Younghi Pagh‑Paan was born in 1945 in Cheondu, South Korea. From 1965 to 1971 she studied at the Seoul National University, prior to coming to Germany on a DAAD scholarship. From 1974 Younghi Pagh‑Paan studied at the Freiburg Musikhochschule, where her teachers included Klaus Huber (composition), Brian Ferneyhough (analysis), Peter Förtig (music theory) and Edith Picht-Axenfeld (piano); she concluded her studies in 1979.
She gained international attention through the performance of her orchestral work «SORI» at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1980. Her works, which seek to renew the nature of Korean musical culture by means of various Western composition techniques, aroused increasing interest at the most important new music festivals, and in concert series throughout Europe.
Younghi Pagh‑Paan has won numerous awards for her output: in 1978 the 1st Prize at the 5th Composers Seminar in Boswil (Switzerland), in 1979 the 1st Prize at the Rostrum of Composers (Unesco, Pads), as well as the Na‑Pa Music Prize in Korea, and in 1980 the 1st Prize of the City of Stuttgart. 1980/1981 she had a scholarship at the Südwestfunk's Heinrich‑Strobel-Stiftung, and in 1985 a scholarship from the Kunststiftung of Baden-Württemberg. In 1995 she was awarded the Heidelberg Artists Prize.
1995 Portrait concert at the Akiyoshidai International Contemporary Music Seminar & Festival, Japan 1996 Dutch tour by the Nieuw Ensemble with «SOWON/Wunsch» (premiered Witten, WDR commission); lecturer at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.
1997 Portrait concert at the Easter Festival '97 ‑ Music of the Religions ‑ in Innsbruck.
1998 Premieres of «GO‑UN NIM» for chamber orchestra to mark the reopening of the Bremen Kunsthalle; «sowon ... borira» for female voice and orchestra during the Donaueschingen Festival; »HWANG‑TO W for five voices at the Frau Musica Nova festival in Cologne.
1999 Premiere of «BI‑YU» for soprano and ensemble, commissioned by Ensemble Phorminx for the Goethe Year, with a subsequent German tour.
2000 «Io» for 9 instrumentalists commissioned by Expo 2000, premiered in the German Pavilion; premiere of «Toaring Hooves» for seven instruments and wind noises at Ulan Bator in Mongolia.
2001 Premiere of «Dorthin, wo der Himmel endet» for orchestra with mezzo‑soprano and six male voices, commissioned for the 18th Music Biennale in Berlin 2001.
2004 along with Klaus Huber, workshop and concerts at the Trossingen Conservatory (New Chamber Music Week).
2005 Portrait concert at the KunstRaum in Drochtersen‑Hüll; premiere of the first version of «Wundgeträumt» for six instrumentalists by ensemble recherche, as part of the Ars musica Festival in Brussels. Premiere of the final version at the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik; portrait concerts at the Gegenwelten festival in Neckargmünd (premiere of «MAN‑NAM III» for accordion and string trio).
2002‑2005 Composition of the music theatre work Mondschatten' on a libretto by Juliane Votteler (after Sophocles' «Œdipus at Colonus») written in collaboration with the composer, and incorporating original texts by Byung-Chul HAN (premiere Stuttgart 2006).
Following guest professorships at the conservatories in Graz (1991) and Karlsruhe (1992/1993), in 1994 Younghi Pagh‑Paan was appointed Professor of Composition at the Hochschule der Künste in Bremen; here she founded the Atelier Neue Musik which she has directed ever since.
2006 Lifetime Archievement Award of Seoul National University.
2007 Order of Civil Merit of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
2009 15th KBS Global Korean Award.
2009 Member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
2011 Bremische Medaille für Kunst und Wissenschaft.
2013 Paiknam Prize (life achievement award, South Korea).
Younghi Pagh‑Paan lives in Bremen and Panicale (Italy).