The New York Philharmonic is considering an official invitation from the North Korean government to perform in Pyongyang, the United States' oldest symphony orchestra said on Monday.

We have just very recently received an inquiry about the possibility of the New York Philharmonic performing in Pyongyang, said orchestra spokesman Eric Latzky.

It came from an independent representative as an official invitation of the Ministry of Culture, he said. We appreciate any invitation to the New York Philharmonic and will explore the possibility of this as we would any other invitation.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Sunday that U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan had discussed the possibility of civilian exchanges between the two countries in a bid to improve ties.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear ambitions softened in February when the reclusive Communist state agreed to a disarmament deal, which led to bilateral meetings between Hill and Kim Kye-gwan.

Latzky said the New York Philharmonic has performed in 418 cities worldwide since it began international tours in 1930, including several shows in South Korea.

It has never played in North Korea.

The orchestra was founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians and plays some 180 concerts a year. In late 2004 the Philharmonic gave its 14,000th concert -- a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra in the world.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Seoul)