* Date : 2016-04-06
In December 2001, 27-year-old Kim Cheol-woong put his life on the line to flee from North Korea and slip into Yanbian. It was not an escape from starvation or violation of human rights. He escaped simply because he wanted to play the piano.
Kim Cheol-woong was a son of one of the most powerful families in North Korea. He majored in piano performance at Pyongyang University of Music and Dance and even studied abroad in Russia on government scholarship.
After finishing his studies, he played the piano for the State Symphony Orchestra of DPRK and secured his future.
Around that time, he fell in love with a woman.
She was the niece of the former vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Sung-taek.
Kim Cheol-woong started practicing a piano piece he had heard in Russia to play it during his proposal. However, it was a banned music piece in North Korea.
He had to undergo an investigation by the State Security Department.
"How dare they investigate me?"
Young Kim Cheol-woong became furious. It distressed him to live in a world where playing the piano could become a criminal act.
Without telling his parents, he escaped from North Korea and slipped into Yanbian. However, all that waited for him there was fear as a fugitive and hard labor. From farm work to logging, he did anything to survive. Chinese police even arrested him twice and tried to repatriate him but he escaped.
He did not want to return to a country where he could not play music of his choice.
Then, missionaries came to his help in Yanbian.
They helped him to arrive in Korea safely.
After settling down in South Korea, Kim Cheol-woong married and even had two children. It's been 13 years since he became a Seoul citizen. He's been making a living with piano performances as well as lectures and concerts.
However, he has never felt completely at ease.
People labeled him as a "North Korean defector" wherever he went.
He struggled with this for a long time, but he changed his attitude.
"If you can't avoid it, enjoy it." He began a new project.
As a pianist, all he could do was music.
He was not interested in politics, but he wanted to facilitate unification through the piano. He had much knowledge in North Korean music as well.
He then began holding concerts to play North and South Korean music and even prepared a special highlight with Chinese Korean musicians who played modernized North Korean instruments.
He doesn't know anything about politics, nor does he care.
However, he decided to take a step toward unification to close the gap between North and South Koreans. Arirang Prime documents his journey to unification through music.