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Pianist Plays Near Hostile Border

April 27, 1999

PANMUNJON, South Korea (AP) _ When Czech pianist Hana Dvorakova sat down to play Tuesday, she was literally under the gun.

Her recital took place just 100 feet from the most militarized border on earth, the line that has separated South and North Korea since their 1950-53 war.

Dvorakova said she was ``very honored″ to be playing in the truce village of Panmunjom, which sits squarely in the middle of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.

On the South Korean side, about 250 foreign diplomats, businessmen and a smattering of government officials listened enthralled as Dvorakova played selections from Beethoven, Dvorak and Smetana.

From North Korea, she was watched through binoculars by North Korean guards and a handful of what appeared to be tourists.

``I hope they will continue to hold concerts here and bring more understanding in this part of the world,″ Dvorakova said of her performance in South Korea’s ``House of Freedom.″

The three-story glass and concrete building was constructed two years ago in an act of one-upmanship over North Korea, which has its own showcase building just across the demarcation line.

It was the second concert organized by the Swiss and Swedish delegations of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, which was founded at the end of the Korean War to oversee an armistice.

The two delegations, made of five officials each, are stationed in the southern side of Panmunjom.

The first concert, featuring a Swiss string quartet, was held in October at the commission’s camp, about 165 feet south of the border.

``We believe bringing culture here is a way of confidence building. And we hope to change the reputation of Panmunjom as a place of confrontation,″ said Major Gen. Sven Julin of the Swedish delegation.

``I think the concert is a very good idea. I hope the northern side gets the message,″ said Tom Tjomsland, a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Seoul.

``One concert cannot change a very complex political situation. But anything that can ease tension here is good,″ said Lori Schoenenburger, a Swiss businesswoman.

``It’s amazing that military people came up with such a creative idea.″

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