This study examines how international song festivals shaped Korean musicians’ sense of the world in the 1970s and early 1980s.
After the Korean composer, Yi Pongjo, won a top-10 prize at the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in 1970, an astonishing number of Korean musicians participated in international song festivals held in Japan. Meanwhile, Korean broadcasting companies strengthened their cooperative relationship with Japanese television stations and initiated their own international song festivals in the late 1970s: Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)’s Seoul International Song Festival in 1978 and Tongyang Broadcasting Corporation (TBC)’s World Song Festival in 1979. During the first two years of its festival, MBC organized its song contest by collaborating with television stations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the ASEAN countries. However, the World Song Festival was more critically acclaimed because TBC invited renowned musicians from America and European countries, including Yugoslavia, in collaboration with the International Federation of Festival Organizations (FIDOF). Thus, from 1980, FIDOF helped MBC attract composers and singers from Europe and America to their Seoul International Song Festival.
This paper sheds light on connections within the popular music arena between South Korea and the outside world during the Cold War—a subject that has been poorly examined.