Only Koreans win in Korea

Only Koreans win in Korea


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2018

The IsangYun International Cello Competition at Tongyeong, South Korea, has ended with a joint first prize for Christine Jeong Hyoun Lee, 27 and Sang Eun Lee, 25, both from South Korea.

Let’s pretend to be surprised.


  • steven holloway says:

    Except, of course, that the annual competions, each year a different instrument, inaugurated in 2003, have since that year seen the First Prize go to competitors from the US (twice), Canada, Armenia, Russia, Germany, China, Taiwan, Belarus, and the Netherlands.

  • Bill says:

    Most (15 of 17) of the competitors in a competition held in Korea were Korean. That IS surprising…well, no, not really. The Koreans held the majority in the jury, 2 of 9 spots, hmm, guess that wasn’t it. Jury rules bar voting for anyone you’ve taught for more than 3 months in the past 2 years. This appears to be the first time a Korean has won 1st place in this cello competition. I didn’t check the violin and piano competitions, but I know the Korean violinist (Ji-won Song) who won last year (and was the first Korean to win the violin competition) has done well on the competition circuit despite not being affiliated with teachers frequently accused of fixing competitions. Myungwha Chung has previously been chair of the jury without a Korean taking first place. Only 1 Korean allowed on the preselection jury, so they can’t exactly control who gets in.

    Here’s another shocker: I hear the winner of the Juilliard concerto competition was a Juilliard student!

    • Peter says:

      You’d think that Norman, the courageous vanquisher of dodgy competitions, would have a more favourable view to a competition which appears to be scrupulously fair, avoids all the things he usually decries, and has a track record to match.

      This snide post makes me wonder whether he really cares about exposing dodgy competitions or whether he’s just trolling (in the classic sense of making deliberately inflammatory remarks to stir the pot).

      It certainly makes it difficult to take Norman seriously when he grandiloquently speaks (as he did in his nasty post about a performer at the Joachim Competition) about how he has “duty … against overwhelming odds” to fight against preferential treatment in competitions.

  • John Rook says:

    Maybe they’re just very good.

  • Hsk says:

    They were bribed

  • Fiddlist says:

    Besides winning 3rd prize, the Russian Lev also won the audience prize. That’s quite an accomplishment in Seoul when all the other finalists were Korean.

  • Carlos says:

    I’ve worked with both of these two young cellists extensively and can safely say that they are two of the most sensitive, talented, mature, and exquisite musicians I’ve ever known.

  • Deli says:

    In Korea, it is common to practice corruption among factions formed by “kinship, schooling, and regionalism.”
    Not surprising