Musicians in Seoul Pledge to Play Until Ukraine War Ends
South Korean musicians from various colleges have been performing in front of the Russian Embassy in Seoul for over a year
Created by Ewha Womans University College of Music orchestra professor Bae Il Hwan, “Concert for Peace” performances have been held near the Russian Embassy in Seoul for over a year — sending the message to end the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022.
Hwan started planning the concert project upon hearing the news that a concert hall in Ukraine had been destroyed by the Russian army. Like him, many musicians have pledged to play their instruments until the war stops. Since March 2021, Hwan has organized weekly concerts outside the Russian Embassy, in which over a hundred musicians have participated.
According to the Kyunghyang Shinmun (Khan) newspaper, relay concerts were initially held every weekday by a group of cellists, except on bad weather days when performing outside was not possible.
“I thought in the beginning this would end in a couple of months. I didn’t know it was going to go on like this,” Hwan told ABC News.
Music played during the concerts have included the Ukrainian National Anthem, Piazzolla’s Libertango, Yang Hee-eun’s Morning Dew, an arrangement of Bach’s unaccompanied cello pieces, and Korean traditional music.
As demonstrations and cultural events cannot be held legally in front of the Embassy, Hwan hopes Russia will cease its invasion of Ukraine, and the peace concerts will discontinue. Various events have occurred around the Russian Embassy, including a candlelight vigil, but these concerts are the first musical contribution.
In May 2023, Bae and musicians of Ewha Womans University were joined by Ukraine’s Chernivtsi Philharmonic Orchestra, whose musicians traveled to Seoul with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska.
“Only about 20 female musicians came to Seoul because all of the male musicians are out on the battlefields fighting for freedom and justice,” Hwan explained to ABC News.
Twice a month, Seoul’s Ukraine community holds a peace protest near the Russian Embassy, with many chanting: “Support and solidarity for Ukraine.”
“We gathered as a community, as a Ukrainian community in Korea,” said Dmytro Vi, a lawyer who went to a peace protest. “Doesn’t matter the weather, we’ll be [here] always, until the war ends.”
“Our concerts [are] meaningful in that we keep going. Anyone can do one or two concerts, but continuing continuously has a different meaning,” Hwan reflected. “If we keep doing this, won’t our intentions be more widely known?”
“This was a good way of letting people know that these [aggressive] things are happening. We hope that peace is restored in Ukraine pretty soon,” added a concert spectator, Anika Kim.