Breaking: Maestro quits Seoul

Breaking: Maestro quits Seoul


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2015

We’re receiving reports from Korean media that Myung Whun Chung has resigned as music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra with immediate effect. He will not conduct next month’s Mahler 6th, which was due to be recorded for DG.

The move follows a campaign of harrassment by the orchestra’s sacked CEO, Ms Park, who has instigated a police investigation into allegations that her dismissal was brought about by the maestro’s wife.

If the reports can be believed and Chung has quit, the effect will be to make Korea a no-go zone for artists of international standing. In a state ruled by hereditary elites, music cannot flourish. The sun has set on Seoul.


myun whun chung

Editorial: Death of Seoul.

UPDATE: Chung attacks Park here.


  • 110 says:

    This is a catastrophic situation.It is more than just an isolated case.This is an abuse of power ,blind vengeance,despicable!!

  • Mark Cho says:

    Norman, your report is just full of bias. Maestro Chung is a great artist but his family is corrupt and SPO is badly managed. Also, please keep in mind that Korean government is not run by hereditary elites like that of UK.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Actually, it is full of facts which cannot be reported in Korean media. The Chung family is not corrupt: one member of the family went to jail. The others, so far as I am aware, are scrupulously clean. Your comment is typical of the paid-for trolling sponsored by the hereditary Ms Park.

      • Hermann Lederer says:

        And by whom are you sponsored Norman???? In Korea everybody knows stories about the Chung Clan even if they know little or nothing about the KPO or classical music at all – and Ms. Chung knows very well why she stays outside of Korea since a long time… I have nothing to to with any Park family but your repeatedly attempt to whitewash the Chung family is already a little bit ridiculous.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          I know all I need to know about the Chung family, thank you.

        • ToneMeister says:

          That South Korea is a hot-bed of gossip, intrigue, and petty behavior is well known. But please take a moment to look at this indisputable fact: the Chungs were the first Korean classical musicians to achieve international recognition – and they achieved it with their TALENT. They didn’t make their careers by being bullies or by purchasing their success and fame – they made it big simply because they were the BEST, period.

          • Peter says:

            Is it relevant? Geniuses have become criminals, geniuses have been saints without any misdemeanors. The element of genius or talent is irrelevant regarding legal rights an responsibilities. Anybody is equal in front of the law, sorry, I meant anybody *should be* equal in front of the law.

      • Mark Cho says:

        Excuse me, Norman, but I am not paid a single penny to write a thing about Mrs. Park nor the Chung family. I am writing my comments based on the sources I obtain without any bias. Your simple logical fallacy is just sickening.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          I’ve no idea who you are or what kind of sources you use. But you are welcome to leave this site.

          • Ray Richardson says:

            The internet is a place for free discussion. Your repeated comment to posters who say things you dont like to hear, to go elsewhere, does nothing but belittle you.

          • Mark Cho says:

            Mr. Norman. I am leaving this site with the same reason Grigory Sokolov refused to receive the Cremona Music Award. Thank you and farewell.

          • Peter says:

            Ray, that’s not correct what you say. This is NL’s personal blog, he pays for it.
            You are in his premises, legally speaking.
            He can do as he pleases within the law, I don’t like it at times, either, but anyone of us is free to come up with an alternative discussion blog.

          • Ray Richardson says:

            Yes it is his personal blog, nevertheless anyone is still justified to say that by the way he behaves on the internet when he tells people they can leave if they dont like his blog belittles him ( and his blog). With your premises analogy people asked to leave are still free to criticise how the private premises are run. This smoke screen of privacy you raise doesnt excuse him from criticism; what he does in your analogy is, yes, legal but not an acceptable intelligent persons way of running the premises.

        • Nick says:

          I also have my sources, Mark Cho, built up over thirty or so years and many visits to Seoul. Odd that your sources seem limited to some biased remarks in some of the media and the supporters of the dreadful Ms. Park. What I hear – regularly – is the precise opposite! As an example of your so-called knowledge, your comment that Korea is not run by hereditary elites is nonsense. Who was the present President’s father? The dictator Park Chung hee!


  • Ross says:

    Isn’t the USA also run by elite families?

    Two Bushes (father/son) were president and a 3rd was a governor.

    One Clinton was a governor/president and his wife was a senator and sec of state.

    For a while, anyone with the last name Kennedy could hold high office and was an influential, wealthy person.


    Let’s not kid ourselves.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      They were all elected or appointed by non-family members. There are no laws prohibiting a relative or spouse from running for office in the US. The only recent example of nepotism that I can recall is President Kennedy appointing his brother attorney general.

      • Yankee Doodle says:

        Let’s not forget that the only reason George W. Bush became president of the United States was because his brother Jeb, who was at that time the governor of Florida, rigged the vote count for his state in his brother’s favor.

        • someone says:

          Also, let’s not forget that the Japanese Prime Minister is the grandson of the famous Japanese class-A war criminal of World War II.
          And it seems that what he’s been doing now is basically not very different from what his grandfather did.

          It is truly amazing to see that some parts of the world are still dominated by families which reminds me of hereditary peers.

          There are huge differences between true democracy and abusing a democratic system to keep dictatorship.

      • Peter says:

        Well, running for President of the US is probably the WORST example regarding equal opportunity.
        That system is the most plutocratic, undemocratic election system in the civilized world period.
        No candidate of the united two party dictatorship will make it to the oval office without approval and financial support of the plutocratic elite. Which doesn’t prevent that they will sometimes fight extensively over who is going to be the next best puppet in the White House.
        The US presidency and its material manifestations is probably one of the most expensive “public relations” smoke screens of the whole world, impressive.

    • Gaffney Feskoe says:

      Well, then there was John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Not a bad precedent.

      • William Safford says:

        Actually, the most important precedents were the election and the subsequent stepping down of the man with no progeny, George Washington; then the election, and subsequent stepping down of John Adams, thus relinquishing power to a man whom he opposed, Thomas Jefferson. These were profoundly important precedents.

        The subsequent election of John Quincy Adams was of far less import.

  • J Lee says:

    I am a Korean lived and educated abroad for a long time and now back in Korea several years ago. And I tell you guys, this is truly a land of Alice in Wonderland.

    Things that are totally legal and acceptable practices in Western world can be a crime in Korea including flying first or business class as a mere conductor. Oh, not to forget earning too much money can also be a subject of public attack and blame. And this is not a joke! When I see all attempted charges against Chung, I cannot help but laughing. I gurantee that every top tier classical stars and maestro will all fall under same charges!

    You cannot imagine how absurd the logic goes around here. I see many innocent artists and sportsman became a victim of political fights between leftiest and rightist. Chung has been constantly attacked by leftiests because he was appointed by right wing mayor back then and now, subject of attack by right wings as he was supported by current mayor who is leftiest and also a strong candidate for next presidential election. This is sooooooo sickening! I saw not only from Chung’s case, but from other famous sportsman’s case that how media writes about them is almost a homicide attempt. What these people did wrong? Invited by presidents and conducted music or gave lectures. And by doing so, indirectly being used for their election campaign and became an instant enemy by the opposite wing. How to survive under such situation? Run, run, run away from this sickening country. We all don’t know who is going to be next turn to become the victim of political witch hunt. And trust me. once special political target victim is selected, no one can escape from its trap. They will not give up till find something tangible to attack. They will first search the person for every single details and if found clean, will start searching families and people around him until they find something. This is exactly what’s happening to Maestro Chung and his family. Seriously this country has no hope. I feel devastated by seeing series of such same events happening to artists, sportsman and even to comedians. This is death of classical music in Korea. I cannot agree more on that.

  • opus131 says:

    I have played under Maestro Chung’s baton a number of times. I found him to be not only a gentleman but a truly gentle man, and a profound, brilliant musician.