One of the specialties of Unhasu Orchestra was that a large amount of people went through it. Some musicians and singers stayed with it from the beginning till the end, but many people visited only once, or stayed only for a few concerts before moving to somewhere else. Thus it is impossible to say how many people altogether participated in the UO during its time, nor is it possible to find their names. Some visitors were young children or teenagers, some very old teachers from the Kim Won Gyun Pyongyang University of Music. Especially the names of background musicians were only seldom disclosed. In the list below there are thus only a limited number of names and pictures of people.
Mun Kyong-jin 문경진, first violin, concert master, People’s Artist.
According to Kuwolsan (yForum comments), the DPRK booklets handed out at the Paris Unhasu concert in 2012 gave a good description of Mun Kyong Jin’s educational background, on which I have added details from a 23 July 2005 KCNA article ‘Letter to Kim Jong Il from Winner of Int’l Violin Concours’ and other sources:
– was born in 1981, as the son of a musician, who most likely belonged to one of the well placed Pyongyang families, enabling good education for the child
– was placed at the Pyongyang Taedongmun Kindergarten, which is specialized in violin and kayagum education for small children, in central Pyongyang (KCNA 20091105). During school years his musical education quite likely took place in some of the School Children’s Palaces in Pyongyang.
– 2000: graduation from the Kim Won Gyun conservatory (later renamed KWG University of Music); in the letter he gives credit to Kim Jong Il for the favour of enabling his studies at the university.
2000-possibly musical studies in China.
– 2005: played violin at the Mansudae Art Troupe.
2005-2007: studied at the Moscow State Conservatory P.I. Tchaikovsky (Московская Государственная Консерватория им. П. И. Чайковского) at the postgraduate level, without being enrolled in a degree programme.
2002: 2nd prize at the 12th “2.16 individual Performing Arts Competition” (Pyongyang)
2005 July: 1st prize at the Canetti International Violin Competition (Miscolc, Hungary). He did not actually win the competition, as the winner’s title was Grand Prix, which went to Russian violinist Lena Semenova, while the 1st prize was divided between Mun and Russian violinist Pavel Milyukov. But this was a good result anyway.
2005 December: 2nd prize at the 3rd Paganini violin competition (Moscow). Also in the 4th competition in 2006 there was a participant from North Korea, but as he/she did not win a prize, we do not know the name. As it is unlikely that Mun would have participated a second time in the same competition, also another North Korean violinist probably has been at that time in Moscow.
2006: 3rd prize at the 4th Yampolski violin competition (Moscow)
2006 December: prize (no number given) at the Astana Merey competition (Astana, Kazakhstan) http://www.oistrakh.ru/en/laureates/2007/210/
2007 February: 2nd prize at the 3rd Moscow International David Oistrakh Violin Competition.
2007 June 15-19: participated in the first round of the renowned Tchaikovsky competition, but his name was no more seen in the second round, which means that he dropped. http://music8.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/classical/1179078458/ items 62, 235 and 255.
– As his participation in international competitions ended in June 2007, he probably returned to Pyongyang some time after that, Mansudae Art Troupe being his most likely place of employment. Many of the musicians for Unhasu Orchestra were picked from there in 2009. In that year he became 28 years old, had a fair amount of international experience behind him, and already in the first UO concert sat in the position of the first violin. The DPRK invested quite much on him; for his basic education, foreign studies and participations in international competitions. We do not have corresponding amounts of information about any other UO artist.
Kim Su-myong 김수명, deputy concert master in Paris
Jong Son-yong 정선영, the female violin star.
Names of the following ones are unknown.
Contrabasso, names unknown
Kayagum 가야금 伽倻琴
Lots of unknown pianists, more than in these pictures. During the early period they tended to be male, towards the end a large number of young women occupied the pianist’s seat.
Guitar and bass. The bass remained anonymous, but the name of the guitarist was found.
There appeared to be three or more different harp players, and the name of none of them was disclosed, and often their faces were not shown. If shown, in a way that it is difficult to say if a person in an other picture is the same or not. We know, nevertheless, one of them, namely Jo Ok-ju, who at least once played that instrument.
Saxophone; the six gentlemen were with UO since the beginning, and only near the very end their ranks started to diminish.
These three young ladies were one time visitors
A modern North Korean version of a traditional instrument with a loud and piercing sound, used by military and farmer’s bands. It came to Korea from China about a thousand years ago. In South Korea it is called also taepyeongso 태평소 太平簫 and other names. It was used by UO only in a few traditional songs. Kim Un-chol 김은철 was specialized on senap playing.
Accordeon. It was not a usual instrument in UO, but appeared occasionally.
Percussion and drums