Korean singer soothes strained ties

by Yasuji Matsumoto


A second-generation Korean resident in Japan, singer Chon Wol Son has for three decades performed songs from the two countries she calls home.

The 56-year-old soprano in September received an award from the Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation for her contributions to deepening bilateral relations through music.

In many of her songs, Chon expresses her feelings toward her family, whose live has been affected by the dividing of the Korean Peninsula.

“Whether the South or the North, wherever you live, you are all brothers who love each other” — she sings in one of her most popular songs.

Chon explained that her mother died worrying about her four brothers who moved to North Korea but were there imprisoned for espionage, and that her mother left her with the thought that the North-South tragedy will not end unless there is unification.

“I can’t say enough when I think about my mother’s hardship, but if we look at the bigger picture, we just need to find a good solution,” Chon said.

Chon, from the western Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa, entered Toho Gakuen College Music Department at a time when many universities in Japan still refused to admit Korean students.

She debuted as a singer in 1983 and in her performances has always included Korean songs, some of which she was the first to sing for Japanese audiences.

“Many of my (audiences) have told me that they had never heard such beautiful melodies and were impressed with them,” she said.

“I have performed with Japanese and Korean musicians on the same stage and shared the joy (despite strained relations),” Chon said.

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