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2015-03-18 17:55
By Kwon Ji-youn



Is the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) a cult led by its musical director Chung Myung-whun?

Loyal SPO members issued a statement Wednesday, telling the public to refrain from circulating malicious speculation about Chung.

But this rallying around the leader can’t be praised for the following reasons.

First, Chung is accused of abusing his privileges and many such allegations were confirmed by an investigation.

Despite this, he was given a one-year extension of his contract.

On top of that, he works for the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), making him a public servant, thereby subjecting him to a strict code of conduct.

For all of this, he got away without making a proper apology.

He is a talented musician but it is an open question as to whether he should be overindulged with taxpayers’ money.

The SPO was recently forced to nix a U.S. tour because it failed to gain enough funding.

Chung was not even in Korea when the cancelation was announced and was instead engaged in private obligations.

Paying him billions of won in annual salary is based on the big draw Chung has in terms of attracting audiences and sponsorship.

The cancelation of the SPO’s U.S. tour raises questions over whether these expectations may be misguided.

“The situation, which began with the former CEO’s alleged mistreatment of employees, has spiraled out of control, and is consequently hindering Chung and the SPO from doing their jobs,” a press release stated. “If there have been misjudgments in the SPO’s management, this must be rectified, but groundless disparagement and distortion of facts must stop.”

Last December, former SPO CEO Park Hyun-jung stepped down in response to a petition for her to be removed. The orchestra’s administrative department called for Park’s resignation, claiming that she neglected her duties and verbally abused employees.

Last week, police raided the SPO office and its computer network management center in central Seoul over defamatory remarks made by its employees against their former boss. Park filed a complaint with the police, claiming that the SPO employees had tarnished her reputation with baseless allegations.

The press release comes just five days after the SPO announced it had cancelled its U.S. tour, which was set for April. It said on March 13 that the orchestra, which is heavily subsidized by the City of Seoul, has failed to secure sufficient financial support from alternative sources and has therefore made the decision not to proceed with the tour.

The SPO had been scheduled to tour Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Davis, Ann Arbor and Santa Barbara from April 14 through 24 with pianist Kim Sun-wook.

“The U.S. tour, which would have been an incredible opportunity for the SPO, has been cancelled,” the members said. “As a result, the SPO’s prestige overseas has plummeted.”

The council said that they have not contacted the maestro directly regarding concert cancellations and other organizational issues, but stressed that all members nonetheless have complete faith in Chung. A council spokesman added that the members are aware of Chung’s health problems, but stressed that this has rarely been an issue.

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