The Slovenian band Laibach—an industrial rock outfit who have repeatedly been accused of fascist sympathies in their decades-long history—have received permission from the oppressive regime of Kim Jong-Un to perform in Pyongyang. They will be the first foreign band of their kind to grace such a stage in North Korea.
Laibach will perform to a crowd of around 2,000 people on August 19 and 20, the celebration of the anniversary of Korean liberation from Japan. Artist/organizer Morten Traavik, who organized the trip, has promised the North Korean government that the band will do “nothing controversial,” with a setlist that will include some of Laibach’s more innocuous hits as well as North Korean folk and popular girl band songs. Songs from The Sound of Music may also make an appearance.
The BBC describes Laibach as a band plagued by criticism due to “ambiguous use of political and nationalist imagery.” Fusion describes them as “possibly fascist,” citing an interview in which the group claimed, “we are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter” to describe the extent to which the band sees themselves as politically fascist. Many fans claim their use of military imagery is a deep parody of the 20th century fascist aesthetic. North Korea, a communist nation, has apparently accepted this explanation from a group often associated with the radical right.
“Both the country and the band have been portrayed by some as fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood,” says Traavik, who has organized multiple cultural exchanges with the communist dictatorship.
Deutsche Welle reports the band is also expected to take the stage wearing traditional North Korean gear, rather than the Nazi-inspired uniforms more common in Laibach videos.
Laibach’s history is one adorned with controversy. DW notes that the band appeared to have hit a peak in shock value in the 1980s: “after the ritual suicide death of frontman Tomaž Hostnik in 1982, Laibach took the stage in 1983 to play the Zagreb Biennial in the capital of the Croatian republic, leaving only after juxtaposing a video image of a penis with the Yugoslav autocrat Josip Broz Tito.”
“The idea to perform in North Korea was put in front of us by Norwegian cultural activist Morten Traavik. He believes that Laibach is what Koreans need at the moment and that North Korea is what Laibach need. We gladly agreed,” the band told Reuters this week. They have posted some photos of preparations for the tour, which they are calling the “North Korean Liberation Tour.”