"Eric Clapton is a well-known musician and guitarist, famous throughout the world," an official at North Korea's embassy in London told the Associated Press.

 

"It will be a good opportunity for Western music to be understood better by Koreans."

 

North Korean authorities have long shunned Western popular music in preference to traditional Korean songs and rousing propaganda.

 

However, Kim Jong-chol, the Swiss-educated son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, is reportedly a big Clapton fan.

 

"It will be a good opportunity for Western music to be understood better by Koreans"

North Korean embassy official

If the invitation is accepted and goes ahead, Clapton would follow a line of Western acts that have performed in previously closed societies.

 

In 1979 Elton John became the first Western music star to tour the Soviet Union.

 

Six years later British group Wham took their brand of eighties music to Beijing, becoming the first Western pop group to perform in China.

 

Clapton is regarded as one of rock music's greatest living guitarists, with a string of hits since the 1960s including "Layla," "Tears in Heaven" and "Cocaine" – although it is unclear whether the latter would get the approval of the North Korean authorities.