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Korea's cultural policy prioritizes artistic freedom

All Headlines 16:25 May 16, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, May 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's liberal government laid out a long-term cultural policy vision based on autonomy, diversity and creativity on Wednesday in a mode meant to differentiate the policy from that of predecessors it accuses of rightist bias and staid bureaucratism.

At the start of the news conference, Do Jong-whan, minister of culture, sports and tourism, bowed in apology for his ministry's involvement in the past government's blacklisting and oppression of liberal-minded artists, writers, singers and filmmakers.

"Every human being has the right not to be monitored, censored or discriminated against. However, the country suppressed and infringed upon freedom of expression, not to mention excluding some artists from state support." Do said at the multiplex hall of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul.

The former poet and lawmaker was referring to the previous Park Geun-hye administration's so-called artists blacklist, through which hundreds of cultural figures were listed and denied government support.

Calligrapher Kang Byung-in performs during a media briefing on the government's long-term cultural policies at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) on May 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

"I sincerely apologize for causing deep scars and pain in the hearts of numerous artists and the people," he said.

The minister vowed to thoroughly implement measures, suggested by a fact-finding committee earlier this month, to prevent such abuses, including stricter punishment for discrimination, a new code for artistic freedom and an independent committee in charge of supporting artists.

After his speech, calligrapher Kang Byung-in took to the stage, barefoot. Using a big brush, he wrote "Culture With People" -- the ministry's policy slogan -- in Korean on a big white board. As he performed, traditional Korean music was played at high volume and the stage was illuminated with colorful lighting.

The ministry announced the "Culture Vision 2030" which contain 37 top policy priorities.

The ministry said the policy vision was created through discussions involving some 8,000 private experts for the past eight months, in a departure from the top-down approach to policy decisions in the past.

Do Jong-whan, minister of culture, sports and tourism, speaks during a media event at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) on May 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

Among the proposals based on the three basic values of autonomy, diversity and creativity, the ministry said it will work to nurture a more relaxed mood where every citizen feels comfortable enjoying cultural events. A tax break will be expanded to cover spending for such events. Expansive culture and art education will start from an early age and community-based cultural gatherings will be encouraged.

As early as next year, cultural vouchers will be provided to elementary school students from low income families.

Taking advantage of thawing inter-Korean relations, the ministry will continue looking for ways to enhance cultural exchanges with North Korea, like jointly publishing a unified Korean-language dictionary and working together for UNESCO world heritage listing.

In order to enhance welfare for artists, the government is reviewing the introduction of unemployment insurance for low-income artists as well as a standardized salary table to guarantee them fair treatment.

The complete policy details will be finalized in a month through a close consultation with relevant ministries, the culture ministry said.


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