More Symphonic Drama

The controversy continues surrounding Seoul Philharmonic music director Chung Mung-whun, with charges that his remuneration is too high and his family has misused travel expenses intended only for the conductor. 

Photo: Korea Times
photo via the Korea Times. 

In response, Chung has announced he will not renew his contract with the orchestra when it expires at the end of the year. The troubles started last year when several members of the orchestra accused then SPO chief Park Hyun-jung of sexual harassment and abuse, according to the Korea Herald. Park, who was recruited from the private sector, retaliated by claiming that Chung was overpaid and his family was using orchestra funds improperly. Park later resigned her post and last month Seoul prosecutors dismissed the charges brought against her after concluding that no serious wrongdoing was involved.

However, the investigation took into account Park’s own accusations against the music director and that part of the investigation is “still pending.” Chung pointed out that he racked up 100 million won ($100,000) in travel expenses but didn’t file for reimbursement, which is hardly the behavior of a man who wants to defraud the organization he works for.

As the orchestra’s budget is paid for by taxpayer money, the matter is one of public interest and record. For what it’s worth, the SPO is attracting much larger local audiences with every passing year. Park’s replacement as head of the organization, Choe Heung-sik, has said he will try to convince the maestro to stay on.