Clad in a jet black rayon suit, a diminutive 71-year old Korean man stepped up to the podium to receive a custom built tribute guitar from guitar manufacturer`s Fender Musical Instruments at an event in Sinsa-dong, Seoul on Tuesday.
Considered a pioneer and a legend of Korean rock, Shin Joong-hyun became the first Asian musician to be the recipient of the Fender Custom Shop Tribute Series guitar joining the ranks of other such rock luminaries as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Widely known as the "Godfather of Korean rock" the singer was presented with the custom model named "Shin Joong-hyun Tribute Stratocaster" by the guitar maker`s senior vice president of global marketing Richard McDonald.
"I am speechless. This is like a dream to me. I don`t know what to say but thank you," Shin said.
"It is an honor to be the recipient of such a great guitar and all I really want to do right now is to play it for everyone."
With a horde of reporters egging on the veteran rocker to perform for them, Shin obliged.
With one foot on top of a chair, he cradled the new tribute guitar, closed his eyes and began to play "Mee-in."
Built by renowned master builder Dennis Galuszka, the guitar was designed with a vintage motif based on Shin`s old Stratocaster.
The black body had a scratched surface giving it an antique look with its neck and fretboard made of premium grade maple wood.
The guitar was unveiled to the press by McDonald before it was presented to the man of the hour.
"Shin is someone I`ve heard about for a long time and I`ve been very eager to meet him. (He) has achieved great success and fame here in Korea and is well known as the godfather of Korean rock,`" he said.
"The fact that he has done this with a Fender Stratocaster is of great pride for the company and myself."
The first time Shin came in contact with a Fender guitar was during the mid 1950s.
"Back in those days I was performing as part of a music troupe for the United States Army with a brand-less clunker of a guitar," he said.
"And then one day I saw someone performing with a Fender and asked myself, `When will I ever get to touch a guitar like that?` and so for me to receive a custom guitar as a tribute is like a dream."
So how did the people at Fender get wind of this unsung hero of Korean rock?
In 1996 local guitar manufacturer GuitarNet`s John Park met Shin and that meeting would go on to inspire the owner of the fledgling instrument maker.
Park had become so affected by Shin`s love for the iconic Stratocaster, Park sent a proposal to McDonald, requesting the company build a custom model just for Shin. Needless to say, they accepted.
"Fender is a sincere guitar. It gives you back what you give to it," Shin said.
"When I`m sad, it gives me melancholy sounds, when I`m upbeat, it gives me upbeat sounds. It`s an honest guitar."
Along with honoring the veteran rocker, the landmark guitar makers also opened its new custom shop showroom in Sinsa-dong. It is the fourth of its kind after Italy, Germany and Japan.
By Song Woong-ki