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  1. It seems like Kim Yu-kyong is also connected to Unhasu Orchestra. In the “July Concert” in 2011 she can be spotted sometimes in the choir.

  2. pekkakorhonen said:

    One thing that may be relevant for the dress and decorations of musicians is the administrative organization where a specific ensemble belongs. Arthur pointed out that orchestras can be designated as “Art Propaganda Corps” 「芸術宣伝隊」, which are within the Korean Worker’s Party organization, or as “Military Entertainment Corps” 「軍楽隊」, which are within the Korean People’s Army organization. The KPAE and similar military bands belong to the latter category. The Moranbong Band and State Merited Chorus, however, are within the Party organization.

    1. This might explain the large number of non-military elements in the MBB dress code and stage behaviour. They are nominally soldiers, but with no or only token military education. In reality they can better be understood as artists with KWP membership and directly guided by the Party’s KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) – or part of the department itself. It is supposed to be a big and complex organization.

    2. The “Christmas tree” style of decorations used by the SMC since 2013 can also be understood from this point of view. They are wearing military dresses, but with added glitter, more suitable for an artistic propaganda group.

    3. This might explain also the relationship between MBB and SMC. They are very close, give often joint concerts, promotion ceremonies are held together, and personnel moves easily between them. Yet they wear different dress and perform also separately. Maybe they should be understood as neighbouring sections within the Propaganda and Agitation Department.

    4. Would the Chongbong Band belong also here? It has participated in a joint concert with MBB and SMC, and also personnel movements have been observed. The bassist 전혜련 Jon Hye-ryon has been seen in all three bands. However, CBB has been announced to be part of the Wangjaesan Art Troupe, which is a large organization by itself. Of course WAT itself belongs to the propaganda field of activity, but the relationship seems to be thinner than between SMC&MBB, which have formed a kind of duo for a long time.

    5. The Samjiyon Band, which has become active recently, is announced to be part of the Mansudae Art Troupe. It appears to have very little to do with either the SMC&MBB+CBB triumvirat, or with the military orchestras.

    6. Would be nice to see an organizational chart of the system of musical ensembles in North Korea, but such information is not publicly available. It would probably explain a lot about the treatment of different orchestras.

  3. You wrote:” … Arthur pointed out that orchestras can be designated as “Art Propaganda Corps” 「芸術宣伝隊」, which are within the Korean Worker’s Party organization, or as “Military Entertainment Corps” 「軍楽隊」, which are within the Korean People’s Army organization …”

    I see it a bit different; The “Art Propaganda Corps” – the KCNA calls them “Art Squads” – are agit. prop. ensembles, who belong to the army or the party or a factory or a cooperative or the the youth league or women’s union or trade union and so on …
    (for them, the emphasis is on political propaganda, artistic quailty is less important

    the “Military Entertainment Coprs” are musical entities under the KPA with emphasis on high quality of music:
    in Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국의 군악대 = 조선인민군공훈국가합창단 +
    조선인민군군악단 + 조선인민군협주단
    in English: the Army Entertainment Units = (1) SMC + (2) KEG (KPA Entertainment Group) + (3) KPAE

    (1) and (3) we know already, some info to (2) KEG (on Korean only):

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Thanks, it is always good to challenge all info on these pages. Now two people with good knowledge on North Korean music and language have different opinions, and I cannot solve the puzzle. However, perhaps Arthur Yabe had in mind something else than the traditional agitprop groups throughout organized national life there.

      I had not known of the existence of another major military ensemble. As the article says, 900 members is a huge organization, though they usually are divided into smaller units in military forces around the country. Perhaps this is the reason why we have not heard much about the KPAEG.

      I stopped to think about (1). We know about its history this:
      1947 established as the choir of the KPAE
      1992 given a special name as Korean People’s Army Merited Chorus 조선인민군공훈합창단
      1998 separated from the mother ensemble
      2004 renamed Korean People’s Army Merited State Chorus 조선인민군공훈국가합창단
      2008 renamed Merited State Chorus 공훈국가합창단

      This info is from the Japanese Wiki功勲国家合唱団, which seems to be updated regularly. There is similar info also on the South Korean Wiki page, but there most recent info seems to be from year 2005, because the song ‘백두산아 이야기하라’ is called “recent” (made in 2004). Info on the South Korean page on KPAEG seems to end in 2006; could it be new info has not been added after the Sunshine years ended? Both SK pages claim updating in 2015, but must be something small.

      It is not possible to say that dropping of the name “KPA” from the name in 2008 would signal a move to an organizationally new category. But it is suspicious anyway, like the change of dress in 2013.

      I do not know why the English name is State Merited Chorus (SMC), but let’s stick to it, because it is so well known.

      Thinking of the SMC as separate from the usual military ensembles, and organizationally in close connection with MBB, would solve the puzzle why they constantly appear to be so close, even though also a bit separate. Being right near the national top as neighbouring sections of the Propaganda and Agitation Bureau would neatly have explained that, but any proof is of course lacking here.

      Song Junhoe’s comment below is quite intriguing, pointing once again towards close cooperation, if not amalgamation. One wonders where the musicians of MBB are needed in such deep cooperation? I take 송악조 to mean that only the singer section was performing. Could MBB be returning to the 2007 situation, when it was only a female choir, performing with other ensembles, like PEE and UO?

  4. Song Junhoe said:

    There appears to be another version of the SMC song ” 사회주의 오직 한길로 ” which was released 2 months ago, but this time sung with singers from the MBB which was broadcasted on state TV today.

    • Song Junhoe said:

      A screen grab of the song remake from the TV broadcast, not just sung by only MBB, but also performed together with MBB.

    • So again a joint concert in next time could be the case.

    • Song Junhoe said:

      the music video for the moranbong band version of “socialism is the only way”, it appears to be exactly the same but with Ryomyong street appearing also

  5. An interesting video with some informations about Art troupes of the DPRK.

  6. Bawris said:

    It is weird how moranbong band nor chongbong band aren’t mentioned in the video..Chongbong band is a bit of a younger band than moranbong but MMB share more similarities with the unhasu orchestra,and it hasn’t even appeared in this video due to the fact that it stopped existing a few years could this mean that our beloved all girl band is slowly going to fade away?

    • MBfan said:

      Let’s wait for three more months. If they won’t have a concert, then let’s worry. I’m already thinking that they might just appear this July for their 5th year as a band.

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      It is interesting that neither MBB, CBB nor SMC appear in this video, but probably we cannot read the fate of any of these bands from the fact. Nor do any real military bands appear. A week ago or so I wrote in this forum how nice it would be to have an organizational chart of the musical system in NK, and Uriminzokkiri has given us one piece of the puzzle.

      I think that making this kind of video has been the task of a specific administrative arm, and we know that elements of North Korean bureaucracy, just like the bureaucracy of all other countries, tend to fight with each other. Those who put the video together clearly administer the “fine arts” section of DPRK music. Could likely be the Ministry of Culture people. They clearly understand how to talk to an international audience, as they duly point out the travels and exchange relationships of the ensembles. The Korean language version seems to contain a bit more information of the ensembles, and is apparently directed towards South Koreans. These people know what they are doing.

      South Koreans may be the main audience of the video, but perhaps also us others. The newly elected South Korean president means a possibility for easing of tensions, and this video looks like a careful act of cultural diplomacy. All of them are “civilian” ensembles; in other words, a highly cultured civilian image is created with this video.

      But this does not seem to be a concerted national policy. Another administrative arm launched a solid fuel ballistic missile yesterday from Kusong, which “reached an altitude exceeding 2,000 kilometers, traveled about 800km for approximately 30 minutes, and fell into the Sea of Japan, approximately 400 kilometers off the east coast of North Korea”. Thus, we hear now simultaneously very different messages from North Korea, but this has happened before also.

      The videos seem to be of different age. At least the one on KWGUniversity of Music Orchestra at least is old, because in the song beginning at 01:24:45 꼭 오실거야 Kok osilgŏya we can see the Chongbong Band singer Ro Kyong-mi 로경미 as a student, first from the right of the trio. That must be some years ago, but I cannot guess how many.

      Thus I would say that Samjiyon Ensemble, State Symphony Orchestra, Phipada Opera Troupe, National Folk Art Troupe, Orchestra of Yun I Sang Music Institute, and KWGUM Orchestra belong to one administrative arm, and most likely are administered under the Ministry of Culture.

      Moranbong Band, Chongbong Band and State Merited Chorus belong administratively to somewhere totally different. The real military bands are likely administered by the Korean People’s Army.

  7. Moranbong Band’s performance was held on May 19, at Mokran House.

    • suki jin said:

    • Song Junhoe said:

      3 violinists again – hopefully a return of Sonu ?
      As this is a similar style to the celebration concert of a rocket launch last year, I wonder if we can expect a similar joint concert next week

    • moalian said:

      Let’s hope we can see more of the performance soon, based on the low resolution pictures it looks like some ‘old’ members took to the stage again ! A pity they are they wearing a hat, they could have gone for the more informal look, like before. The photo’s confused me at first, till in realized they are taken in two different halls. In the photo’s of the Mokran House with MBB I see only one (1) videocamera. In that case it is unlikely a full length performance will be aired. Maybe we have to wait for another concert.

      • Song Junhoe said:

        I agree, however KCNA often takes photos that hide cameras, especially the larger ones, as is the case from the photos of last years performance in Mokran House, hopefully the concert will be aired in the next few days.
        Also, from the photos, I noticed that the first violinist has a resemblance of Sonu Hyang-Hui, perhaps she is back?

    Some pictures from the news report.

  9. Bawris said: there is a news broadcoast about the performance of moranbong band.We can see that the original form of the band is there with no male players,three violinists and one cello (i hope Yu Un Yong) and the saxophone player is back Choe Jong Im if not then she was replace 🙂

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