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North Korea, the 'hermit nation,' allows its first foreign rock concert

North Korea will host Slovenian rock band Laibach. The band's director says that both Laibach and North Korea have been portrayed as 'fascists,' but that in truth both the band and the country are misunderstood.

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    A screenshot of Laibach's website. The Slovenian rock band plans to hold two concerts in North Korea in August.
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The first foreign rock concert in North Korea is on its way. Slovenian band Laibach will be holding concerts in the country next month.

Laibach band plans to hold two concerts in front of 2,000 people in the secretive country’s capital Pyongyang on August 19 and 20. The concerts coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Korean peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonization.

Norwegian director Morten Traavik has arranged the event. He has previously organized several musical and cultural performances in North Korea. In late 2011 he sponsored a group of North Korean musicians and brought them to Norway. The video of them performing a Norwegian pop song went viral in 2012.

"North Korea is portrayed in the West as the world's most closed country, but in fact it is more open to the outside world than the prevailing media narrative suggests," Mr. Traavik told the BBC.

Although very isolated and secretive, from time to time North Korea opens its doors for some cultural exchange.

In 2008 the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the most distinguished American orchestra, held a historic concert in Pyongyang.

The UK government also organized a screening of BBC TV drama "Sherlock" in North Korea in 2012, and in 2014 both countries signed an agreement for closer cultural links.

There have been some sports arrangements as well.

In January 2014 former NBA player Dennis Rodman, along with other US basketball stars, traveled to North Korea for an exhibition game on the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

And in August 2014 professional wrestlers, including three Americans, traveled to the country hoping to transcend cultural barriers, 19 years after boxing legend Muhammad Ali and professional wrestler Ric Flair participated in the International Sports and Cultural Festival for Peace event in Pyongyang.

This time the cultural exchange invites into the secretive country an avant-garde rock band that is known for controversy.

Laibach's ambiguous use of political and nationalist imagery has led some critics to accuse the band of being fascist, but the band's fans say the performance is a critique of totalitarian ideology, according to the BBC.

Traavik says being misunderstood, is what North Korea and Laibach have in common. “Both the country and the band have been portrayed by some as fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood."

Founded in 1980, the band’s name is the old German name for Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, their website states. The band has four official members.

BBC reports that the Pyongyang concert will include some of the band’s hits, as well as North Korean folk songs.

Traavik told Reuters that the band which sometimes goes on stage in military uniforms, would perform in specially made costumes in Korean style.

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