Award Citation

Mr. Hwang Byung-ki is a virtuoso player of, and composer for the kayagum, a traditional Korean musical instrument. In the subtle and imaginative works he has composed and performed on this instrument, he has developed a highly original world that embraces both a contemporary feel and an international outlook while at the same time preserving the tradition of kayagum.

Mr. Hwang was born in Seoul in 1936. At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 he was evacuated to Pusan, and there he first encountered the kayagum. The beautiful tones of the music enchanted him. From 1951 to 1959, he learnt to play the kayagum at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. When the Faculty of Korean Traditional Music was created in the College of Music, Seoul National University, in 1959, he began teaching there. Later on, he taught at the School of Korean Traditional Music, Ewha Womans University as a professor from 1974 to 2001, during which period he traveled to many places across the world, such as Europe and the US, to give concerts. Currently he is professor emeritus at Ewha Womans University, and also he has been since 2006 the Artistic Director of the National Orchestra of Korea.

On the one hand, he has contributed enormously to the Korean music world by nurturing young talent at university, and on the other, his own outstanding talent as performer and composer has earned him a number of prestigious prizes. These include the Grand Prize of KBS Korean Classical Music Competition in 1957, the National Music Prize in 1965, the Jungang Cultural Grand Prize in 1992, the Bang Il-young Traditional Music Award in 2003, and the National Academy of Arts Prize in 2006. The high regard in which he is held both abroad and at home reflects his pioneering contributions to the field of traditional music.

Mr. Hwang calls himself a traditional performer and modern composer. He has a profound understanding of tradition, and furthermore he exhibits a creativity that goes beyond tradition and his own personal style. Chimhyang-moo (1974) -- which has been called the turning-point in his musical development -- was created through going back to the court music developed under the Korean dynasties, when traditional Korean music was formed, and attempting to recreate the time when the Silla dynasty was in contact with Central Asia. In this piece, a delicate beauty and a profound mystery are exquisitely presented. His celebrated masterpiece Labyrinth (1975), an avant-garde dismantling of conventions, also broke new ground, continuing his determination both to develop and to challenge traditional forms, by introducing contemporary and universal themes.

Mr. Hwang is a true heir to the kayagum tradition, who plays it with deep understanding as well as superb technique, and who composes music that has reached out from Korea across Asia and to the rest of the world, overcoming the barriers created by tradition and by fashion. Both as a performer and a composer, he has achieved truly impressive results, and therefore, he indeed deserves the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.

At his house, as an elementary school second grader (1944).
At the welcoming ceremony in Panmunjeom, North Korea when he was invited to join the Pyong-yang National Unification Concert as a representative of South Korea (1990).
His fantastic performance of Kayagum.