A Butterfly Effect at the North Korean Border

By Emily Buder

“Is this ridiculous, what I’m trying to do?” says South Korean violinist Hyungjoon Won in the short documentary 9at38. Catherine Lee’s film, premiering on The Atlantic today, follows Won as he attempts to stage a peace concert at the 38th Parallel Demilitarized Zone to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence. “I’ve made an official pitch to the South and North Korean governments for a choir from the North and orchestra from the South to play Beethoven’s 9th,” explains Won in the film. “The lyrics mention a mysterious force that unites what’s divided, making us brothers.”

Won, a Julliard-trained musician, makes many personal sacrifices in pursuit of the concert. So, too, did Lee. Frequently during the two-year process of filming, the humanitarian aid worker-turned-documentarian questioned the potential impact of the musical performance. “When I would run out of funds or when I would be pulling consecutive all-nighters, I would ask myself, why am I making this movie at such cost?” Lee told The Atlantic. “After all, people have been telling [Won] for years that one song isn’t going to change anything.”

Ultimately, Lee concluded that music could indeed become an instrument of peace. “If a single young North Korean musician and a South Korean counterpart can look into each other’s eyes as they adjust pitch or dynamic, then a domino effect begins,” she said. “Interactions need not be grand to start a butterfly effect to shake the prejudices taught by school and society. Music is an especially meaningful interaction because it requires listening to each other, adjusting, and achieving that moment of perfect harmony.”

On the morning of Friday, April 27th, the day before 9at38’s final screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, Lee awoke to footage of Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae taking turns crossing the border at …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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