REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– There’s a musical mutiny playing out in this city’s hallowed concert hall, a discordant note not usually heard from the nation’s premier symphony orchestra.

Musicians in crucial chairs of the KBS Symphony Orchestra have either walked out or been dismissed, taking their instruments with them. Others are donning protest T-shirts and offering subpar work during practices and even some performances.

Such sourness stems not only from hard financial times and a trend toward declining salaries but the reappointment of an unpopular American-trained conductor. Many veteran musicians with the 55-year-old symphony orchestra are irate about controversial conductor Hahm Shinik, who many say can’t tell an oboe from a French horn.

“During rehearsals when the tune is off, the conductor doesn’t know,” one musician told the JoongAng Daily newspaper here. “Furthermore, he doesn’t recognize the distinction between different instruments.”

At rallies, the musicians have chanted: “We don’t want a circus. Make the unskilled conductor step down.”


I haven’t a clue what is true and what isn’t — I don’t know anyone connected to this orchestra and I’ve never heard of the conductor before. But what a horrendous article. It makes me ever so thankful for the groups I’m in! We sometimes have disagreements, but I can’t imagine anything like what I read in that article.


  1. patti with an i

    Can’t disagree with you, Patty. But what jumps out at me from this is the extent to which either the writer or the translator of the article knows absolutely nothing about orchestral music. “Taking their instruments with them,” for example. What else would they do? The instruments DO belong to the musicians 99% of the time…

  2. True, at least in the US. I haven’t a clue in that country! But no matter what, this is one huge mess, eh?