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Culture Ministry commits financial support for artists in 2021

Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism building in Sejong (Culture Ministry)
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism building in Sejong (Culture Ministry)

Applying for government assistance involved some unpleasant experiences, recalled a Seoul-based artist in his 40s.

“I applied for several assistance programs in the past but I never made it. I did not apply for the COVID-19 relief fund (in 2020), because I didn’t think I would be selected,” said the artist who wished to be identified by his surname, Jung.

Jung chose to focus on his artwork rather than applying for the government fund , skipping the time-consuming process. He is planning on holding a couple of solo and group exhibitions this year.

“It takes two to three days (to prepare the required documents),” he said.

Although Jung is pessimistic about the government‘s projects aimed at supporting artists, he said he is still keeping his eye on it, since he has been financially hit by COVID-19, like many others in the pandemic.

Song Eun-suk is a vocalist for Seoul-based band Kisnue. Kisnue’s showcase concert, which was supposed to take place on Dec. 5, 2020 to mark the release of the band’s new album, was canceled due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 patients in November.

Asked if he had applied for the government’s COVID-19 relief fund or assistance in 2020, he said he knows about it but did not apply. He does not plan to apply next year.

“It seemed like there are so many artists that need support more than I do,” Song told The Korea Herald.

Some artists who applied for government funding saw an imbalance in the supply and demand.

“Our artist relief fund ranges from 6 million won to 14 million won ($5,500-$12,900). Some artists chose to apply for the minimum amount this year as they believe that it is enough for them and also thought that the program could benefit more fellow artists,” Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture spokesperson Hong Ji-hyeong said. The foundation operates under the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

On Dec. 10, The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism‘s 2021 budget of 1.5 billion won passed the parliament, with some 58.6 billion won allocated to help artists suffering due to the pandemic. In announcing the budget, the Culture Ministry highlighted that there was good news for artists with less than two years of experience: 6 billion won was set aside to support 3,000 artists with less than two years of experience in 2021.

“Unfortunately, we cannot support every artist, so we had our criteria,” Lee Sung-eun from the art policy division at the Culture Ministry, said. “It differed depending on the genre. For instance, some had to have created at least five artworks within the last five years to receive certification that is necessary to apply for the existing artist relief fund.”

Lee said the ministry received feedback and the art policy division also agreed that the existing criteria should be adjusted so that less experienced artists could also receive support.

“We hope that rookie artists can receive this new fund and create more artwork with it, which will eventually lead them to become experienced artists who can receive the existing certificate for artists,” Lee added.

Instead of a 3 million-won grant per artist like the fund for experienced artists, less experienced artists will receive 2 million won each.

In 2020, the Culture Ministry provided grants to support a total 15,260 artists’ work with its annual and supplementary budgets. In 2021, it will provide cash to 12,000 experienced artists and 3,000 new artists.

However, artists with less than two years of experience will be able to receive funding only in the second half of 2021.
 
The Artnuri site provides information on the Culture Ministry’s assistance projects for artists. (Arts Council Korea)
The Artnuri site provides information on the Culture Ministry’s assistance projects for artists. (Arts Council Korea)

“The certificate (of artistic activity) is currently issued based on the Artist Welfare Act. We will have to make some changes to the law, which will be announced around March,” Lee said. “We are planning to revise the law so that artists with less than two years of experience with one artwork can also receive the certificate.”

“We will start receiving applications and start the selection process after March. Artists are likely to receive the money during the second half of 2021,” Lee said. She also added that the current grant for the experienced artist will be provided in the first half of 2021.

Another of the Culture Ministry’s artist support programs that has been improved for 2021 is the artist loan program.

For 2021, 24 billion won has been earmarked for loans to 3,400 artists. In 2020, 19 billion won in loans was provided to 2,700 artists.

“The amount that each artist can borrow will be the same,” said Han Song-hee, another official from the Culture Ministry’s art policy division.

In 2020, artists could borrow up to 100 million won toward housing. To support living expenses, up to 5 million won was provided. Special relief funding for those hit by COVID-19 entitled the recipient to up to 10 million won.

“For the COVID-19 special relief fund, the artists were required to provide documents to prove that they were affected by the virus,” Han said. “For instance, if they were planning an exhibition at the Seoul Arts Center but had to cancel, they can provide a screenshot of the cancellation announcement that they posted on the Seoul Art Center’s website.”

She added that the same procedure is applicable in 2021.

“We will finalize a more detailed schedule for the loans in mid-January,” Han said.

All information on the government‘s artist support program is now available on the Culture Ministry website artnuri.or.kr, which was launched jointly with the Arts Council Korea on Monday.

By Song Seung-hyun and Park Yuna (ssh@heraldcorp.com) (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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