Unsuk Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, South Korea, and has lived in Berlin since 1988. Her music has attracted international conductors including Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Neeme Järvi, Markus Stenz, Myung-Whun Chung, George Benjamin, Susanna Mälkki, François -Xavier Roth, Leif Segerstam 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 and the 2017 Wihuri Sibelius 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, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, 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 première at the Bavarian State Opera as the opening of the Munich Opera Festival and released on DVD by Unitel Classica. Since 2006, Chin has overseen the contemporary music series of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, a series which she founded herself. Since 2011, she has served as Artistic Director of the 'Music of Today' series of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Portrait CDs of her music have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Kairos and Analekta.