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Lawmakers propose national art museums outside Seoul

MMCA’s Cheongju venue, established in 2018 (MMCA)
MMCA’s Cheongju venue, established in 2018 (MMCA)
A government plan to expand cultural facilities to regional areas is making headway, after the decision for the so-called “Lee Kun-hee donation hall” to be established in Seoul caused an uproar among regional cities and lawmakers.

Several proposals to secure the budget to launch additional venues of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, across the country will be discussed this week by the National Assembly’s budget settlement committee, according to multiple lawmakers’ offices.

Among the proposals floated is one by main opposition People’s Power Party Rep. Choi Hyung-du to add 500 million won ($422,000) to next year’s budget for a feasibility study on establishing a venue in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, the constituency he represents.

Another main opposition lawmaker, Kim Seung-su, is asking for 500 million won to conduct a feasibility study on opening an MMCA branch in Daegu. It will be discussed by the committee, according to the lawmaker’s office. Kim, who represents Daegu, proposed repurposing the former North Gyeongsang Provincial Government complex as the museum.

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, currently has four venues -- two in Seoul, the Gwacheon venue in Gyeonggi Province and the Cheongju venue in North Chungcheong Province, which opened in 2018 and became the museum’s first location outside the capital area.

“Even before the Lee Kun-hee donation hall issue, there had been demand from regional cities to have MMCA venues,” an official from the museum told The Korea Herald.

“The minister has a plan to expand the museum’s venues and we are moving in that direction. For a large project like this, we should first check feasibility. (Once the extra budget is secured), it will take two or three years for the research process,” said an official from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Culture Minister Hwang Hee told reporters Nov. 10 that the government is mulling building more national museums in regional cities so more people can enjoy art, although the “Lee Kun-hee donation hall” will be established in Seoul.

“There are so many voices from cities about their need to have more cultural spaces,” Hwang said after announcing the government’s decision to establish the donation hall in Songhyeon-dong, central Seoul, to house most of the 23,000 artworks donated by the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

After the budget committee screens the decision to allocate the extra funds to the government’s budget for next year, the cases will be submitted to the plenary session scheduled for early December.

The government is also considering using the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju as another regional branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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