Now Yuja dumps on Seoul

Now Yuja dumps on Seoul


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2016

We understand that Yuja Wang, one of the few international names still listed on the Seoul Philharmonic website, has told them she is not coming.

Like a host of other artists, she has no confidence in an organisation that has lost its music director to a vendetta by its former chief executive.

The only way to save Seoul is for the city mayor to step in and restore street cred.

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  • Nick says:

    I am sorry for the regular audience of the Seoul Philharmonic. But given what has happened with the horrendous level of support given to the disgraceful former CEO Ms. Park, I am delighted that an artist of Yuja Wang’s stature has elected to withdraw from her scheduled concerts.

    If more artists refuse to take part in concerts, perhaps – just perhaps – the Seoul Mayor will begin to see sense. But rather than just write anti-Park posts here, I hope NL and other posters will write directly to the Mayor expressing their disgust at what has happened. ‘Face’ being such an important element in Korean society, direct attacks will have little effect. I suggest more subtlely worded missives might have more chance of success.

    I can not find an email address. The postal address is
    Mr. Park Won Soon, Mayor
    City Hall
    110 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu
    South Korea

    • someone says:

      It has never been simple like that one can only imagine.
      I may say that actually, he, the current mayor of Seoul was one of the only a few who were sensible and rational.

      Although Mr Chung was appointed by the ex-mayor at first, who was from the opposite political side to the current mayor of Seoul, Mayor Won-Soon Park didn’t kick him out.

      It wasn’t him who finally made Mr Chung to resign.
      Don’t you know the facts and the truth?
      Who actually made it happen and which political side played the key role in the drama?
      It wasn’t him.

      In that situation, what do you think Mayor Won-Soon Park was able to do more to save Mr Chung?
      He’s not a dictator like somebody.
      If the majority doesn’t want something or someone, he alone can’t just insist, even if it is the right thing or the best thing.
      It does happen even in a democratic society because decisions are often made by the majority.

      What has happened to Mr Chung and the Seoul Phil is a personal, musical and political disaster and tragedy, not only for Mr Chung but for Korea’s classical music fans, the orchestra players, the staff, and Mayor Won-Soon Park, too.

      Don’t you know what has happened to him?
      The so-called right wing party had politically attacked the current Mayor for not kicking Mr Chung out right away.

      The most ridiculous thing is that it was them who appointed Mr Chung as music director of the Seoul PHil at first as I already mentioned above, not the other way round.

      Where is the logic? Where is the conscience? Where is the truth?
      There is nothing like that in what they have been doing.
      And the most terrible thing is that it often works

      They will do anything to damage the current mayor of Seoul.
      Now, Mr Chung has resigned and what is the next?
      They are accusing the current Mayor of not being able to find another fancy conductor for Seoul Phil.
      But, however, by the way, anyway, have they ever truly wanted him to find another nice conductor?
      Of course, not.

      The Seoul Phil, music, conductor, people, these kinds of things have never been their concerns.
      All these things will stop only when the current mayor of Seoul is completely destroyed and only when they put a new mayor from their side into the city hall.
      Until then, they will never stop.

      It wasn’t the best thing to happen that Mr Chung has resigned, but I understand he had no choice.
      Now, I only can hope the second best thing.

      What is the second best thing I can think of?
      Another fancy conductor for the Seoul Phil?
      No, the second best thing I’m thinking of now is that the terrible, horrible so-called right wing party does not damage the current Mayor of Seoul for this any more.

      If I have to choose only one between a conductor for the Seoul Phil and the current mayor of Seoul, I’ll go for the latter.
      I hope you understand why.

      I mean that one can write an email and one can complain about the incident, but they must know whose fault it was.

      If somebody wants to know what has happened in Korea and to Mr Chung, the comments on the page below might help.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        There’s only one fact anyone needs to know. A year ago, Seoul had an international orchestra. Now it doesn’t. Seoul has lost the world.

        • someone says:

          I agree that a year ago, Seoul had an international orchestra. Now it doesn’t.
          More precisely, it is very likely to happen in the near future.
          And I’m so sad and very sorry about it, certainly more than you can feel.
          But in any case, it shouldn’t be encouraged to accuse a person of wrong reason.
          What I want to say is that it wasn’t the problem only the mayor alone could solve.

        • Milka says:

          one wonders how many people throughout the world wake up in the morning
          wondering is Seoul without a symphony orchestra this morning .Except for the few
          faithful attendees the thought would be greeted with a shrug.The world goes on ……..
          The “classical ” music devotees make one serious mistake in believing it is or should be the
          focal point of the musical arts,sadly to the world at large it ain’t .

          • Robert says:

            If we believe that orchestral music is best heard in live performance, then every orchestra is the center of the world for its constituency.

  • Ross says:

    She should either wear a pair of pants, or a skirt, with that nice blouse she is wearing.

    • John says:

      I completely agree. Can she not focus on showing off her music, even though she is supposed to be a musician? She looks absolutely no different to the kind of cheap women who sell their bodies.

      • M2N2K says:

        She is an outstanding pianist (see comment by Pedro below here), so there is nothing wrong with her “focus”. She simply dresses the way that she finds attractive, and many – perhaps most – in the audience agree with her. It is up to the listeners to “focus on” the music, instead of paying way too much attention to her appearance.

        • Ross says:

          I completely agree with you. Perhaps I should have worn my glasses; I simply thought she forgot to put her pants (or skirt) on before venturing on stage, in the photo.
          I did not question her piano playing or musicianship; not sure why you are vehemently defending it, that being the case.

          • Constant says:

            Does it really matter in this topic how she dresses? I find it refreshing that in the rather sleepy classical music scene a young woman celebrates life by enjoying her talent ,looks and youth. If she were not such a fantastic pianist…or not as beautiful…yeah then i would mind…

        • M2N2K says:

          If you look at the location of my previous comment in this thread and read it a little more attentively, you shall see that I was responding to “john” and not to you.

  • debussyste says:

    It disturbs a lot of men to see a beautiful woman in a concert hall ! We are not in Saudi Arabia or Iran yet , so enjoy it !

    • Pedro says:

      Yuja Wang is one of the best pianists I have ever heard ( and I have heard live Rubinstein, Horowitz, Arrau, Serkin , Gilels and Richter ) namely in an incredible Prokofiev 3 with Abbado in Lucerne and a beautiful Beethoven 4 with MTT in Paris.

  • Sumi says:

    Bravo to Yuja Wang! Knowing the background of this sad Korean story, it is good to see that music and justice triumphs over back stabbing and factional internecine political strife.

    Few decent musicians would accept to perform with the Seoul Philharmonic nowadays. So far, the only international musician who immediately accepted to step in at short notice and help out the vile and much hated Seoul Philharmonic management was the controversial German conductor Christoph Eschenbach, who apparently has the reputation of only operating on an inflated ego and money. His well-known “take the money and run” approach to music making is deplorable, but fortunately so many other musicians have a sense of decency and see the bigger picture. Yuja Wang is one of many such artists and she is to be commended and the Seoul Philharmonic musicians and supporters will be grateful for her stance.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      I just heard a couple tour preview programs from Eschenbach with the NSO in DC that were truly outstanding. The same week he performed in a chamber music concert. So, I would say hes doing more than “taking the money and run”, like giving memorable performances. Isn’t that what is hoped for from a conductor?

      If you read other posts, you will read one thats states Eschenbach is honoring a commitment to conduct that was made before the resignation.

  • Heeja Walker says:

    In principle, I find @Nick’s proposal of writing a letter brilliant. If the letter is written politely it doesn’t mean that the Seoul City Mayor (who seems to have been in a Catch-22 situation) is being accused himself but that he is reminded of the urgent need of using all the powers available to him in order to clear up the dreadful situation.

    However, I think that letters should definitely also be written to the Seoul Philharmonic’s (SPO’s) new CEO and the SPO’s Board.

    Whilst I don’t think that the orchestra’s new CEO Mr Choe, who was appointed last Summer, bears responsibility for the awful things that have happened during the last three years between the dreadful ex-CEO Ms Park’s appointment and Chung’s forced resignation, it certainly is – for a great part – his responsibility to find a path out from the present crisis.
    For sure, the worst and most ineffective solution is to merely sweep a carpet over the injustice, and this is precisely what has happened so far.

    As for the board and for parts of SPO’s top management, they certainly can be blamed of much that has been happened (but this is hardly surprising considering that a number of these people were installed by ex-CEO Park as puppets to carry out her interests.)

    The adress of the orchestra is:
    Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
    175, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-821, South Korea

    The letters should be adressed to
    CEO Heungsik Choe, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
    and to
    The Board of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

    Very important: as @Nick rightly noted, the letters should be written in a polite manner.

    As always: the more people write, the greater the effect…

    • someone says:

      Firstly, I wonder if the current mayor of Seoul has got enough power to clear up the situation solely by himself.
      I’m sure he, himself also wanted to do so if the circumstance allowed.
      Here, I say once again, he’s not a dictator like somebody so the power must come only from the public and supporters.

      Then how the majority of the public and even his supporters acted?
      Mr Chung was too rich to be an artist and not too innocent to be a saint in their thoughts.
      You know what they want.
      A great artist must be a poor saint.

      But the mayor knew what was the real problem, the ignorance of the public? or Mr Chung?
      That’s why he didn’t kick Mr Chung out.
      He tried to give him another chance and even defended Mr Chung, who, I suppose, had never been friendly to the mayor himself.

      You know that the ex-CEO was not from the same side as the current mayor’s and it actually was Mr Chung, who approved of her being appointed as CEO, in the first place.
      It was truly a terrible mistake of Mr Chung.

      Anyway, everything has gone too far now.
      I think it was the only way for Mr Chung to leave the Seoul Phil and the country to escape from the dreadful and hopeless situation.
      I’m not happy to say that, but it’s better than seeing Mr Chung is socially killed for the wrong reason.

      To be honest, I don’t know what is the best thing for now.
      Yes, I want more than anything else.
      But in reality now?
      I’m afraid it’s not very likely to happen because the majority of the public doesn’t want it.
      The truth can only work when they want to face it.
      At present, I can only wish for the second best thing that there’ll be no more victims.

      • Nick says:

        I fully appreciate the comments of @Heeja Walker and @Someone since both clearly know a great deal more about the political situation which led to the appointment of Ms. Park and the consequent resignation of Myung-Whun Chung than I. As suggested I will certainly write to the CEO and Board Chairman of the Seoul Philharmonic. But I note that @someone gives no individual or body to whom individuals may write if they wish to do so. I have time at my disposal, at one time I had a connection to the SPO and I feel deeply about what happened. Nothing I say will make any difference. But the city of Seoul has always been conscious of its international image and the more who write, perhaps the better the chance that something more positive might result. The musicians of the SPO need some assurances about their future.

        It’s interesting that when South Korea was in the act of finally getting rid of its military dictators and was awarded the 1988 Olympic Games, the Seoul City government was absolutely desperate to polish its international image and show how sophisticated and welcoming the city was becoming. One agent was begged to organise a tour of the then-second rate Seoul Philharmonic in Europe. An occasional correspondent to this blog managed to achieve just that, even though the SPO was of totally unknown quality in those days, Seoul had no relations with the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the Soviet Union agreed to send a team to the Olympic Games. Again to help with its international image, a regional promoter agreed at his expense to visit Leningrad to try and persuade the Oleg Vinogradov and the Kirov Ballet to present performances in Seoul.

        A lot of people in the music business went out of their way to help Seoul in those days. Of course fees (small) were involved, but there was a great deal of satisfaction as well in helping the city and the country. How easy it is for today’s politicians to forget how much was due to music and the performing arts in helping in changing its image. But I suppose in that respect, the current crop of politicians in Seoul are little different from their counterparts in most other countries! Then again, South Korea is hardly just another country. With a nuclear rogue state less only roughly 50 kms away, Seoul needs to keep world opinion on its side.

        • Heeja Walker says:

          Good point! I wholeheartedly agree.

          What might also help is to remind SPO’s top management of Chung’s high status abroad. This fact should be self-evident, but it isn’t in Korea because of all the ridiculous propaganda and because of ex-CEO Park’s hate campaign in the media.
          To name but an example, some Korean journalists were, in the course of Park’s defamation campaign, seriously demanding the dismissal of Chung and the quick-fix appointment of a Dudamel or a Rattle as the SPO’s new Music Director – as if they would have nothing else to do than waiting for a telephone call from Seoul…! No kidding.
          And this is but one example for the mixture of total manipulability, ignorance and loss of reality that has been woefully typical for a great part of the media coverage in Korea.

        • someone says:

          The Seoul Phil incident is not something one can easily understand because there is no coherence or consistent logic in any part of it.
          That’s why I said that it was mostly about emotions and relationships rather than about facts and the truth.

          Many people thought Mr Chung was not a friend of the left’s though I’m not sure how much he used to favour or once favoured the so-called right-wing party of Korea.
          I’ve known about it for a long time, however, I’ve never criticised him for being unclear.

          People, for example, whose parents were originally from a North Korean hometown, tend to show strong repulsion to the left because the so-called right-wing party fabricated many stories and brainwashed the public that the left were communists and spies of the North Korean monsters.

          That’s why former president, the late Dae-Joong Kim, who received the Novel Peace Prize, had been accused of being a communist for all his life.
          The world knew he’d never been a communist, but a true democrat.
          However, many people of his own country didn’t want to accept the truth because it was against their emotions and hatred with which they had lived for all their lives.

          Even one of his long-time political enemies eventually said in his recently published memoir that Dae-Joong Kim wasn’t the kind of person who could ever be a communist by nature, but he was slandered.
          The funniest thing is that the former prominent politician himself was one of the leaders who were in the front line of slandering.
          But the majority of the public still accuses Dae-Joong Kim of being a communist even after his death.
          It feels like that the emotions are almost just like a religion without question that once you have faith in it, then you mustn’t doubt.

          It is incredibly surprising and disturbing that there are still so many people speaking the same way out there.
          I’ve met so many people like that and sometimes, I was in trouble to cope with their ideas, but I couldn’t say straight to their faces that they were wrong.
          You may understand the circumstances I’ve been in.
          So I’ve tried to understand (but never to agree) why they have come up with that kind of totally irrational ideas, but there have been no proper explanations given to me so far.
          I think it’s because those emotions and ideas are all built on the fabrications planted by brainwashing so there can’t be anything to explain or logic in the first place.

          So I thought if Mr Chung had ever had that kind of feelings about the left, it might have not been entirely his fault.
          And that’s why I was trying to be careful and saved my breath before criticising his political view (if he had one).

          And when I saw Mr Chung conducting the North Korean orchestra in Paris, I felt that he was a bit different from those who just blindly followed the so-called right-wing party.
          I felt that he truly wanted to make a progress and to contribute what he could do.
          Whether or not it was a successful attempt, his will and motivation were pretty clear to me.
          He was just following his goodwill, but no policies of any political groups.

          I can never be sure since exactly when problems started occurring in the relationship between Mr Chung and the so-called right.
          I can’t even be certain if there was anything to be called a relationship between them.
          The only one thing for sure is that no one can be sure which political side Mr Chung has favoured.
          Has he ever actually had a preference?

          He’s been involved in some incidents, even though sometimes he was totally out of the matters.
          For example, a long time ago, when he was living in France and working for a French orchestra, some Korean musicians went to him to ask for support on a very tricky and serious matter, but what could he do then?
          He refused and some unpleasant things happened during the meeting and then suddenly Mr Chung became known for being against the entire labour unions and even the ideas and principles of them.

          I’m so sorry that they lost their job and I understand the sudden and surprising meeting wasn’t a very pleasant moment for both, but it wasn’t his fault.
          He was totally out of the matter, however, some papers published their words only and made the public think he was different from what he seemed to be.
          But who created the image, if there was any?
          And who tried to break it, and for what?

          After he became the music director of the Seoul Phil, he couldn’t avoid being involved in more unpleasant situations and the number of his enemies had grown.

          To understand the Seoul Phil incident, now, one may need to look into the confrontation between classical music fans and non-classical musical fans, those who know about the classical music world and those who don’t.
          They have huge, huge differences in understanding the causes of it.

          There are mixtures of the right and left both among the supporters and opponents.
          However, many people think Mr Chung wouldn’t have come to the place to quit the Seoul Phil if he hadn’t had any troubles with the ex-CEO.
          It wasn’t actually a direct fight between Mr Chung and the ex-CEO at first.
          Apparently, the troubles started between the ex-CEO and the staff.
          In short, she didn’t get along well with the staff and many people had to quit the job.
          It was growing bigger and bigger and the rest of the staff asked Mr Chung for help so Mr Chung declared support for them.
          And then it started to be driven in a strange direction and eventually led to Mr Chung’s resignation as you see.

          I can’t give an answer to Nick’s question.
          If one wants to write an email, they should find whom to write on their own.
          I just hope them to be aware of what has been going on.

          It was a sort of public accusation like a witch-hunt, that means it wasn’t fair from the very beginning.
          The majority of the media weren’t fair either.
          The one thing I can tell is that the political power, which is controlling the situation, is enormous and somebody has really great connections to it.
          I can bet some people are monitoring even this site and every single posting and every single comment here as well.
          Believe me.

          The best thing I can say at the moment is that Myung-Whun Chung is really a great conductor.
          I think his musicianship is not questionable, regardless of tastes, but he was often so, so, so much marginalised in his native country, by his compatriots.
          Well, it’s not the first case and it won’t be the last.
          Believe it or not, it does happen all the time.
          Yes, I know it’s really strange.

          I’ve known about his place in the classical music world abroad and I’ve never had doubts about his musical abilities, although he’s not my favourite conductor.
          My favourite (Have I actually ever had it? Anyway, if I can say), who passed away several years ago, didn’t have a big name like Mr Chung.

          However, unfortunately, what I can only do at this moment is wishing Maestro Chung even greater success abroad to make them SHUT UP, who have been saying that he’s a third-rate conductor and he only came back to Korea for money.
          What a truly ridiculous idea!

  • Heeja Walker says:

    The SPO’s top management and its board should be (politely!) reminded of their duty to do their job.
    If they take their job seriously, they should finally start to call ex-CEO Ms Park into account for the damage she has done – and sue her for the malicious destruction of Korea’s top orchestra.
    Here are a few of Ms Park’s misdeeds: continuous defamation of the orchestra and its Music Director; chasing away the orchestra’s Music Director and parts of its key staff and key musicians (both Koreans and foreigners); turning the orchestra’s office into a paranoiac, brutish and inefficient system of bullying, comprehensive control and spying during her tenure; orchestrating police razzias of the orchestra’s office; vandalizing a state institution in the course of her personal vendetta; breaching data privacy; virtual enforcement of the last-minute US tour cancellations of the SPO last year (which led to high compensation claims for the orchestra for breach of contract); manipulating politicians, justice, press and public opinion alike; scaring off sponsors and possible international partners; et cetera…

  • Tweettweet says:

    I’m just afraid that boycotting the orchestra will give reason for the politicians in Seoul to cut down the subsidies. I think artists would support the orchestra best by playing with them. A default of the orchestra would mean a victory to Witch Park and a defeat for Mr Chung.