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(LEAD) Gov't to operate cultural belt in full swing this year

All News 11:58 January 18, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details of plan in paras 10-15)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- The government said Monday it will kick the operation of its "cultural convergence belt" into high gear this year while rendering full support to startups that have moved into the government-run cultural venture complex in central Seoul.

The government will also intensively cultivate the country's promising cultural content, such as computer games and webtoons, and build a platform for circulating the country's "killer content" worldwide.

These were included in a 2016 work plan that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism reported to President Park Geun-hye.

"This year, the government will focus its capabilities on building a sustainable growth engine by having its cultural enrichment policy affect all fields of the economy," Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jong-deok said.

The ministry said it will intensively nurture the content and tourism industries, which have a high potential for growth, and help maximize the competitiveness of other industries by encouraging them to collaborate with artists.

The government began creating the Culture Creation Convergence Belt, composed of a creative convergence center, a creative venture center, an academy and a cluster of cultural performance facilities, last February to help tech venture startups work with each other to develop and commercialize creative ideas and foster talent in the culture and content industries.

The Creative Center for Convergence Culture is currently run jointly by the government and CJ E&M, a leading content and media company, while the government opened the venture cluster last month in the former office building of the Korea Tourism Organization in downtown Seoul. It is now home to 93 startups that have some 500 employees combined.

The academy, which seeks to foster next-generation artists who can use the latest emerging technologies to create content, is set to open in Seoul's Dongdaemun area in March.

The government also plans to open K-Culture Valley, a cluster of a K-pop arena, film and drama studios, and a hallyu theme park in 2017. Hallyu refers to the global popularity of Korean pop culture, such as TV dramas, pop music and films.

During the policy briefing, the ministry said it will upgrade the cultural belt this year by building a network among the startups and some 120 regionally based infrastructure in the fields of cultural-content and the ICT industries, and boosting the companies' cooperation with other government offices and the civilian sector.

The ministry also aims to provide 10 billion won (US$8.2 million) in monetary support to the startups that have moved to the creative venture center collaborating with other firms to create their fusion content. In the center, the startups will get one-stop counseling services from the government ranging from investment, finance and accounting to technology necessary to commercialize their ideas, the ministry said. The government, instead, will track their performance records every quarter to know if the taxpayers' money was properly spent, it added.

It will spend 3 billion won in funding research activities of the convergence education center of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology to create 25 "killer content" and 19 billion won to provide office space to promising gaming content creators. About 1 billion won will be used to support the creation of webtoons and their byproducts, the ministry said.

In 2014, South Korea had the world's seventh-largest content market, accounting for 2.8 percent of the global market. The United States overwhelmingly maintained the No. 1 spot, with a share of 32.1 percent, followed by Japan, China, Germany, Britain and France.

As for efforts to promote the traditional Korean culture across the world, the ministry said it will provide subsidies to local restaurant and hotel chains operating abroad that seek to bring traditional Korean elements to their space designs.

The government will develop some 60 new and simplified versions of "hanbok," the Korean national clothing, while creating spaces where foreigners can experience Korean culture at 10 overseas Korean cultural centers. Three of them will have a room for experiencing "ondol," the traditional Korean floor heating system, the ministry said.


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