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Culture Ministry rolls out financial aid amid coronavirus spread

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo (Yonhap)
Culture Minister Park Yang-woo (Yonhap)

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Culture Minister Park Yang-woo has been busy visiting different facilities to hear rising concerns and difficulties that artists are facing.

Following this, the Culture Ministry has announced several plans for financial assistance.

On Feb. 20, it decided to inject 3 billion won ($2.5 million) to provide loans for artists who are experiencing financial difficulties following the outbreak. From March 1 to 10, the government received applications for the loan and the total amount for people who applied surpassed 3 billion won. The loan has a 1.2 interest rate and one artist can apply for 10 million won assistance.

When announcing this financial support during his visit to a small theater in Daehangno, central Seoul, in February Park also said, “We are discussing with financial authorities to come up with further assistance.”

On March 19, this additional plan for financial aid, particularly for theaters, was announced. The ministry said that as soon as the coronavirus situation is settled, it will inject 24 billion won to provide 8,000-won discount coupons to 3 million people to boost the theater industry.

In addition, the government on March 19 also rolled out a plan to provide up to 60 million won per small theater to assist their production and promotion costs. It expects to support more than 200 small theaters. The ministry will also select up to 160 performing arts organizations and provide up to 200 million won to support their operation costs.

After the government announced its plan for theaters and performers, museums and art galleries have also asked for some help.

On March 25, Park visited Total Museum and Mokin Museum and met with officials of private museum and art gallery associations. During this meeting, the minister said the government is planning to reduce private museums and galleries burden from hiring new artisans by proving 50 percent of their labor costs for five months. The government is also considering cutting taxes for private museums and art galleries.

For the movie industry, however, the government did not announce any separate financial aid yet.

Currently, the small movie theaters and movie production firms can get help through loans that the government prepared in February.

Instead of injecting money, the culture minister said on March 27 that he is considering providing a grace period for payment of movie development funds. Park, however, added that this decision is not easy to make since the law has to be revised.

Under the current law, theaters are required to pay 3 percent of the ticket price to the Korean Film Council as a charge for the movie development fund. Independent arts movie theaters and theaters with less than 1 billion won annual sales do not have to pay this money.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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