Cort Guitars

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Cort Guitars
(Cor-Tek Corporation)
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1973; 50 years ago (1973) (as "Yoo-Ah company")
FounderJung-gyu Park[1]
Area served
Key people
Young-ho Park (CEO)[1]
ProductsElectric and acoustic guitars, basses, ukuleles

Cort Guitars (Cor-Tek Corporation)[2] is a South Korean guitar manufacturing company located in Seoul.[3] The company is one of the largest guitar makers in the world, and produces instruments for many other companies. It also has factories in Indonesia and China.

Products manufactured by Cort include electric, acoustic and classical guitars, basses, and ukuleles.


M600, green flamed maple
Z-Custom Open Pore Natural Burst, from Zenox Series

Cort Musical Instruments is a South Korean company that produces electric guitars, acoustic guitars, basses and amplifiers. The company was founded in 1960 by Jung-gyu Park, who was the father of the current CEO Young-ho Park. Initially, the company was called Soo Doh Piano and imported pianos from Japan and Europe to meet the growing demand for musical instruments in Korea. However, the business gradually evolved into a manufacturer and sales division, and eventually into a guitar manufacturer in 1973¹. At that time, Soo Doh Piano was an OEM supplier to other foreign brand name companies, such as Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone and Squier. The company changed its name to Cort Musical Instruments in 1984 and focused on guitars as it became much more proficient at it than producing pianos. In 1982, Cort released the first Cort-branded guitars¹, which were designed by American luthiers such as Bill Lawrence and Larry Coryell. 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 Korea¹². Today, Cort is one of the largest guitar makers in the world, with factories in Indonesia, China and Vietnam, as well as its own R&D center in Seoul. Cort produces a wide range of guitars, from entry-level models to high-end custom shop instruments. Cort also collaborates with famous artists such as Gene Simmons, Matt Bellamy, Jeff Berlin and Frank Gambale to create signature models³.


Cort does not have a specific model of guitar that could be called its “signature”, like the Stratocaster for Fender or the Les Paul for Gibson. Instead, Cort produces a wide variety of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars, and electric basses.

Cort KX500MS Star Dust Green -fanned fret / multi-scale -7-string electric guitar with EMG-pickups.


  • Aero
  • Classic Rock
  • EVL
  • Performer
  • G
  • Gene Simmons
  • Hollowbody
  • Sterling
  • Sunset
  • Master8R
  • KX series
  • M series
  • Signature [4]
  • Viva
  • VX
  • X
  • Zenon
  • Zenox
  • CR


  • Limited Edition
  • Earth
  • Core
  • SFX
  • CJ
  • MR
  • Classical
  • Standard
  • Bass
  • S (90's)
  • Jade
  • Luce
  • NDX
  • Bluegrass
Cort Curbow 6-string bass


  • GB
  • Artisan
  • Curbow
  • Action
  • Arona
  • Gene Simmons Axe
  • Gene Simmons Punisher

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.

Masterpiece (MMP) Series electric guitars[edit]

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[5] and appear to be heavily influenced by higher-end PRS models, in both quality standards and style.

Contract production[edit]

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, PRS (SE line), Squier, and G&L Tribute series line of guitars are among the most well-known brands that Cort produces.


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.[6]

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."[7][8]

This controversy went through various legal stages in Korea from 2007 through 2012.[9] 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 ruled that the closure of the plant in 2008 and subsequent layoff were justified.[10][better source needed]

Investigations into issues of widespread corruption and abuse led to the impeachment of president Park Geun-hye and the arrest of Supreme Court Justice Yang Sung-tae, who had ruled in the Cort labour dispute. These led in 2019 to apologies from Cort and honorary reinstatements of the workers who were laid off in 2007.[11]


  1. ^ a b About Cort on Cort website, 16 Oct 2019
  2. ^ "Sales & Customer Service | Cort Guitars". Archived from the original on 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2015-03-25.
  3. ^ "Phnom Penh's guitar man - Khmer Times". 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  4. ^ Cort MBC-1 Matthew Bellamy
  5. ^ "Cort: MMP-3 Masterpiece - Reviews @".
  6. ^ "Guitar Workers Protest Sweatshop Conditions; Rage Against The Machine, Wayne Kramer Support..." The Daily Swarm. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on June 1, 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  7. ^ "Rage's Tom Morello leads protest at NAMM Show". MusicRadar. 13 January 2010. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  8. ^ "Guitars should be a means to liberation, not exploitation, says Rage's Morello". January 15, 2010. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  9. ^ ""Press This Guitar and Tears Will Pour Forth": A Ballad of Labour Rights in South Korea". Global Ethics Network. October 28, 2014. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  10. ^ ":: Yulchon + Newsletter ::::".
  11. ^ "Cort Guitar labor struggle ends after 13 years".

External links[edit]