The Korea Herald


Preparation for cultural integration of two Koreas crucial

Presidential adviser vows to promote Korean culture, set base for next 100 years

By Korea Herald

Published : Aug. 26, 2013 - 20:46

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It is never too soon to start preparing for cultural integration of the two Koreas post-reunification, which is likely to entail heavy social conflict, according to President Park Geun-hye’s top cultural adviser.

“In the last 60 years that the two Koreas have been in confrontation, we have witnessed not only our language but also our customs and culture changing drastically from one another. Such sense of difference can aggravate the conflict if the two Koreas unexpectedly reunify,” Kim Dong-ho, 76, a policymaker-turned-film guru said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Citing how extensive research on cultural integration has been made in Germany prior to its unification in 1990, Kim said that he would volunteer, as the new chairman of the Presidential Committee on Cultural Enrichment, to take on the job.
Kim Dong-ho. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Kim Dong-ho. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“Wider civic-level cultural exchanges could be one of the options, although such measures depend on the political situation,” he said.

“Just as how it goes the same for preparing legislation ahead of reunification, research must be conducted in advance in order to find a system that we can apply post-unification,” he added.

A household name in the film industry as former director of Busan International Film Festival, Kim’s designation as Park’s new cultural front man in July illustrated the prominence of culture as one of the new administration’s four major policy indexes.

Korea’s cultural growth lies specially with Kim, who started his career by entering the Ministry of Culture and Information in 1972. Under then-President Park Chung-hee, late father of Park, Kim was in charge of developing the war-torn country’s cultural revival as part of the five-year economic growth vision. Kim helped launch a government committee on culture and arts prosperity and enact the Culture and Arts Promotion Act.

Now, some 40 years later, Kim is working with Park to enrich culture in everyday life.

“While back in the 1970s, economy towed culture along, it is now the time where culture paves the way for economy. While the government stood in the vanguard at the time, it is now every individual that takes the lead.”

Now responsible for drawing up strategies and policies on cultural enrichment, Kim said the most imminent task was to promote wider communication between public-private cultural sectors.

For this Kim has begun touring regions starting with Gwangju and South Jeolla Province this month and will hold relay meetings with local artists and cultural figures.

“I plan to tour the entire country to help the president communicate directly or indirectly with the local and cultural residents in her endeavor to achieve the image as cultural president,” Kim said.

Culture and regional balance, in fact, go hand-in-hand, Kim explained, citing the difficulties he had faced when he led the launch of BIFF that is in its 17th successful year.

“Despite vast difficulties, such as in acquiring budget, I pushed ahead with the project with conviction that I will make it successful. But along the way I was met with hostility among localities who harbored great doubt to the plan,” Kim recalled.

Gradually buoyed by support from journalists, professors and art leaders in the region, the BIFF is now joined by up and coming filmmakers from all over the world.

“The key to the success of BIFF was that it had the purpose of discovering new films and directors of Asia. Only with that purpose and identity (and diverse programs that support it), will a festival earn its continuity,” Kim said, citing Boryeong’s Mud Festival or Hwacheon’s Sancheoneo Ice Festival as examples with good potential.

“Festivals and cultural events I believe are the best means to heal conflicts derived from gaps between regions,” he said.

For better cooperation among the central government, Kim said he will push to include not just the culture minister but also the ministers of science, ICT and future planning and education as members of the committee.

As for overseas, Kim pointed to rising global interest in the Korean language, food and culture thanks to K-pop.

“But in order for Hallyu to sustain, the overall Korean culture must be carried together, whether it is named K-Culture or simply Korean culture,” he said.

“Korean culture will spread only when the country’s intrinsic traditional culture serves as the basis to be embraced with the new, in order to recreate diversity.”

As one of the more tangible examples of his committee’s goals, Kim referred to game development using Korean culture. By incorporating Korea’s culture and historical storytelling, such as the making of Goryeo celadon, with high-technology like games played by toddlers and preschoolers, it can not only naturally draw interest from the young but also automatically provide educational opportunities, he explained.

“Of course they would have to be interesting and creative to earn children’s attention. And in doing so it will create more job opportunities for storytellers, animators and game programmers and others in the field,” Kim said.

On the longer-term, Kim said such efforts must be based on a 100-year vision for the country’s cultural prosperity.

In the past, cultural polices tended to be established at one administration and changed in the next. While 100 years may just be symbolic in meaning, it is crucial as just like education, cultural policies do not reap accomplishment until decades later, he explained.

“All cultural policies will have a true meaning only when they are envisioned with 10, 50 or even 100 years ahead in mind,” he said, adding that he plans to seek for views of local and foreign experts.

A graduate from Seoul National University, School of Law, Kim served in the Culture Ministry until the 1980s before heading the Korean Film Council. He was also first president for Seoul Arts Center in 1992 and vice cultural minister in 1993.

By Lee Joo-hee (