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zzNamkung, Johsel (b. 1919)

HistoryLink.org Essay 3310 : Printer-Friendly Format

A Seattle native since 1947, Korean American Johsel Namkung has had two very successful careers -- one as a singer of classical music, and another as photographer.

He was born in Kwangju, South Korea, in 1919, the son of a Princeton University graduate and first Korean professor at Pyongyang Theological Seminary. Since he grew up in a very international community, it's not surprising that Namkung gained a strong early interest in Western arts. He became a serious musician while still in high school. At age 16, he won first prize in singing at All Korea High School Concours, and at 21 the All Japan Music Concours.

In 1940, Namkung joined his family in self-exile from Japanese occupation in Shanghai. He was joined a year later by his Japanese fiancee Mineko. After the war, anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea prompted the couple to move to Seattle, where he enrolled in the University of Washington graduate school as the first student of the new Ethnomusicology Department while working as a scientific photographer at the university.

After an illustrious second career as nature photographer -- exhibiting at galleries around the world, in public spaces around Seattle, and at the 2001 Folklife Festival Korean art exhibit -- Namkung is revisiting his first career by releasing a CD of music from "The Magic Flute" recorded in a 1949 concert, and from a 1965 recital.

Biographical information prepared by the Johsel Namkung family for the CD, May 2001, Seattle, Washington.

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Related Topics: Biographies | Music & Musicians | Asian & Pacific Islander Americans |

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Johsel Namkung (1919-2013)
Courtesy Wing Luke Asian Museum

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