On posthistory

It may be time to add also a page where knowledge on members of the Moranbong Band who have disappeared from the grouping can be gathered. What happens to them after they leave the band? Should we be worried about them?

Events such as the disbanding the Unhasu Orchestra in August 2013, accompanied by rumours of mass execution of musicians from UO and other orchestras, seem to be very rare. News of the event circling international media were bloated in the usual way. Musicians and singers supposedly dead have been spotted alive afterwards, among them Hyon Song-wol, leader of the Moranbong Band. Yet, information of the death of at least Mun Kyong-jin, the first violinist of UO, has been coming out of North Korea also through private channels, and I take them to be true.

Mun Kyong-jin 문경진 20120314 27.22 ed

Mun Kyong-jin 문경진 in Paris in 14 March 2012

Notwithstanding, I consider that it was an exceptional event, and that usually artists who are no more seen on stage are simply transferred to other work places. There exist regional musical ensembles, if the person is sent outside of Pyongyang, but apparently most of them stay in Pyongyang. They sometimes appear as inconspicuous members of larger orchestras and choirs, as has happened to former Unhasu Orchestra artists. Svyatoslav Ivanov reported in April 2015 that Kim Hyang-sun, who had been playing synthesizer and accordion in the Moranbong Band during 20120706 – 20130201, was working in one of the children’s palaces in Pyongyang giving musical training to children after school (https://youtu.be/bVtLUgbTfI8, comments). An administrative post somewhere in the state or party bureaucracy is another post-stage location, like in the case of Hyon Song-wol. Marriage and childcare are also normal possibilities for North Korean women, especially musicians, because they tend to be relatively young during their stage career, and disappear from sight when they get older.

Sometimes also older musicians can be seen. There was an interesting concert series during 21 February – 23 March 2015, where former stars of the 1960s to 1980s of the Mansudae Art Troupe, the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe performed. One could clearly notice that the veterans had not left music behind them after their stage career ended; they still played and sang skillfully. Violins in the hands of 70 or 80 year old people sounded beautiful.https://youtu.be/rgmFNO6kcls It is possible that the concert series was a sort of farewell event for Kim Ki-nam, a long time high art bureaucrat, who had worked closely with Kim Jong-il, and who was rumoured to have retired at the age of 86 in April 2015. The news are from the South Korean Chosun Ilbo, but the kernel of the story may be true. The orchestra backing the former stars included also younger musicians, and one could spot there not only former Unhasu Orchestra members, but also two former Moranbong Band members, noticed also by Umutcan Dogan:

MB Kim Hyang-sun KCTV 20150323 01.47.58 ed

Kim Hyang-sun in the “Songs Full of Memories” concert 20150221- 20150323

She has been sighted also with the State Merited Chorus, visiting Russia in August 2015, holding at that time the military rank of 상위 sangwi 上尉 (senior lieutenant) (three stars), as noticed by Bawris. When she left MBB, she was only a junior lieutenant. She appears to be advancing well on her career, teaching responsibilities included.

Ri Sol-lan in the %22Songs Full of Memories%22 concert 20150221- 20150323

Ri Sol-lan in the “Songs Full of Memories” concert 20150221- 20150323 Centre, with bass. Guitarist unknown.

 

Of the former guitarist 강평희 Kang Phyong-hui, who left the band after May 2014, we only know that she is associated with KJU’s older brother Kim Jong-chol in the sense of being a fan of Eric Clapton. They were sighted together in London in a Clapton concert in May 2015 wearing similar outfits, green leather jackets, and in some other photos also similar sun glasses. They apparently share also a similar taste in clothing and hair style. With  a fairly high degree of probability we can say that Kang Pyong-hui quite likely is not in a labour camp, but is playing her guitar somewhere in safe surroundings. I do not think we need to worry about her. Näyttökuva 2016-03-24 kello 16.52.15Näyttökuva 2016-03-24 kello 16.50.32

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “On posthistory”

  1. MBfan said:

    Isn’t it still too early for making this page? I think there will be a concert for the upcoming party congress and there could be a possibility that the missing members would appear again, though a China concert is still too far to happen.
    Besides, a band’s popularity in NK can go for decades.

    • pekkakorhonen said:

      Maybe. But the scene is rather volatile, and the band is already very different from the original. I’ll let the page stay. It has been here for a long time already.

      • I think the new members are likely to stay in the band, My speculation about the long lost members is that they’re probably married to some high ranking officials and had their kids. Well, let’s just hope for their comeback.

      • pekkakorhonen said:

        I would rather expect that the flow of ladies through the ensemble would become more rapid. North Korea educates lots of singing females. It is one of the nicest educational paths for pretty upper class daughters. As a result there is a strong push for them to get their time in the lime lights, which may lead to fairly short visits in a highly prestigious ensemble like the MBB. Even a year or 6 months in an admired ensemble would be a sought for career. We saw this in Unhasu Orchestra, which was the previous most prestigious national ensemble in NK.

        I would not be surprised if this happened also with the Chongbong Band; within a year or so. We simply have a large supply of young, beautiful and skilled labour, and the candidates are from families that are well connected within the establishment, trying to enhance the career of their daughters before their marriage. The same happens also in the case of ladies playing instruments, but there the push factor from the artistic labour market may be not quite as strong.

        A year or two ago people were still talking about labour camps every time a band member was not seen in a concert. Nowadays people take the changes in a more relaxed manner. Of course that kind of cases are possible, but they appear to be very rare in the case of these ladies.

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