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New Culture Minister stresses cultural infrastructure development

New Culture Minister Hwang Hee (Culture Ministry)
New Culture Minister Hwang Hee (Culture Ministry)

Culture Minister Hwang Hee on Thursday said it is important to inject money into developing cultural infrastructure here during a press conference.

He raised putting money into renovating 266 local cultural and arts centers, which are currently only being used for small local events or holding training sessions for reserve forces, into a place that artists can actually perform as one of the example projects the ministry is reviewing.

“Currently it is difficult to present any performances there, as they do not have proper systems, lighting and stages,” Hwang said. “Renovating them can create local bases for various cultural and artistic activities.”

The new Culture Minister also said he is reviewing measures to support the esports industry, which as a market had more than $1 billion in global revenue in 2020, by establishing new infrastructure. He suggested ideas like building a game theme park similar to Disneyland.

Concerning how the Culture Ministry will support the K-pop industry this year, Hwang said the ministry has no intention of intervening with what the private sector is already doing well. He added that the main focus of the support should go to artists who work on less popular but important music genres like Korean traditional music or classical music.

“The ministry cannot lead the growth of the K-pop market,” he said. “But what we can do is, for instance, we can suggest to the private sector about creating a K-pop awards festival as big as the Grammys and Oscars and then ask them what we can do to support it.”

Hwang also said the current Culture Ministry’s budget, which is around 6.82 trillion won ($6.15 billion), is not enough to develop different infrastructures in various fields and also help COVID-19-affected artists.

Therefore, he said the Culture Ministry has been strongly asking for a supplementary budget this year.

“As far as I know, there is an outline for extra budget,” Hwang added.

Hwang also talked about his plan to apply rapid coronavirus tests, which he previously mentioned during his visit to theaters in Daehangno on Feb. 14, as part of measures to prop up the hard-hit sector.

Hwang said once the rapid test gets approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, he plans on applying it to the tourism industry, which is considering forming a travel bubble, first and then the performing art industry.

Furthermore, Hwang said he sees the need to directly provide financial support to artists who are suffering.

“I asked my staff the question ‘do we have to first give paint or bread to hungry painters?’ I personally think that bread should come first,” Hwang said.

Also, to further enhance communication with the public and promote its policies as well as Korean culture overseas, Hwang said the ministry will more actively utilize different media channels and communicate with foreign news outlets.

The two-term Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker was appointed as the new culture minister on Feb. 10.

By Song Seung-hyun (