians enjoying themselves, a faint memory of the MBB’s first concert. This ensemble is really making a quick and high profile comeback.


    • Direct link for the concert.

    • Song Junhoe said:

      A couple more points on this new concert – Despite being mentioned in songs, Kim Jong-Un or those of the past leaders images was never portrayed on the large screen on the background like the last concert and what is usually done in virtually all other concerts, whether this was done on purpose, I’m unsure. Nobody wore pins either.
      Furthermore, there appears to be much less strictness in this ensemble than in other ensembles at the moment, all hairstyles are more or less different, the conductor and even the cameraman appear to be enjoying the music thoroughly. The music is played very playfully and unique to the Samjiyon style. The Disney music also appears to be more from modern Disney films in the past decade. The musicians also entered the stage waving to the audience, and leave the stage waving, smiling at each other throughout the concert.
      I wonder if this style will remain, or if this is just a special comeback style and soon the same will happen to it like the rest of the music groups in North Korea, more strictness and discipline, less individualism.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        This is happy news, thank you. Korean musicians have a lot of musical skill, irrespective of the location, and performances are always satisfying when they can exercise their art to the full. Yes, there is a historical pattern of artistic, optimistic, emotionally warm and internationally relaxed beginnings, followed by gradually increasing discipline and stiffness in the case of NK ensembles. Let’s see what happens, but anyway, good concerts are always welcome.

  43. Kim Yu-kyung still has a title for ‘merited artiste’(47:04 )
    It is faint, but I can recogniz 공훈배우 김유경
    Ri Ok-Hwa also (36:35)
    According to Korean Wikipedia,
    공훈배우 are considered to be the ‘Director’ of government departments in NK
    인민배우 are ‘Vice Minister’

    Did the salary go up a lot?

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thanks for this important information. The salary indeed is supposed to go up with these ranks, but who would know how much? I have never seen any pay scales being published, except that diplomats sent to Europe have to survive with less than 1000 euro per month. In North Korea the salary level would be much lower because of much lower living costs. The South Korean intelligence service may have an idea of the situation, but as said, I have not seen anything published on the subject.

    • moalian said:

      Very good observation Suki Jin, and deciphering the banner on stage. The rise, fall, rise and latest fall of the military rank (3 levels !) of Kim Yu-kyong is remarkable, and she still has a prominent place today at the stage! The initial demotion of Kim Yu-kyong from Taewi to Sowi can be explained by reading some news articles of that period but the recent reverting of Kim Yu-kyong (and her collegues) is unexpected and without any reasoning. Maybe the uniforms got lost while drycleaning? More likely the promotion in rank (with salary increase) was a temporary award for the band’s efforts. It would be interesting to see if any of the SMC promotions awarded during the same event in 10/2015 are reverted.

      • hellonc said:

        I’m not familiar with the SMC members that much, but someone could probably compare the ranks on their right breast pocket?

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Also I have not watched them systematically, but they tend to be rather many stars on their uniforms. They seem to advance in a regular manner up in their military ranks. The treatment of MBB members is indeed curious.

    • ‘Salary’ is my joke. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ
      According to Korean media reports(2015),
      “Families of MBB are being treated enough to receive luxury apartments in Pyongyang. However, members of MBB are all living in a hostel, and families are reported to be squeaky because they can meet once a year.”
      But believe it or not

      The conductor of SMC, Jang Ryong-sik(장룡식?) is promoted to ‘Great 2star’ in October 2015, and it seems that there is no demotion until now.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        You do not happen to have a link to that report on the living conditions of MBB? Whether it is true or not, it is interesting anyway. Soldiers would be living in that way.

      • There are many garbage news in S.Korea.
        Most reports rely on speculation and also reproduce with gossip.
        But I will let you know if something interesting is found

        Pekka! Thank you. Work just before
        I’m still not used to this site job

        I set my PC’s wallpaper like this.
        Is it good to see?

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        This is nice.

      • kwaximus said:

        I recall reading an article about all Moranbong Band members living in a luxury gated compound. The main luxuries there are said to be uninterrupted supplies of water, electricity and central heating which is a rare thing even for elites in North Korea. Apparently this article was from some outside source and its reliability is questionable.

      • kwaximus said:

        http://english.donga.com/List/3/all/26/411409/1
        Here it is. I have actually posted this link on this forum before. Found this in the forum’s archive.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Thanks for reminding us of the link, Kwaximus. Dong-A Ilbo (East Asia Daily News) is a South Korean newspaper. Of course one never knows to what extent their information is accurate, but the same holds true with most information regarding NK. Much of the info is quite logical. MBB is a nationally important work place, and it is quite likely that the workers are both well provided, and live in a convenient location arranged by the work place. This has been so also in the case of former top ensembles in Pyongyang. Whether they then live there with their families (what would that mean? Who would be counted as the family of artists in North Korea?), or in a relative luxurious dormitory for unmarried workers, is something that no info source has disclosed.

        But people like director Hyon Song-wol, about whom we know that she is married and has one or more children, in rather unlikely to live in a separate dormitory. Same about the directors/composers like U Jong-hui, or the singer Ri Ok-hua. Where did Kim Sol-mi, who appeared pregnant in spring 2016, go – if she went somewhere. The family of an unmarried person and a married person is quite different.

        At least most performing MBB members, if not all, are likely to be daughters of elite Pyongyang families, and thus unlikely to have lived far away from the centre of the city, even before joining the band.

  44. kennethm said:

    I have made a playlist of all clips on the Moranbong HD YouTube channel for your convenience:

  45. suki jin said:

    The first violinist seems to be Kim Un-ha, not Cha Young-mi(14:43)

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Cha’s face has become a little harder over the years, shown especially at the moments where you point at, but I would still believe that the lady at the stage was Cha Yong-mi. Please consider the picture I placed at https://morandisco.wordpress.com/2016-12-28/

    • suki jin said:

      It’s like finding hidden pictures. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ
      It’s hard to tell if a woman is cremated.
      I think it is Kim

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Yes, the current policy of making the artists look-a-likes is certainly biting. First row, left: Cha in my mind. Second row: I am not sure, but probably Kim. With the other pictures I agree. Not only their faces resemble each other to some extent, in terms of body size, shape, and movement they are practically twins. In a similar costume, especially the hat, it is hard and sometimes impossible to distinguish between them. Notwithstanding, I still believe that in the 20161228 concert we saw Cha. In the 20160511 concert we saw both of them side by side in the string instrumental 어머니당이여 Ŏmŏni tangiyŏ, starting around 44:30 (depending on the video version). The camera difference was that Cha was shown many times from facial front, but Kim only from facial side.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        As this is an important issue, I made a small study of the profiles of both ladies at the end of the 2016.05.11 page. This one concert only. There was at the time such a huge amount of songs to sort out that I had no time and strength to concentrate much on pictures.

      • suki jin said:

        Did Cha diet?
        I think it could be Cha.
        But it could be KIM
        Otherwise, she might be a new member
        I will upload more photos.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        Most women and not enough men diet every now and then. Slight changes in body weight would be normal over the years. You have done interesting searches. I agree with you with both the Cha row and Kim row; they can be recognized clearly. Considering the ?-row, I would claim with certainty that 1, 2, and 3 are Cha. I suspect that 4 would be Kim and 5 would be Cha, but in case of unclear photos the two cannot be distinguished. However, I would guess it is either or, not a third person.

      • Song Junhoe said:

        Personally, I am certain that Cha was 100% in this concert and Kim was 100% not, although very good and convincing research. I wasn’t too sure about Cha in the May concert however, because facially the 3rd violinist in the May concert looked very different, a very different jaw, chin and eye shape as well as a fatter face than that of Cha when compared to previous concerts she was in, whether this just be make up or a result from the hat style, I am not sure, but at times she looked like Cha and at other times she looked like a new member, however it was most likely Cha. When images of Cha are compared to the October 2013 concert when she wore a similar hat to the style in this concert, it is clear it is in fact Cha. As Cha is one of my favourites, I immediately recognised it was her, Kim has a much youthful face with a different nose and eye shape whereas Cha has plumper lips, larger eyes and a pointier nose as is clear in this concert.

  46. moalian said:

    Hi Pekka, today I can across a 110 pages document called 모란봉악단의 음악정치 (google translates this as “Music politics of Moran Bong Band”), published in South Korea by the Ministry of Unification / National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Maybe you have read it already, it was published at least 8 months ago. There is also a transcription in Korean at the below the document.

    http://docsplayer.org/20057985-32303135b3e220bdc5c1f8bfacb1b820b3edb9aec1fd2db3bbc1f6c3d6c1be3135313232382e687770.html

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thanks. Yes, I know the study. It is a good one. My Korean being very bad, much worse than it perhaps appears, I cannot say that I have “read” the book, but I have gone through it page by page, and corrected some details in this site. I also met the author in Seoul in June last year. A polite young man who speaks only Korean, no other languages, but we discussed a bit with an interpreter. We did not agree on everything, but he knows a lot of North Korean music.

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