This article explores the nature of musical creation in Korea and traces the development of the Western notion of composition through the main figures of twentieth-century Korean music. Korean composers have long been divided into composers of kugak (traditional music) and yangak (Western music). There have been attempts to cross the barrier between these two groups, and the extension of the Western concept of composition to traditional music has led to the development of what is referred to paradoxically as "new traditional music." Kugak composers such as Kim Ki-su came to adopt a fully modern approach to composition for traditional instruments. On the other hand, the emergence of a generation of kugak composers in the 1960s has encouraged yangak composers to utilize traditional music as a source of inspiration and material. These developments have led Korean composers to concern themselves increasingly with achieving a synthesis of Korean and Western music.