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The Industrial Rock Band Laibach Performed in North Korea Last Month

"Both the country and the band have been portrayed as some fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood," said the tour organizer.
September 8, 2015, 4:00am

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

This article appears in the September Issue of VICE

On top of his claims to have cured AIDS, Ebola, and cancer, Kim Jong-un can also add hosting the first foreign rock concert in North Korea to his accomplishments. On August 19 and 20, Slovenian rock band Laibach performed for a select group of North Koreans to celebrate the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule at the end of World War II. Laibach joined just a few other celebrities granted permission to cross into the Hermit Kingdom, most notably Dennis Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters.

If you've never heard of Laibach, one listen might make sense of why, out of all the musical acts in the world, Kim Jong-un chose the industrial rock group to usher in 70 years of independence. Laibach's militaristic performance art and somewhat growling musical stylings have been criticized as authoritarian for decades. Their costumes and lyrics outwardly promote totalitarianism to such an extent that it's unclear whether Laibach is truly fascist or communicating an anti-fascist message through irony. Teetering on the edge of parody, Laibach explores complex ideas about Western economic collapse and domestic spying, often by reinterpreting pop anthems, including the entire Beatles album Let It Be.

While Laibach and Kim Jong-un remain a bit of a mystery, we can bet on one thing: As Morten Traavik, the tour organizer, told the BBC back in July, "Both the country and the band have been portrayed as some fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood."