It was announced on Thursday that master singer of pansori, a traditional Korean genre of musical storytelling, Ahn Sook-sun is expected to be acknowledged as the holder of the intangible cultural property of “Song of Chunhyang.”
Joining the National Changgeuk Company of Korea in 1979, Ahn played the role of Chunhyang in more than 200 pieces of Changgeuk until she retired as an elder member, making her the singer who has played the character most. Presumably, her special link to Chunhyang led the master singer to request early last year that the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) recognize her as the holder of “Song of Chunhyang,” a national intangible cultural heritage. The agency commented that she excels in imparting the song to next generations in desirable environments and makes great contributions as a bearer of intangible traditional heritages.
Back in 1997, Ahn was designated as the holder of “gayageum sanjo and byeongchang” or another intangible cultural heritage. If she is officially recognized as the holder of “Song of Chunhyang” based on the intangible cultural heritage committee’s 30-day deliberations after prior announcement of designation, the existing holdership of “gayageum sanjo and byeongchang” will be retrieved accordingly. The Cultural Heritage Administration does not allow for any overlapping of holdership of intangible cultural heritages to ensure stability in the transmission of intangible culture.
Back in 1988, Ahn performed pansori in 12 cities of eight European countries including France, Britain and Germany, which allowed her to join the ranks of master pansori singers. Later in 1998, she became the first South Korean pansori singer to be invited to the Avignon Festival in France where panelists highly commended her for having a heavenly voice following her performance. In the same year, she was given an honor to receive the French order of culture and arts named Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for the first time as a traditional South Korean artist. One year later, she was awarded the Okgwan Order of Culture Merit by the South Korean cultural ministry in recognition of promoting Korean classical music gukak across the globe.
Born in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, Ahn started learning gukak at the age of nine as recommended by gayageum master Kang Soon-young, her aunt. Relocating to Seoul at the age of 19, she learned five madang episodes of pansori and gayageum byeongchang from top masters of that time such as Park Kui-hui, her tutor.