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International Music Resources by Country: Korea

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Aerial view of Seoul, South Korea

Citation (1)

Map of South Korea

Map of Korea

Citation (3)

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Cover Art


Korean Music

The Art of the Geomungo Sanjo Album Art

Folk & Classical Music of Korea Album Art

Sinakowan Album Art

Facts in Brief

Korean Flag


Capital: Seoul

Official Language: Korean 

Current Population: 51,821,669

Area: 100,364

Climate:  The climate is marked by cold, dry winters, with an average temperature of −6°C (21°F), and hot, humid summers, with an average temperature of 25°C (77°F).

Main Religions: Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Chundo Kyo

Citation (2)

Traditional Korean Music

Court Music

Chinese ritual music (yayue, Korean pronunciation, aak) came to Korea as a gift from the Chinese emperor in 1116 and was originally performed in a number of formal court ceremonies. This is stately, rarified music performed by two alternating ensembles of special wind and percussion instruments of Chinese origin, such as the sets of tuned bronze bells (p'yŏnjong) and stone chimes (p'yŏn'gyŏng) many of these instruments are used for no other purpose. Other court ceremonial music, mainly of Korean origin (for which the native term is hyangak but also loosely called aak), includes two suites (Pot'aep'yŏng and Chŏngdaeŏp) of 11 pieces each, performed by singers and two large instrumental ensembles at the annual sacrifice to royal ancestors at the royal ancestral shrine (Chongmyo) in Seoul and in concert. The history of these suites can be traced in detail through numerous scores as far back as their origin in the mid-15th century. 

Aristocratic genres

Non-ceremonial instrumental music of the former ruling aristocracy of the Chosŏn dynasty is essentially limited to one suite of nine increasingly faster movements, Yŏngsan hoesang, which is performed in a number of versions of varying instrumentation and is employed both as chamber music and dance accompaniment. Hyŏnak Yŏngsan hoesang is set for mixed ensemble of strings, winds and percussion; KwanakYŏngsan hoesang is for winds and percussion only; P'yŏngjo hoesang is set for mixed ensemble but is melodically transposed down a 4th and somewhat more ornamented; and Pyŏlgok is again for mixed ensemble but omits some movements and adds three other quick movements at the end. Refined, subtle vocal music setting poetry of high literary quality is found in kagoksijo and kasa. The repertory of kagok, for male or female solo voice with eight accompanying string, wind and percussion instruments, consists of about 40 interrelated pieces, each setting a poem in the favourite national form known as sijo, consisting of three couplets. 

Folk Music

Music considered by Korean to form their folk tradition includes both professional and amateur genres. The highest artistry and training is required for p'ansori, a dramatic narrative form for solo voice and drum (puk), which has developed over several centuries; it employs song, speech and gesture.  Only five stories remain in the active modern repertory, but each lasts several hours and provides ample scope for individual interpretation and development. In the recent past, other folk genres have been refined to a professional level. Nongak, farmers’ music, for example, has been performed by bands of percussion instruments for many centuries at both a simple local level and at a professional level by touring bands. Loud music for outdoor events, nongak ranges from simple work rhythms to assist repetitive tasks in the fields to complex set pieces performed by professional bands at concerts and festivals.

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Citation (4)

Composer Highlight: Kim Jin-hi

Kim Jin-hi playing komungo

Kim Jin-hi

b. 1957

Composer and komungo performer of South Korean birth. She is internationally recognized as an innovative virtuoso on the komungo (a Korean fourth-century fretted-board zither) as well as for her cross-cultural compositions. She learned to play piano as a child, but followed her father’s encouragement to study Korean music. She was in the first class of students to be accepted to Korea’s National High School for Korean Traditional Music, and chose to pursue komungo, traditionally associated with male performers. She typically integrates the komungo (either acoustic or electric) into compositions for chamber ensemble and orchestra, mixed ensembles, and avant-garde jazz improvisations. Kim's works have been presented at premiere venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Royal Festival Hall (London), and festivals such as Musique Action Festival (France), the Asian Pacific Festival (New Zealand), Nazuca Music Festival (Peru), Moers New Jazz Festival (Germany), and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (Canada).


(1): "Seoul" by "Jay Daley"

(2): Location, Climate, Language, Religion, Flag, Capital (The Republic of Korea), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 07 January 2022 from

(3): Country Map (The Republic of Korea), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 07 January 2022 from

(4): Provine, R., Hwang, O., & Howard, K.  Korea. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 7 Jan. 2022, from