Korean Radio System now under international pressure

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM)  representing some 70 musician unions and orchestral associations around the world has launched an international protest against the the unfair re-auditioning plans of the Korean Broadcasting System for the musicians of the KBSSO. This is  the protest from August 21:

“Dear Sirs,

We have been informed of your intention to outsource the KBS Symphony Orchestra to a private institution and to impose systematic re-auditions on all of its musicians. We deeply believe that such actions will only have detrimental consequences for the public, the musicians and the orchestra itself.

All orchestras of significance throughout the world have a longstanding tradition of social dialogue. Such dialogue is crucial for both conflict prevention and the resolution of the various problems that may occur in the course of an orchestra’s daily life. An open and confident exchange with the musicians’ representatives should therefore be conducted before considering a decision that would not only impact the musicians’ career but also the future of your institution.

KBS, one of the major public broadcasters in Asia, is expected to carry out a mission of public interest with a key cultural dimension. The KBS Symphony Orchestra, whose reputation of excellence goes far beyond the borders of Korea, is one of the most tangible aspects of this mission. Outsourcing the KBSSO to a private body would negatively impact the orchestra’s sustainability, its artistic independence and, in fine, its international image. Regarding the re-auditions that the management and conductor are attempting to impose on the orchestra members, we wish to remind you that all musicians already passed an audition before being initially appointed.

Since then, they have played on stage in full view and scrutiny of the public every week, which in itself represents another form of audition. Re-auditioning is an unnecessary, extremely stressful test for the musicians, which in isolation is unable to give an accurate reflection of the artists’ overall qualities and skills. Finally, and foremost, the artistic personality of an orchestra is the result of a long-term process that depends not only on individual qualities but also on the in-depth work carried out daily by the orchestra as a whole, as well as on the artistic framework defined by its Musical Director. We firmly believe that the revamp of the orchestra as currently envisaged and the re-auditioning of its musicians takes the orchestra in the wrong direction and would be detrimental to both the KBSSO and KBS.

We therefore urge you to engage in discussions with the musicians’ representatives without further delay, with a view to jointly identify the best ways to reach the level of efficiency and artistic excellence that are equally desired by both parties. By so doing, you would maximize your chances to successfully undertake the renewal of the orchestra, for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders involved, including the public. We remain at your disposal to facilitate the dialogue, should you find it useful and appropriate. The World music community would not understand if these requests were to remain unheard.

Yours sincerely,

Benoît Machuel

General Secretary of FIM”

This new scandal of orchestra mismanagement could have severe consequences for the international reputation of the Korean arts and orchestra recognition in the world. And it could lead to an international blacklisting of the conductor Shin-Ik Hahm, too. Which orchestra in the world wants to be conducted by a “maestro” who uses unfair practices or is only able to estimate the quality of an orchestra performance, when he can hear every single musician in a re-audition?

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