Posted by: rbbadger | December 7, 2011

On Yun Isang’s complex legacy

One thing which is sometimes quite baffling is how persons who are capable of creating beautiful things are also capable of terrible actions.  Richard Wagner, whose influence dominated German music for the latter half of the 19th century and some of the 20th century as well, wrote some exquisitely beautiful music.  From what he know of him, he was something of a descipable human being.  He was a womanizer, a bigot, an anti-semite, and basically leached off of others.  One of his greatest interpreter, the great conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow ended up being publicly humilitated when his wife, Cosima Liszt von Bülow, ran off with Wagner and carried on a very public love affair.  They later married.  Frederick Delius, who was by all accounts an unpleasant person, wrote such lovely and beautiful music. 

While Yun may not necessarily be in the same league as Wagner and Delius, his legacy is equally complex.  He was imprisoned for resisting South Korea’s dictator Park Chung-hee.  However, he would soon embrace an even worse one, namely Kim Il-sung.  While criticising the human rights abuses of the governments of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan, he didn’t really criticise the human rights abuses of North Korea.  In fact, Kim Il-sung gave him a house in Pyongyang, which his widow still owns.  The North Korean government has established a research institute and an orchestra in his honour.

The Joongang Ilbo has a great piece on Yun’s complex legacy.  You can read it by clicking here.


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