Korean musicians in despair as tyrant maestro forces them to reaudition
Five months ago, there were appalling scenes at a rehearsal of the KBS radio orchestra in Seoul, where relations with the conductor Hahm Shinik had reached a point of such tension that several players had to be rushed to hospital. You can watch the video here.
Since then, the KBS has suspended all concerts and ordered the players, with Hahm’s support, to reaudition for their jobs. Tyranny on this scale is unacceptable in modern orchestras, and musical organisations should make Hahm aware of the consequences.
He happens to be chief conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and closely connected to the Seoul industrial-political establishment.
We publish below, for the first time, an appeal from the musicians to their colleagues in German orchestras. Do share it widely.
It has been about five months since the orchestra’s function has stopped by the company and now the situation is getting worse and worse. Every concert is cancelled and it seems like it is impossible to recover and do our role as public broadcasting orchestra. We would like to explain the process that we have been through and KBS’s current action towards the players.
Last December KBS announced the audition for the entire member of the orchestra. they announced thatthe purpose of the audition is to evaluate each player’s playing skill and it will be taken every year. Our current chief conductor Mr. Shin-Ik Hahm fully supported the audition policy that KBS made. He said “the audition to each member is absolutely necessary because during the rehearsal, when a lot of people play togetherI can not recognise who is good or bad. And if they are the members of Korea’s leading orchestra, they have to prove their ability in the audition.”
The chief conductor Shin-Ik Hahm has been in the middle of the controversy ever since he was designated as the chief conductor of KBSSO. At that time, 93% of the members strongly resisted the appointment but for some reason, KBS enforced the appointment and even threatened the players who resisted.
While Shin-Ik Hahm served as a chief conductor in Daejon PhilharmonicOrchestra until 2006, he used ‘audition policy’ to humilate the players whom he disliked. For instance,There were players who he thought played poorly in the audition. He told not to play in the concert. While other players perform on the stage, the players he told not to play in the concert, had to practice in other rooms and play in front of Shin-Ik Hahm after the concert. quite a lot of people resigned from their position because of the humiliation and moral abuse. We feel very embarassed shameful to tell you this story but as Shin-Ik Hahm visits Germany and works with German Orchestras from time to time it is goodto know the fact that how he has treated orchestra players.
The members of KBSSO refused to take the audition because the audition is unfair and unreasonable method of evaluating system for orchestra players. When we got the position in the orchestra, we already passed the audition. Until becoming the tenured player, we participated one year as a probationary employee. And this is a logical system for most of the orchestras in the world.
Most of the players refused to take the audition (except for 6 people who are on the conductor’s side). And KBS took severe disciplanary action to the players. 1 person(chairman of the union commitee) got fired and about 70 people got suspended from 15 days to 6 months. We protested against this ‘audition policy’. further more, We demanded to remove audition for every orchestra in Korea. Every other orchestras in korea, this ‘unfair audition’ is taken by the office and conductors. For instance, the members of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra sign one yaer contract. They have to audition in front of their music director Myung Hoon Chung in order to renew the contract. This happens every year to them. This unfair and unreasonable audition is practised to every orchestra membersin Korea and wehave been fighting against this unfair system.
As a result, KBS decided to outsource KBSSO and make it as an independant foundation. The company is enforcing the planwithout any discussion and agreement from the players and KBS union. This kind of action is absolutely against the law in Korea. Part of its plan includes that the members have to take an audition every year to maintain and develop their musical ability. KBS informed to the players that existing KBSSO will be disbanded as from 1st of september. If we do not sign the transfer agreement for new foundation,KBS will dismiss all playersas September 1st. All members of KBSSO will not sign transferagreement. We are fighting against KBS to withdraw the plan. KBS does not show any will to solve the problemswhich caused this crisis. They just blame the players and outsourcing the orchestra is the only thing they have to do.
KBS designated new chairman of the board and president of the foundation KBSSO. The person who is designated as the chairman of the board has a horrible attitude towards orchestra players. He say “artists who participate in labor union, can not move audience’s heart”. The person who is designated as the president fired large amount of players by audition in every orchestra that he held the office as a president.
As Korea’s leading orchestra members, wewillnot tolerate this oppression and threats agiansit musician’s labor and human rights. We are fighting againstthe company tomaintain our dignity asorchestra players evetn though we all get fired and loose our positionsin KBSSO.We are demanding the followings to KBS
1.KBS must withdraw outsourcing planof KBSSO
2. KBS must resume the concertsimmediately
3. KBS mustwithdrawthe severedisciplanary action taken towards the players of KBSSO
4. KBS mustguarantee for newprestigious cheif conductorimmediately after the contract termination of thecurrent cheif conductor Shin-Ik Hahm(December 31 2012)
Right now we desparately need help and support from orchestra playersof Europe and America. Since Germany is the countryleads classical music culture of all the world, DOV’s support and action will be a great help and give inormous encouragement to the members of KBSSO.We beg your forgiveness to ask for support and helpsuddenly but please understand that we are in desperate situation.Audition towards orchestra workersis cruel, unfair and unresonable method. But it is taken to all orchestra players every yearby ignorant office people and conductorsin Korea. This cruelty must be stopped now. And we are fighting for it. Thank you very much for reading such a long statement. And again, please forgive the impoliteness
Yours, Very Truly
The members of KBS Symphony orchestra