Forget ideology - music brings harmony

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Forget ideology - music brings harmony


Kim Cheol-woong, a North Korean pianist who came to South Korea in 2003, hopes to encourage young North Korean defectors to pursue their dreams. Provided by the organizer

Kim Cheol-woong, 33, was a leading musician in North Korea before he escaped to China in 2001.

The former premier pianist with the Pyongyang Philharmonic Orchestra now teaches at the music department of Hansei University in Gyeonggi. He also performs at venues in the South and in other countries on a regular basis. Kim played at the first Beautiful Dream Concert last year. The JoongAng Daily sat down with Kim for an exclusive interview after the concert last week.

Q. What has prompted you to participate in the “Beautiful Dream Concert?”

A. The plight of young North Korean defectors is not just a problem for South Korea or North Korea. Instead, it’s something that any country, anybody that cares about human rights should sympathize with and take responsibility for. In that sense, it is my hope that in the coming years we can take our concerts abroad and raise the awareness of the international community. Although it’s too early at this stage, we’ve already seen an increase in public interest in our concerts. There was a larger audience, more sponsors and a more diverse program this year.

You watched the rehearsals of the Dream Choir. What did you think watching them?

I realized kids are just kids - no matter where they come from or how they were raised. At first, they seemed shy and awkward around each other. But since they speak the same language, they soon became close and together made beautiful music. And that made me think, maybe this is a reflection of our reality. We may experience some differences in opinion at first, but soon we can reach harmony.

In your opinion, what is the biggest problem young North Korean defectors face today? And what should be done to solve it?

I think most of their struggles stem from a lack of education. The future is all about knowledge, science, information and technology. If they lag behind in those areas, they could end up as social failures. I believe it is important not only to make people know about the issue but also to touch their hearts so that they realize why they have to help and what differences it would make. I realized that with our fundraising campaign in Australia last year. We raised funds worth more than 10 million won.

You’ve performed at many different places. Is there any particularly memorable concert?

I remember performing at the International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees held in Bergen, Norway in May 2006. I played my arrangement of “Arirang” [a Korean folk song] and people were deeply moved. Some came up to me and said they came here to help but instead received help. That made me realize the power of culture and the power of music. It goes beyond borders and political ideology.

Kim Cheol-woong will perform at venues in the United States next month. He plans to give a solo recital at Chonbuk National University Cultural Center in North Jeolla on Oct. 26.

Call (063) 270 2089~90 for details.
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