Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Park Yang-woo on Monday said the ministry will continue to support growth of the local gaming market while preparing measures related to the World Health Organization’s recent move to classify gaming addiction as a disease.
Speaking at a press conference marking his 100th day in office, Park called the gaming market a “fast-growing export market.”
“I promised the gaming industry in May that I would remove the monthly restriction for adults on how much they can spend in an online PC game, which I did recently. I will continue to work for the development of the gaming industry,” he said. “This includes support for esports, investment in video game companies, and tax benefits.
“What is particularly important is the social value of games. There are still people who view it as something harmful, despite video games having become a cultural and leisure activity,” he said.
Regarding the WTO’s controversial decision, Park said a pan-governmental body will come up with countermeasures. The ministry objected to the decision immediately after the announcement in May.
“There is still time since the recommendation (by the WTO) takes effect in 2022, so we will gather our collective wisdom (for countermeasures),” he said.
Park commented on possible effects that Japan’s recent export restrictions might have on South Korea’s tourism market, though he added that it is too early to tell exactly what kind of effects there will be.
“There isn’t anything in particular yet, but there seems to be some impact on the outbound tourism (to Japan),” Park said, referring to the recent boycott of Japanese products by Koreans. “We need to keep an eye on the inbound market.”
The travel industry has voiced concerns that icy relations between the two countries will further deteriorate tourism to and from Japan. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of South Koreans who visited Japan between January and May stood at 3.25 million, 4.7 percent down from the same period the previous year.
The number of Japanese visiting Korea had risen from 1.66 million in 2011 to 7.54 million in 2018. With China curbing tourism to South Korea in recent years, more tourists from Japan have visited the country than from any other country.
Stressing the importance of tourism and leisure, Park mentioned that he and his Chinese counterpart, Luo Shugang, agreed to increase the number of tourists between South Korea and China to 15 million by 2022. The figure peaked in 2016 at 12.8 million, with 8 million Chinese visiting Korea and 4.8 million Koreans visiting China before this was drastically cut, as China restricted tourism to Korea.
Despite recent hiccups in inter-Korean relations, Park said the ministry is still preparing for joint cultural projects.
“The issue of (the two) Koreas is never easy. But as we have seen from the recent meeting at Panmunjom, there is hope that the inter-Korea relationship will improve, and we have to be prepared for that,” he said.
Although North Korea has failed to register for the upcoming FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, Park said “the door is open until the last minute.”
Park reiterated his resolve to prevent monopolization of screens by big-budget films, vowing that the ministry will work to ensure that a related bill -- currently pending at the National Assembly -- is passed. The bill would prevent multiplex cinemas from allocating more than 50 percent of their screens to one particular film during prime hours between 1 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“The government also needs to increase support for independent and art films, to foster variety in the creative content market. Our goal is to spend 7.4 billion won ($6.3 million) to support production of indie films, which is up 2 billion won from this year. We will also spend 6.8 billion won on distribution of such films -- up from 680 million this year,” he said.
By Yoon Min-sik