* Date : 2015-03-17
KIM Cheol-woong, born to a high-ranking member of the ruling party, enjoyed a life of privilege that is exclusive to the top 1% of the North Korean society. When he was just 7, he was accepted into the Pyongyang Music and Dance Institute, despite the high competition ratio of 1:670, and received specialized piano education there for 14 years. Then, he went to Russia to continue his education and became well-versed in various styles of music.
After returning to his home country, he fell in love with a childhood friend, and was planning to woo her with Richard Clayderman's "A Comme Amour," a song that has been banned in North Korea. He was reported to the authorities and he was forced to write a letter of remorse. This event came as a complete shock to him as he had never been bound by any restrictions and believed that he was capable of anything. For 3 days, he neither ate nor slept, and he became resolved to give up his privileged life and defect from North Korea.
He did not tell anyone about his plan, not even his parents. After crossing the border, he struggled to survive, while barely making a living by doing manual labor. He was caught twice during his attempt to seek asylum in South Korea and was nearly repatriated to the isolated country.
Fortunately, his flight for freedom as a human being and musician was not in vain and he stepped on South Korean soil a year after crossing the border. Now, he is performing in front of global audiences, nurturing young talent at universities and raising awareness of the human rights, or lack thereof, in North Korea.
Tune into The INNERview this week to meet the brilliant and courageous pianist KIM Cheol-woong and hear his story!