Just in: Orchestra chief is accused of violating human rights

Just in: Orchestra chief is accused of violating human rights


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2014

Seventeen out of 30 admin staff at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra have signed a letter charging chief executive Park Hyun-jung with abusing their human rights. Ms Park, 52, is accused of abusive language and sexual harassment.

‘This statement is our cri de coeur from the employees who feel like they are standing on the edge of a cliff,’ they write. ‘The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is a valuable cultural asset for Seoul’s citizenry. Because of one person, this cultural organization is shattering to pieces.’

She is alleged to have told one staff member: ‘if any damages occur in regard to the orchestra, you will have to sell your organs, because you won’t be able to pay [that debt] on your salary.’

Young female employees were ordered to ‘go out and sell records wearing miniskirts.’ Thirteen admin staff have left in the past two years.

There has been no response yet from Ms Park, whose contract runs to 2016.

park seoul



  • Alex says:

    If his comments will be confirmed, then he shouldn’t have a place in the music world anymore.

    • Bob M says:

      1. “He” is actually a she. Hyun-jung Park is a woman.
      2. This would be the business end of music, which far too many forget about. It’s not all high art and raised glasses. And when you’re dealing with a group of people – many with an astonishing sense of entitlement – who tend to rest on their laurels, cracking the whip every now and then becomes surprisingly effective.

      • uri says:

        “Cracking the whip every now and then is surprisingly effective”…? How very interesting. Do you think it is effective to sexually assault and harass employees and to violate internal rules by hiring children of one’s own acquaintances?
        The newspapers claim that during Ms Park’s tenure the number of members within the Seoul Phil’s sponsor group dropped from 44 to 11 – in just one year – and that she has insulted the orchestra’s foreign cooperation partners, to quote just a few examples. 13 admin members have quit and 17 more admin members have signed the petition (and this in South Korea where employees are rather obedient.) Surprisingly effective, indeed…
        To quote just a few examples from the press reports – but should this not suffice to ring the alarm bells?
        It is quite a truism to claim that not everything is about high art, as you say. Of course it is not. What, however, is quite clear that the alleged behaviour has nothing to do with leadership and with successful business and that Ms Park seems to be a miserable manager, to say the least.

      • nilege says:

        Hyunjung Park’s father was a politician and a minister of Roh Tae-Woo’s government more than two decades ago. (Roh Tae-Woo was a military general during the Gwanju Uprising in 1980 – during the military junta – and thus jointly responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent people.)

  • kea says:

    According to below newspaper sources, the Seoul Philharmonic’s CEO Ms Park – who had no previous experience in working for performing arts agencies or organizations – changed the SPO’s bylaws to enable the CEO to play favorites such as children or students of Park’s acquaintances when hiring or promoting and “sexually harassed her female employees on numerous occasions as well as sexually harassing a male staff”. The JongAang Daily also claims that since CEO Park was appointed, the number of members within the orchestra’s sponsor group has dropped from 44 to 11. An audio recording of Ms Park insulting employees and cursing the orchestra’s foreign cooperation partners was recently broadcast on major Korean TV channels.

  • Sarah says:

    Statements like the one above uttered by Ms. Park aren’t “cracking the whip” – they are nasty, unprofessional, and totally uncalled-for. No one deserves to be talked to this way.

  • zonasulzona says:

    employees in Korea are usually timid like mouse because they are frightend
    they have very little rights and CEO (and the mighty ones in general) have lots power which can be easily abused because theres very little control
    that employees at SPO have written a petition regarding Park Hyun-jung suggest severe case of human right abuse
    an open rebellion in Korea is very very rare

  • Ted says:

    Bob wrote: “And when you’re dealing with a group of people – many with an astonishing sense of entitlement – who tend to rest on their laurels…” It sounds here like you are describing the administrators, who are worse prima-donnas than the arts people they denigrate. We saw a lot of that here in Minnesota for a couple of years. The only difference is that artistic people are usually considered low on the totem pole of society (one reason why we sometimes overcompensate with attitude, I admit), and so society has no problem demeaning them by calling them prima-donnas or accusing them of having “an astonishing sense of entitlement”, while not applying the same description to the administrators and executives (whose sense of entitlement is usually rewarded by a different kind of overcompensation–extremely high salaries, bonuses, and other financial shenanigans….).

  • pat says:

    i had a similar boss while i was working in korea. 12 years after quitting i still have PTSD from his abuse. i made a site about him and his behaviors: chohongrae.wordpress.com