I’ve written before about Yun Isang (尹伊桑), South Korea’s most internationally celebrated composer. Yun’s life is quite baffling to me. He resisted the dictatorship of South Korea’s Park Chung-hee. However, he also ended up being celebrated by North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung (金日成), founder of the reclusive state. In other words, he resisted one dictator while cozying up to an even worse one. Kim Il-sung gave him a house and established a research institute in his honour. However, luckily for him, he had obtained German citizenship by that point and could more or less leave North Korea of his own volition.
The family of Oh Gil-nam has not been as fortunate. According to Mr. Oh, while he was in Berlin, the composer Yun convinced him and his family to defect to North Korea. He realized soon after arriving that he had made a horrendous mistake. He was able to get out. His wife and family were not. They remain in North Korea where they are in a prison camp. For your reference, you can read Mr. Oh’s tragic story by clicking here.
Apparently, Yun Isang’s widow was among the mourners in Pyeongyang. I admire Yun Isang’s music. I can’t say that I necessarily admire the man’s politics, though.
In keeping with today’s theme of contemporary Korean composers, I leave you with Chin Unsuk’s (진은숙) Piano Study No. 5 “Toccata”. Chin was a student of the great Hungarian composer György Ligeti. She currently resides in Germany.