Studying (But Not Competing)

Abroad Many Asian music students study in the U.S. or Europe to broaden their experience and make international connections important to make a career of classical music. However, sometimes this strategy backfires, as one Korean violinist learned when she tried to enter a prestigious competition in her native country.

The woman, identified only by her surname Kim in the JoongAng Daily, is studying and living in Los Angeles and wanted to enter the Seoul International Music Competition when she heard that the organizers subsidize travel and accommodations for entrants living abroad.

However, Kim found out that these subsidies don’t apply to her because she is a Korean national. In principle, the competition, which is sponsored by another daily newspaper and the Seoul municipal government, states that travel expenses are the responsibility of the applicant, but because the competition wants a broad range of international representation, it “provides financial aid toward international airfare” for competitors who do not reside in Korea.

These entrants can also receive room and board, as well as free access to practice facilities and the use of an accompanist. None of these perks are available to Koreans living abroad, however, and Kim thinks it’s unfair, especially as she has heard that Korean students who live in South Korea but in remote rural areas have to also pay for transportation and room-and-board. In essence, the organizers are making it difficult for Koreans to participate in an international competition that takes place in their own country.

When JoongAng contacted the organizers they said there was nothing they could do because of budgetary limitations, even though the prize money adds up to almost $100,000.

“Seoul International Music Competition is an international competition,” an official told the paper, “therefore it’s crucial for us to attract foreign students.” He added that Korean students who live abroad “usually have family living in Korea” and access to other resources that foreigners don’t.