Seoul showdown: Maestro confirms he’ll quit unless CEO is fired

Myung Whun Chung has told the Mayor of Seoul he will quit as music director of the Philharmonic unless its abrasive chief executive,Park Hyun-jung, is dismissed.

After briefing the orchestra at rehearsal, Chung told journalists that ‘the issue is a clear violation of human rights … such attitude is not acceptable.’

Chung said he had been aware for a year that Park ‘would call in staff members and scold them severely… they began to quit one after another.’

myun whun chung

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  • Before Myung-Whun Chung’s tenure, which started 9 years ago, the Seoul Phil was a second-rate (or even third-rate) provincial orchestra. Chung has re-built the orchestra from scratch, which is a rare feat in nowadays’s jet-setting times, and the orchestra has become an excellent one – the Deutsche Grammophon recordings and the international concert are shining proof of its impessive growth. Still, the orchestra needs to grow and to stabilize, and for this it surely needs a committed maestro of Chung’s stature for years ahead. If Chung resigns, things don’t look too rosy for the Seoul Phil. In Korea, there exists no possible candidate for replacing Chung, and no important foreign maestro would consider taking the post (especially considering the general institutional instability in Korea and the current CEO’s dubious reputation). To keep the orchestra in the right course it needs both Chung’s musicianship and his rootedness in Korean culture and society which is highly complex and nearly impenetrable for people from abroad. If Chung resigns, the following scenario is likely to happen: the politically well-connected CEO Park will search for a politically likewise well-connected local conductor. A steep decline into mediocrity will follow and the only Korean orchestra of international stature will fall into obscurity.

  • Politically well-connected she might be (there were and are several politicians in her family), but it’s hard to believe that CEO Park could possibly remain in power.
    CEO Park has crossed a number of red lines and her “salami tactics” behavior in the Korean media has made a supremely childish impression. First, she denied the grave accusations altogether, then, after being confronted with a revealing audio tape, she partly admitted the accusations but added that she had no choice because she had been so upset about the unprofessionality of all the people around her. Now, the media has taken her behavior at her former workplace (Samsung corporation) into scrutiny.
    Instead of acting professionally and taking the responsibility for her behavior and the allegations and consequently resigning from this post – in order to minimize the already done damage – CEO Park seems determined in causing as much harm as possible to the orchestra, making her own press conferences and a bunch of media interviews, bizarrely and snootily scapegoating her employees, the chief conductor and the City Mayor.
    I remain curious what conspiracy theory from the popular repertoire will CEO Park come up with next. A suggestion to her: what about claiming that Kim Jong Un is behind all of this? 😉

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