|Founded||1973 (as "Yoo-Ah company")|
Young H. Park
|Headquarters||660 Dungchon 3 Dong
Gangseo-gu, Seoul 157-030
Steel-string acoustic guitar
Cort Guitars (Cor-Tek) is a guitar manufacturer centered in South Korea. The company is one of the largest guitar makers in the world, and produces instruments for many other companies. They have factories in Indonesia, Korea and China.
The Cort company, as its current incarnation, was founded in 1960 as an importer of pianos by current CEO Young Park's father. At that time, the company was called Soo Doh Piano. The business slowly evolved from a piano importer to a manufacturer and sales division then finally into a guitar manufacturer in 1973. At this early stage of the company's history, Soo Doh was strictly an OEM supplier to other foreign brand name companies. The company eventually changed its name to Cort Musical Instruments, focused on guitars as it became much more proficient at it than producing pianos and released the first Cort-branded guitars in 1982. Cort began production of headless guitars in 1984 with designs exclusively licensed from Ned Steinberger for Cort's own brand as well as for brands like Hohner and Kramer. This development helped bring the Cort name to the mainstream electric guitar market and attracted the attention of other well-known brand name companies seeking contract guitar manufacturers in Korea.
Cort does not have a model of guitar that could be called their "signature," like the Stratocaster for Fender or the Les Paul for Gibson. Instead, Cort produces an extensive line of guitars to fit different guitarists and genres of music. Cort produces a wide variety of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars, and electric basses, with the main emphasis being on producing a good product at a competitive price.
In addition to the models currently being made, Cort has produced many others, including the S series guitars (Stellar, Sterling, Starlite), the Viva guitars, MGM (Matt Guitar Murphy), Freedom bass (Billy Cox), Neil Zaza, Larry Coryell, Elrick bass, J Triggs (Jim Triggs), Katana, and Effector. Several of the earliest Corts were direct copies of popular models such as the Stratocaster.
Up until 2006, Cort manufactured a line of high quality guitars under the name 'Cort Parkwood'. In 2006, Cort turned Parkwood into a brand of its own and now does not feature the Cort name or logo. This is a brand sold exclusively through big box stores such as Guitar Center. Cort continues to manufacture the Parkwood Brand in South Korea although it is printed "Handcrafted in China" inside the guitar body. The Hybrid series coming from Indonesia.
The Cort M-Series is as close to a signature shape as Cort gets across its range. Cort has released a limited production run of MMP series electric guitars from its own custom shop. Somewhere between 25 and 50 of each MMP model were released. So far Cort has released an MMP1, with 'tree of life' inlay up the neck and finished in antique sunburst, an MMP2 and MMP3 available in "transparent cannon blue" and "brown burst" finishes. These guitars are generally highly regarded  and appear to be heavily influenced by higher-end PRS models, in both quality standards and style.
Cort's main production focus is not on Cort-brand guitars, but rather on contract work for numerous other companies. Generally, large companies contract Cort to build lower-priced guitars that have that company's brand on them. Ibanez, Parkwood, Squier, G&L Tribute series line of guitars are among the most well-known brands that Cort produces. In recent years, small companies known for extremely high quality (and high-priced) guitars have begun contracting Cort to produce budget line models. Avalon, based out of Northern Ireland, sold 8,000 guitars and more than doubled their income from the previous year when they contracted Cort to build a lower-priced guitar for them.
Since 1997 controversy has surrounded Korean factories of Cort and Cor-Tek due to its alleged mistreatment of factory workers. Grievances include the closing of its Daejon factory with no advance warning on April 9, 2007, mass redundancies of all staff from its Incheon plant on April 12, 2007, and the firing and mistreatment of union officials and members.
On July 12, 2007 a Cort worker set himself on fire in protest, and on October 15, 2008 workers conducted a 30-day hunger strike and sit-in occupation on a 40-meter electricity tower. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian - both partners in the Axis Of Justice - joined representatives of the Cort workers in a protest concert against Cort and Cor-tek on January 13, 2010 at the Nanum Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Morello said "I fully support the Korean workers' demands for justice in the workplace. All American guitar manufacturers and the people that play them should hold Cort accountable for the awful way they have treated their workers."
This controversy went through various legal stages in Korea from 2007 through 2012. Ultimately, Cort received favorable decisions from the Supreme Court in Korea that ended any further liability on Cort's part to the terminated employees. The court recognized that the closure of the plant in 2008 and subsequent layoff were justified. More details can be read on Yulchon's Newsletter.