Can A Violinist Stand In The Way Of War With North Korea?

South Korean violinist Hyung Joon Won
South Korean violinist Hyung Joon Won
Tori Otten

With each passing day, war with North Korea seems to draw closer. Kim Jong Un continues to test his arsenal; Donald Trump issues new threats and nicknames his nemesis "Rocket Man"; Kim responds in kind, saying the U.S. president's speech yesterday at the United Nations was "the sound of a dog barking." Some say the path toward armed — and possibly nuclear — showdown is starting to look inevitable.

So if traditional diplomacy isn't working, could there be other ways to prevent war?

On Aug. 27, 1928, 15 major national powers signed the Paris Peace Pact, which outlawed war as a tool for international policy. Since its signing, the Pact has largely been dismissed by historians, who discounted it for its idealism. It's more a promise of good behavior than an actual policy. How could a flimsy piece of paper really stop global wars?

Can Beethoven really prevent a war?

But in their new book The Internationalists, Yale University law professors Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro argue that the Pact was actually a pivotal point in history. Since 1945, inter-state warfare has actually gone down significantly, which Hathaway and Shapiro credit in no small part to the legacy of the Pact that articulated a new idea that waging war in itself was an unacceptable form of statecraft.

As The Internationalists points out, ideas — and ideals — can make a difference. So perhaps we should not be too quick to discount a blatantly idealistic plan to defuse the current North Korean nuclear crisis. As Swiss daily Le Temps reports, South Korean violinist and activist Hyung Joon Won wants to invite the leaders of both Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States to a private concert in Panmunjom, just north of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula.

He plans on playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony (the "Ode to Joy") and the Korean folk song "Arirang" for the politicians, to convince them to change their tune and start working towards peace. "Music is the only universal language," Won declared.

His plans call to mind past political-musical performances, such as Rostropovich at the Berlin Wall or David Martello outside the Bataclan concert hall or violinist Wuilly Arteaga playing during the recent anti-government protests in Venezuela.

But can Beethoven really prevent a war? Maybe Elton John is better? It might not be such a long, long time before we find out.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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