Mr. DiCecco says he and some of the other musicians initially balked at going to Pyongyang and asked about human rights abuses at a briefing in New York by the US envoy, Christopher Hill. Mr. Hill, he says, called the performance "part of getting the ball rolling" toward reconciliation.
A trip to Pyongyang by three former top US officials coincided with the concert. Former Defense Secretary William Perry; Donald Gregg, former ambassador to South Korea; and Evans Revere, former second-ranking official in the US Embassy in Seoul, had a lunch meeting with North Korea's nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, before the concert. Mr. Perry reportedly stressed the need for North Korea to complete disabling its nuclear facilities before President Bush steps down next January. North Korea has slowed the process – and also not provided a list of its nuclear inventory – while pressing the US for "action for action," including its removal from the US list of terrorist states.
Like Kim Jong Il, Kim Kye Gwan and most other top North Korean officials watched the performance on television. Kim Jong Il never met the visitors.