Sunday, December 17, 2006

We once again interrupt our irregular Shenzhen/Hong Kong-based accounts of tedium, domestic bliss, occasional whimsy and travail for a preview of a piece I just finished for Asia Sentinel. And, by the way, I have finally received gainful local employment once again. As of mid-January I will be a behind the scenes running dog mouthpiece for Voice of America-Hong Kong.

Smells like Kim Spirit
Jumpin' Jong-il Flash, it'll be a gas, gas, gas come May in Pyongyang if a Korean French national who makes his home in London and swears allegiance to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has his way.

Jean-Baptiste Kim is the self-described "man with three fatherlands, very unusual, crazy life" behind a "Rock for Peace" festival scheduled for May 1-4. Sketchy enthusiastic slightly skewed English details are available on his Voice of Korea website ( for what he is calling "the 2007 version of Woodstock rock festival in 1969 but in a different location and with a different goal. We welcome every musician as long as they are purely music based without political intentions."

Though the gig is open to any band "even if you are from USA" that has the visas, stamina and currency to fly itself and its gear to Pyongyang there are additional caveats not quite in the Woodstock, or even more modern goth, punk or death metal spirit.

"The lyrics should not contain admirations on war, sex, violence, murder, drug, rape, non-governmental society, imperialism, colonialism, racism, anti-DPRK and anti-socialism," he wrote.

Which pretty much rules out anyone save Barry Manilow, Celine Dion, Canto-pop performers or anyone from American Idol. This from a man who swears allegiance to Led Zeppelin as well as the DPRK, whose first album was Lynrd Skynrd's Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, and who says the Animals' version of House of the Rising Sun (about ruination in a New Orleans whore house) as his all-time favorite song. There's also a photo of Nirvana fronting the Voice of Korea site that reads "Unfortunately Kurt Cobain Can Not Participate Rock For Peace This Time. But We Still Do Remember All Good Songs of Nirvana From Aberdeen, USA."

"Rock and roll symbolizes freedom for me. Even though USA was the incubator of rock music, I still love rock music because I believe frontiers must not exist among us when we enjoy music. Music is the greatest took to unify all different people from all different places," Kim said in e-mail interviews from Voice of Korea headquarters in New Malden, a south London suburb that one western blog, North Korea Zone, described as a place "which for some obscure reason has become home to thousands of (South) Koreans living in Britain."

Kim, a 40-year-old father of three and former correspondent for North Korea's largest newspaper, Rodong, said 62 bands from 20 countries have signed on so far, but aside from one Norwegian death metal band he's reluctant to provide any details as yet.

"Too many bands from all over the world. I will release full list of participants soon on the web site," he wrote.

Kim's confident that Pyongyang -- which has also hosted grand spectacles such the annual Arirang Mass Games, international taikwondo tournaments, and the International Pyongyang Film Festival --will have no problem with a rock fest and the attendant messy details most have come to expect from them such as plentiful, clean Port O Potties, lodging, decent sound and lights, drug casualties and fulfilling vain performers' niggling contract rider requirements for Bacardi Anejo rum and backstage celery "to be trimmed, but not peeled."

"DPRK is well experienced for large international events," Kim wrote. "We do have comfortable hotels and reasonable transports everywhere in Pyongyang, though they are not so luxury compared to Las Vegas 5 star hotels. Sound engineering, lighting and filming will be take cared by Voice of Korea's (unnamed) official partner, a Canadian company based in Toronto."

But he provided this disclaimer for any bands expecting limos, groupies and limitless blow.

"Every band is responsible for their own trips to and from and staying in DPRK...DPRK will provide free transport for their music instruments only."

Kim's background is a bit vague and perhaps as seemingly improbable as his plans to rock the DPRK. But as he tells it, it accounts for his devotion to North Korea.

A full-Korean French national born in South Korea, he claimed that his father was a member of a movement in the 1960s and '70s devoted to the overthrow of then-president Park Chung Hee who was assassinated in 1979. "My father was imprisoned many times and myself and my older sister were born when he was in prison," Kim wrote. "My family suffered miserable poverty because my father was a political criminal. Our lives in South Korea were totally ruined by the government."

He said he "fled" to France at age 19 following the death of his father. "When your father is a criminal you cannot expect a life of your own in South Korea. I survived all alone in France and did many hard, dirty jobs including military training as a soldier of fortune."

Kim said a chance meeting with a North Korean diplomat at age 30 led to a change in his fortunes and a succession of jobs for Pyongyang including his gig with Rodong and“lots of behind stories and military trades before it was not under UN sanctions ... I am abandoned by South Korean government because I work for DPRK. My life is a lot more complicated than what most people imagine and there are many things I can not speak out until my death." And while he misses South Korea and considers France his home and ultimate burial site, "DPRK is my fatherland in blood."

While he does shill like a veteran party member for Pyongyang, Kim isn't completely clueless regarding the cultural differences his project entails should he ultimately kick out the jams. He knows it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll, DPRK-style.

"Rock for Peace is a great cultural experiment for DPRK," he wrote. "Rock music and DPRK may be two very different things but I am very confident I can create a DPRK kind of rock atmosphere rather than just follow Western kind of rock moods. It is not a contradiction but a harmonization of two different atmospheres.

Hail, hail Great Leader rock 'n' roll.
Congrats on your new assignment - running dog!
Congrats on finding a job. Went looking for you on Friday night ... obviously did not find you and you weren't answering your phone ...
Thanks, Don and Spike!
Really nice blog! :) I enjoyed reading it.
Grats on the new job Justin!
Now that you have a new job, how about finding me a new one? I think I need to make something other than Chinese monopoly money.
And I really hope this guy pulls off the concert. I want to watch it on TV. I'm sure it'd be amusing to see all the choreographed Korean teenagers clapping in unison.
Pinky, Peter and Mssr Lubin,
Thank you muchly, dudes and dudette.
Mr L, we oughta get together sometime in SZ. I see on your blog you're missing regular social hoohaw, which isn't a good thing after awhile. Send me an email at average_guy 26 at yahoo dot com.
Glad to hear you found gainful employment and that the Eastern World is once again unshielded from the voice of American Imperialism in the guise of a fifty-something ex-hippy revolutionary bass-player. Up the Establishment!

Hope you get a paycheck in time to get C a significant trinket for the holidays. Merry Christmas Justin.
Great, got yourself a present, congrats on the job!

Good work on getting the job, and hope you have a great Christmas and New year.
Well since his site says NK is for denuclearization ...
Pleased to hear you have found full employment. That didn't take long, did it?


As the Great Helmsman was wont to remark:

The world is progressing, the future is bright and no one can change this general trend of history. We should carry on constant propaganda among the people on the facts of world progress and the bright future ahead so that they will build their confidence in victory.
"On the Chungking Negotiations" (October 17, 1945), Selected Works, Vol. IV. p. 59.

Season's greetings to you and a bright new year!
Congrats Justin --

So the VOA picked up Ed Anger huh!

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