Editorial: Death of Seoul

Editorial: Death of Seoul


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2015

Here are the immediate consequences of Myung Whun Chung’s forced resignation today as music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

1 The orchestra will lose its Deutsche Grammophon contract, along with its international exposure.

2 The search for a new music director, starting immediately, will attract no competent maestros – both because they are unavailable at short notice and because they won’t want to get buried in a political quagmire.

3 The quality of the orchestra will decline. Chung was a disciplinarian who rotated positions when the playing failed to meet his standards. That’s all over now.

4 Foreign soloists and their agents will think twice about accepting engagements in Seoul.

5 Oblivion beckons.

And all because of one vindictive, well-connected woman whose conduct since her dismissal as CEO suggests that the grounds for her sacking – bullying and staff harrassment – were fully justified.

park seoul


  • Nick says:

    Like NL I do not for a moment believe the Chung family is “corrupt” despite Myung-whun’s businessman brother having been convicted of fraud. There has never to my knowledge been a taint of corruption against the three musician siblings, apart from those alleged by the hopeless and vengeful Ms. Park. This entire corruption nonsense has been heavily orchestrated as things tend to be in South Korea – even is this blog. Some months ago a certain doctor allegedly from the Chicago area made a host of nonsensical claims against Myung Whun Chung all of which were clearly initiated by Ms. Park’s camp. Even single one totally collapsed under scrutiny.

    What is absolutely certain is that MYC’s resignation is a major disaster for the SPO and music making in Korea in general. He dragged that orchestra up from a third rate ensemble to world-class. The powers that be in music in Korea are far too insular in their thinking to appoint a worthy successor. Just as the once splendid KBS Symphony Orchestra has descended into near obscurity, so will the SPO.

    One key issue is the absence of experienced international arts managers in South Korea capable of leading from the front and keeping the media and funding bodies from veering off on ridiculously trumped up tangents. No doubt silly notions of national pride will prevent the appointment of a thoroughly experienced orchestra manager from coming in to help sort out this fetid mess. That would be the one course of action that might – just might – help prevent a descent to the abyss.

    The one point where I disagree with NL is No. 4. International agents won’t give much of a hoot as most need South Korean dates as an adjunct to tours to Japan, China or other parts of Asia. For soloists it’s just a quick in/out and pick up the pretty generous fees.

  • Olassus says:

    Agree 100%.

    Park family has destroyed an asset of Korea.