[FOUNTAIN]Composer a victim of Korea conflict

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[FOUNTAIN]Composer a victim of Korea conflict

If you follow the life of late composer Yun I-sang, you will find a suffocating political conspiracy. Just like many other victims under the authoritarian regime of Park Chung Hee, Mr. Yun got trapped by the dark conspiracy of the dictatorship. In 1967, the abduction of Mr. Yun, which began with a phone call from a man who introduced himself as a secretary to President Park, ultimately led to an accusation that he was a North Korean spy. According to Mr. Yun’s words, he was hanged on a log and tortured with water and was forced to write that he was a communist. Mr. Yun was sentenced to life in prison on an espionage charge, and his sentence was later reduced to 10 years. Including his wife, Lee Su-ji, 194 others went through the same for their involvement in the so-called “East Berlin spy incident.” In 1968, Mr. Yun was released from prison after being pardoned, and he returned to Germany.
In 1963, Mr. Yun visited Pyeongyang, but we cannot be sure whether he was actually a communist at the time. In Mr. Yun’s biography, “The Wounded Dragon,” written by the pro-North Korean writer Luise Rinser in 1977, Mr. Yun was critical of the North. He said his trip ended with contradictory results: big praises but a deep sense of incompatibility. Nevertheless, Mr. Yun grew intimate with the North. The late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung presented him with a private villa near Pyeongyang and allowed him to recuperate there in 1990. Now that the composer is dead, there is no way to know whether he was loyal toward the North. His case is one of seven being reinvestigated by the National Intelligence Agency.
What is regrettable is that Mr. Yun’s music has been overshadowed by politics and failed to get proper public recognition. From 1958, Mr. Yun composed over 100 pieces encompassing genres including chamber music, operas, concertos, symphonies. Die Zeit had praised his opera “Traume,” or “Dreams,” which premiered immediately after he returned to Germany in 1968. In 1972, he wrote an opera commemorating the Munich Olympic Games. His musical accomplishments made him one of the five greatest living European composers of his time.
However, Koreans have not yet recognized him. Thankfully, the Isang Yun Peace Foundation was established in March 18. His mother recalled that she had a dream of a “wounded dragon” before giving birth. I hope that the wounded soul from national division can be revive in Korea as a musical dragon through the peace foundation.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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