Isang Yun was born in 1917 in San Chung Gun near Tong Yong, South Korea. He studied Cello and Composition in Korea and Japan. Active opposition to the Japanese occupation resulted in being imprisoned until the end of World War II.
After gaining his freedom, he spent a period teaching music at Korean high schools and universities. In 1956 Yun travelled to Europe to continue his studies in Paris and Berlin (with Boris Blacher), also attending the International Summer Courses in Darmstadt. He became a German citizen in 1971 and a resident of Berlin in 1964.
Yun was abducted from Germany by the Korean Park regime, who imprisoned him from 1967 to 1969, and his release was followed by a period of political activity on behalf of the restitution of democracy in the country of his birth. Since his return to Germany, he taught at the Musikhochschule Hannover (1969–1970), becoming Professor of Composition at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin (1970–1985).
Isang Yun was a member of the Academy of Arts Hamburg and the Academy of Arts Berlin, held an honorary doctorate from the University of Tübingen, was an honorary member of the ISCM, a member of the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea in Salzburg, and held many other distinctions (among them Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit).