Yongusil 15: Moranbong in Michigan–Sherri L.Ter Molen at the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs
Since Sherri L. Ter Molen published an intriguing analysis of North Korea’s most overtly pop-cultural product, the Moranbong Band, in early summer 2013, analytical and investigative hearts have been aflutter as to the fate of Pyongyang shiniest and most glamorous (potential) cultural export.
Interested parties have been regaled with florid analyses from south of the DMZ and elsewhere about the fate of the resolutely modern musical troupe. Like Mi6 eliminating those infuriating boy wonders One Direction or the CIA taking out Miley Cyrus, both the Moranbong Band and Unhasu Orchestra were allegedly executed by gunshot in the aftermath of a scandal implicating the feminine gloss on the exemplary center, the fragrant and powerful Ri Sol-ju. If this turns out to have been the case (and one should bear in mind that, despite the column inches it has attracted, nobody really knows either way), it would surely go down as one of North Korea’s greatest presentational own goals, given the exportable nature of at least some Moranbong B(r)and pop-culture production.
How apposite, therefore, that Ter Molen is set to emerge from the heated speculation as to the mort (or otherwise) of these talented young women with “Does NK-Pop’s Moranbong Band Have a Shot at a U.S. Billboard Music Award?” her contribution to this years’ Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. This Sunday, October 27th, Ter Molen will present the results of her investigation, which is rooted in theories of cultural hybridity, assessing the potential for Moranbong and the rest of the North’s accumulated artistic output to find a viable space within United States media and culture.
Ter Molen will also consider the connections between North Korea’s pop potentiality and the actualized acceptance by Americans of South Korean cultural output through the medium of “Hallyu” (한류/Korean Wave). Intriguingly, she will perform this analysis through the medium of a “Pecha Kucha”, a presentational form nominally authentically Asian but actually authentically hybridized as it was originally derived by the European directors of a Tokyo-based architecture practice. Such an approach to presentation is especially relevant considering the goal of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs to adopt an extended and Americanized hybridization of the form known as “Diamond Presentations.” Let’s hope the analytic and academic sparks fly in East Lansing, like the light refracting across one of the Moranbong Band’s bejeweled, be-sequined, and hopefully still in-use mini-skirts.