Last year the grand mass gymnastics and artistic performance The Glorious Country was staged at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.
The extravaganza included a spectacle of over 1200 people playing the kayagum, a traditional stringed instrument of Korea. What was most impressive was a gray-haired old man playing kayagum enthusiastically in the centre.
He was Han Chol, a kayagum player and composer as well. He is 70 years old.
His wife Pak Song Hye is also a kayagum player.
They entered the specialized course of Pyongyang University of Music (Kim Won Gyun University of Music at present) at the age of 12, and were tutored in kayagum playing by Jong Nam Hui, faculty head of the traditional music and the country’s kayagum maestro.
The two were the favourite disciples of Jong and also made an excellent pair.
After graduating from the university with honours, they worked together with the then National Folk Opera Troupe and got married.
The couple were affectionate toward each other in life, but were very strict in preserving and enriching the traditional methods of kayagum performance.
Since in his 30s, Han Chol created a lot of musical works, such as kayagum solos and concertos, and was awarded the title of Merited Artist in 1995.
Even working as the head of the National Folk Art Troupe and vice-minister of Culture, he never abandoned kayagum.
His wife Pak Song Hye who has trained many excellent kayagum players at Pyongyang Music School No. 1 attached to Kim Won Gyun University of Music since 1987, is an associate professor.
The couple’s lifelong affection for kayagum is being carried forward by their son and daughter, both composers.
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