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Yun Isang composition award reborn

Art/Culture 11:49 September 17, 2019

SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- An international composition award honoring the renowned late South Korean-born composer Yun Isang has resumed after a six-year hiatus this year, the event's organizer said Tuesday.

The Isang Yun Peace Foundation launched the Isang Yun International Composition Prize in 2007 in order to cultivate new composers based on Yun's musical spirit and achievements and also to expand the exchange of music between the East and West. But the event was suspended in 2014 due to difficulties in running the foundation. The foundation has now renamed the event the Isang Yun International Composition Award.

This photo, provided by the Isang Yun Peace Foundation, shows Swiss composer and oboist Heinz Holliger. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Swiss composer and oboist Heinz Holliger and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho have been selected as the co-winners of the 2019 Isang Yun International Composition Award," the foundation said.

The 80-year-old Holliger had shared a deep musical communion with Yun and dedicated one of his oboe pieces to him. He also joined appeals for Yun's release in 1967, when the Korean composer was embroiled in a spy case.

The 67-year-old Saariaho was cited as saying that she was significantly inspired by Yun's music and philosophy when she was young.

This photo, provided by the Isang Yun Peace Foundation, shows Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Yun was at the peak of his celebrity as a composer in Europe in 1967, when he was abducted by the South Korean secret service and taken from Berlin to Seoul.

He was tortured and charged with high treason for meeting with North Koreans in Berlin and for visiting the North. In a trial, he was sentenced to life in prison, but was released in 1969 after 200 artists -- including Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky and Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan -- made worldwide appeals.

Yun was given political asylum by West Germany, eventually becoming a naturalized German citizen. He died of pneumonia in November 1995.

Although he sometimes visited North Korea to teach young musicians, he was never able to return to his birthplace.

It was only in 2005 that his honor was restored as a result of a government-led investigation into human rights abuses, which said the incident had been exaggerated and the government should apologize to the victims.

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