Korean musician proves prowess on global stage

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Korean musician proves prowess on global stage

An 18-year-old Korean pianist, Kim Sun-wook, has won the 15th Leeds International Piano Competition, which was held in the Leeds Town Hall in Leeds, England, on Sept. 24.
Kim is the first Korean pianist to win the contest. Former Korean prize winners include Jung Myong-hoon, who tied for fourth place in 1975 and is now musical director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra; Seo Joo-hee, who took second place in 1984; and Paik Hye-sun, who ranked fifth in 1992. This year, fellow Korean Kim Seong-hun, 28, finished fifth.
A total of 235 pianists from 39 countries took part in the competition, and Kim was the youngest among the six finalists. He played Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.1 as his final competition piece.
Asked how his life would change after the win, Kim said, “I read the news and it said I would be given the chance to do more than 100 performances.” He plans to tour Asian countries next year, including a performance with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra.
Kim started playing piano at three, and in September 2005, he became the youngest winner of the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition. He also won the inaugural Daewon Arts Award last year, which was founded by the Daewon Cultural Foundation to discover young musical talents.
Kim performed at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in the young artist series of the “Bridging the Sound” festival in August of this year.
Kim is now studying under Professor Kim Dae-jin at the Korean National University of Arts.
“When I was in elementary school, I wanted to study abroad very badly. But now I feel that going abroad to study when one has not mastered his skills and formed his style is not a good thing to do,” he said.
“Unless you go abroad at a very early age, you’re better to stay in Korea and go abroad when you enter college. I learned a lot from teachers and sometimes I went to camps with foreign piano teachers, but none were better than my Korean teachers,” Kim added.
While in primary school, Kim dreamed of becoming a conductor and once skipped school in order to purchase Jung Myong-hoon’s baton in an auction. He said that he practices conducting music in front of a paper banner hanging on his wall, which reads, “Conductor Kim Sun-wook.”


by Lee Jang-jik
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