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KOCIS to draw foreign eyes to Korean culture

Director Woo stresses role of foreign media and opinion leaders in promoting Korea


In the eyes of the foreign media, South Korea has been seen mainly as confronting the militant North Korea or an economic success story.

It is time to divert their attention from the country’s complicated political issues to its amazing, yet relatively unknown culture, the new head of Korean Culture and Information Service said.

“The new era will soon come with culture leading the country’s economy, not industries. This year is critical for us not only with Korea hosting many global events but also with importance of culture in diplomacy growing,” Woo Jin-young, KOCIS director, told The Korea Herald in a recent interview.

Korea holds a number of global events this year, including Yeosu Expo from May 12 to Aug. 12 and the World Conservation Congress in September in Jeju. The country successfully hosted the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the biggest-ever global event held in Korea, last month.

KOCIS will expand its role in supporting foreign media coming to Korea by providing quality cultural content, such as K-pop, food, performances and tourism. It plans to invite 130 journalists from around the world and collaborate with foreign photographers, documentary directors and power bloggers to promote the national image of Korea.

“The main role of KOCIS is to offer ‘eyes on Korea’ to people outside, particularly to the foreign media. It is important to work closely to provide better information and a good image of Korea,” he said at his office in Hyoja-dong, near Cheong Wa Dae.

The agency plans to publish a comprehensive study on hallyu, or the Korean Wave, this year as well as introducing Korean movies, fashion, food and literature.

“We will continue to deliver the popularity of Korean pop culture to opinion leaders around the world by publishing books on Korean traditional and contemporary culture.

“Many say that hallyu will be done in 2-3 years but I think it is really up to us, depending on how much effort we make,” he said.
Woo Jin-young, new director of Korean Culture and Information Service. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Woo Jin-young, new director of Korean Culture and Information Service. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

Woo, 52, previously served as director of the National Library of Korea and director of Korea Culture Center in New York.

Woo replaced former director Suh Kang-soo in March, right after the agency went through a massive restructuring.

In February, KOCIS transferred its role in coordinating cultural exchanges and supervising the operation of Korea culture centers around the world to the Culture Ministry. The restructuring was part of the government’s moves to centralize various operations to better promote Korean culture abroad.

With the reorganization, KOCIS will focus on developing and providing quality content both online and offline, the director said. The agency will also expand cultural experience programs designed for 1.4 million foreign residents here by holding various events in Culture Station 284, the old building of Seoul Station, which was reopened after extensive renovation.

The state-run overseas PR agency plans to hold its biggest-ever cultural event in London titled “All Eyes on Korea@London Olympic,” for 100 days from June 2 to Sept. 9.

Taking full advantage of the London Olympics, KOCIS will introduce a wide range of Korean culture from traditional to contemporary to people coming from all over the world.

“The London event will be a turning point in ways of promoting Korea’s culture. Not only the size of the event, but also various cultural content will help foreigners better understand Korea,” Woo said.

Organizers of South Bank Centre, a complex of artistic venues in London, has invited Korean artists as part of its program on world culture. The list of Korean artists to be featured includes renowned installation artist Lee Bul, soprano Jo Sumi, music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra Chung Myung-hwun, pansori singer Lee Ja-ram and fashion designer Lie Sang-bong.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)
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