Unsuk Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, South Korea. She studied with Sukhi Kang and György Ligeti and has lived in Berlin since 1988. Her music has attracted the attention of international conductors including Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Alan Gilbert, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Myung-Whun Chung, George Benjamin, Susanna Mälkki, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, François-Xavier Roth, Leif Segerstam, Hannu Lintu, Jakub Hrusa, Kazushi Ono and Ilan Volkov, among others. It is modern in language, but lyrical and non-doctrinaire in communicative power. Chin has received many honours, including the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, the 2005 Arnold Schoenberg Prize, the 2010 Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award, the 2012 Ho-Am Prize, the 2017 Wihuri Sibelius Prize, the 2019 Hamburg Bach Prize, the 2020 Kravis Prize as well as the 2021 Leonie Sonning Music Prize.
She has been commissioned by leading performing organisations and her music has been performed in major festivals and concert series in Europe, the Far East, and North America by orchestras and ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Gothenburg Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet and Arditti Quartet. In addition, Unsuk Chin has been active in writing electronic music, receiving commissions from IRCAM and other electronic music studios.
In 2007, Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland was given its world premiere at the Bavarian State Opera as the opening of the Munich Opera Festival and released on DVD and Blu-ray by Unitel Classica. She has been Composer-in-Residence of the Lucerne Festival, the Festival d‘Automne, Stockholm International Composer Festival, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cologne Philharmonic’s Eight Bridges festival, the São Paulo Symphony, Casa da Música, BBC Symphony's Total Immersion Festival, Melbourne Symphony, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in Hamburg, and many more. Between 2006 and 2017 Chin was Composer-in-Residence with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, overseeing its contemporary music series which she founded. She served as Artistic Director of the ‘Music of Today’ series of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London for nine seasons between 2011 and 2020. In 2022 she starts a five year tenure as Artistic Director of the Tongyeong International Festival in South Korea. Portrait CDs of her music have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Kairos and Analekta.