Just in: New police raids on besieged Philharmonic

A source in South Korea tells us that three days ago police raided the offices of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra for a second time.

A prosecutor was in attendance, explaining that this was an investigation into an alleged conspiracy against the former chief executive Hyunjung Park.  Ms Park left the orchestra after a petition of 17 employees was published in December 2014, accusing her of bullying, sexual harassment and violation of human rights. 

Two days ago, there was a further police raid on the home of a Seoul Philharmonic employee. The individual concerned is four months pregnant and required medical attention.

On the same day, this employee and another staff member received a letter from the Korean Ministry of Justice informing them that they are banned from leaving the country during the course of the investigation.

Ms Park, a member of one of Korea’s ruling families, is conducting a vendetta against the orchestra and its music director Myung Whun Chung. Justice has nothing to do with the case. South Korea is starting to look like a police state.

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  • Let’s never forget that South Korea was a massively corrupt military dictatorship until 1993 – a mere 22 years ago. Ms. Park’s father served as a member of the cabinet in the government of the last dictator, Roh Tae-woo. In 1996 he and his predecessor Chun Doo-hwan were convicted of mutiny and corruption and sent to jail for more than 20 years each. After his release just a year later as a result of a Presidential pardon, in 2007 Roh admitted further corruption charges and was fined US5 million!

    Old habits die hard in Korea’s corrupt elite. Justice still has precious little currency.

    • The frightening thing is that during the last decade (and in particular under the current presidency of Park Geun-hye, a daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-Hee, who ruled the country for almost two decades) many members of the old nomenclatura have clung on to power again. In Korea, there has clearly been a democracy backlash during the last years.

      • It is generally accepted now that Park Chung-hee did some good during his 18 year rule, especially in the economic field. But his authoritarian style of rule and human rights abuses got far worse after the murder of his wife. He became much more isolated. As TIME magazine was to write, it was during this period that “the security apparatus entered its most draconian period, putting down dissent and becoming infamous for its use of torture.” Park was assassinated by his security chief in 1979.

        Although controversial, President Park remains deeply popular in his home region of Yeongnam in the south east. I wonder how many of his daughter’s cabinet ministers hail from that region, and also whether the former CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic was appointed by one such supporter – without the lady having an iota of arts management expertise anywhere in her resume?

  • As a Korean living abroad I am deeply ashamed of my home country. It is a scandal that South Korean justice, police and media are that willing to be exploited by a crazy person for her personal vendetta. But sadly, this is not unusual over there. These are “banana republic” policies and one can’t help but wonder whether Korea is a democracy at all.

  • As a Korean who is living in Europe, having been watching the growth process of the SPO since Myung whun Chung’ appointment as a music director, the affairs surrounding SPO and Chung are beyond deplorable. What a shame. The most of acquaintance of mine who is working in the music industry in Europe keeps asking me about the affairs and the truth beneath water. I would say DEFINITELY. The real person to blame is the previous CEO, Ms. Park, who has a strong connection with the conservative party and the vestiges of the military dictatorship already mentioned by Nick, not the orchestra or Mr. Chung.

  • It seems, ironically, that the brilliant, sophisticated image that is being projected to the world through its Kpop and Kdrama is in stark contrast to the realities at hand. Without nurturing a modern democracy, basic adherence to human rights and freedoms not to mention public safety (the ever repeating series of human tragedies) how long can the exportation of a myth continue? The shameful degradation of its world renowned artistic institutions (the symphony orchestras…) is definitely a step backwards.
    Korea should bear in mind that the relatively new phenomena of Korean popular culture provides hope and inspiration to many parts of the world. Korea – live up to your responsibilities!

  • I lived in Korea in the 70’s, during Park Chung-Hee’s era. On more than one occasion, I remember hearing as a child that a relative of family friends or an acquaintance had “disappeared” because of something they had written in a publication. It was dangerous times for those who could think independently and publicly expressed their views. Some of these people were tortured and then, release; some never returned to their families.

    Now in 2015, how is that a country like S. Korea, boasting economic prosperity and its educated citizens, get away with this type of human rights violation? How is it that someone like Hyunjung Park is allowed to play havoc upon a public institution like SPO and its employees simply because she is well-connected? Why aren’t the people of S. Korea outraged? Civil courage! Claim your human rights and demand democracy!

  • As Sung Hae Park suggests, South Korea has a highly educated population. Seoul alone has somewhere around 40 private and public universities. I can recall visits at the start of the 1980s when students were rebelling – mostly, I believe, against martial law. You could not go close to one university district because of tear gas lingering in the air from earlier demonstrations. It even filtered through hotels’ air conditioning plants.

    The younger generation in South Korea now seems far more concerned with economic prospects than idealism. A little spat with an orchestra and a member of the elite is a mere drop in the ocean. Sadly few will be outraged.

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