Born in 2006 in Wonju, Gangwon Province, South Korea, cellist Jae Min Han had an early introduction to classical music thanks to his flutist parents, and took up the cello at the age of five. In May 2021 he gained worldwide recognition with his sensational triumph at the 2021 George Enescu International Cello Competition in Bucharest, Romania. At the age of 15, he became the youngest ever winner of the top prize in the history of the competition.
His natural talent was evident from an early age. Only three years after he began playing the cello, Han had his first concerto debut with the Wonju Philharmonic Orchestra. Soon after his prodigious talent led him to numerous major competition wins in Korea, such as the Ewha & Kyunghyang Concours, the Dong-A Junior Music Competition, the Strad Competition of Korea, the Korean Chamber Orchestra (KCO) Competition, the CBS Youth Music Competition, the Eumyeon Competition, and the Sungjung Music Competition. His success continued outside of Korea, as he won the Osaka International Music Competition in 2015 and the David Popper International Cello Competition in 2017. In 2019, Han took the top prize and a special prize for a contemporary piece at the International Dotzauer Competition for Young Cellists.
The list of his achievements to date defies his young age. Han has performed with Korea’s leading orchestras including the Korean Chamber Orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bucheon Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Seoul National Symphony Orchestra. Han has given numerous solo and chamber music concerts in some of the most coveted concert series and venues in Korea. He performed in the Kumho Prodigy Concert Series and its 20th anniversary concert in 2018, and the gala concert of the House Concert in 2017, where he has been regularly reinvited to perform. He was featured in a special program on musical prodigies for JTBC’s online program Classic Today in 2018.
In 2018, Han participated as a student at the Music in Pyeongchang MPYC Academy, and won the concerto competition at the festival. As a prize winner, he earned an opportunity to perform Saint Saens’ Cello Concerto with the PyeongChang Festival Orchestra in the closing concert under the direction of Chi-yong Chung. His mature musicianship stunned audiences and critics alike, as he was only 12 years old.
In December 2020 Han was invited to join renowned pianist Sun-wook Kim in playing Johannes Brahms’ Cello Sonatas No. 1 and No. 2 at the House Concert Series. The live-streamed concert received rave reviews. Ten days later, in January 2021, Han performed Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmoninov’s Cello Sonatas with another prodigy, pianist Yun-chan Lim in the Kumho Prodigy Concert Series’ season opener at the Kumho Art Hall Yonsei in Seoul. Mira Lee, a critic for Korea’s leading classical music magazine, Auditorium, wrote, “Who could have even guessed it was two teenagers on the stage, if the title of the concert hadn’t mentioned the word ‘prodigy’?”
Han played Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with Ensemble the Bridge, conducted by Cha Woong, as part of the closing concert of the Music in PyeongChang Winter Festival in February 2021.
Laureate of the 2020 Shinham Music Awards, Han became the youngest student ever to be admitted to the undergraduate program of the prestigious Korea National University of Arts, and is currently in his first year of study. He is scheduled to perform at the George Enescu Festival this summer.