London, February 25 : While the famous New York Philharmonic orchestra is gearing up for a groundbreaking concert in North Korea, experts in diplomatic circles across the world seem busy thinking whether Kim Jong Il will attend the event at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on Tuesday night.
The orchestra will be playing the North Korean and US national anthems, something that would have been virtually unthinkable a year ago, according to reports.
Their visit marks the first significant cultural exchange between Washington and Pyongyang since fighting ended on the peninsula about five decades ago.
Brian Myers, an expert on Pyongyang propaganda, feels that North Korea may use the concert as a double public relations victory.
"The outside world will be presented with the idea that this is a misunderstood country that is keen to engage the rest of the world. The domestic audience will be told that this is about the US paying tribute to Kim Jong Il," Times Online quoted him as saying.
He pointed out that the entire media might focus particularly on recent comments by the tour's musical director, Lorin Maazel, that the US should examine its own record on human rights before being "judgmental about the errors made by others".
Veteran Pyongyang watchers also believe that the New York Philharmonic's visit may play the same role as the "ping-pong diplomacy" whereby table tennis players were sent to play ice-breaking tournaments in Beijing, with which the US softened relations in the Seventies.
They, however, are not expecting any breakthrough on Pyongyang's nuclear issue from this visit.
Among the supporters of the concert are US Assistant Secretary of State, Christopher Hill.
"Sometimes the North Koreans don't like our words; maybe they'll like our music," he said last week.