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New MMCA director lays out blueprint for state museum

Youn maintains silence over controversy surrounding his appointment

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea Director Youn Bum-mo unveiled plans for the state museum during a press conference held Tuesday at its main branch in Seoul. 

MMCA Director Youn Bum-mo speaks during a press conference held Tuesday at the museum’s main branch in Seoul. (Yonhap)
MMCA Director Youn Bum-mo speaks during a press conference held Tuesday at the museum’s main branch in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Cooperation with other state-led museums to nurture research and exhibition; cooperation with North Korea’s art institutions; globalization of Korean art; increasing research into Korean art and specializing the four separate museum venues topped the agenda for his three-year term.

Details for execution were lacking, however.

Asked if the museum could secure the personnel required for executing plans, Youn repeated that the museum would discuss the matter with the related ministries. “The matter is not something to which I can give you an answer right away,” he said.

“There are difficulties. But we can reorganize the structure of the institution, such as departments that run inefficiently. My responsibility is to create a working environment where curators can exercise 100 percent of their ability,” Youn added.

Youn could not offer a clear answer on proposed cooperation with North Korean art institutions.

“(We) don’t have enough research on North Korean art. We don’t precisely know what North Korean art really is,” Youn said. Youn added that the North’s Korean National Art Gallery could be a possible partner.

“It is difficult to talk about because it is a politically sensitive issue,” Youn said when pressed further on plans for inter-Korean cooperation, adding, “It will take time.”

As to the possibility of holding an exhibition of minjung art, a movement that emerged in the 1980s following the brutal crackdown on the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980, with which Youn has been closely associated, he denied having a plan for such an exhibition, but said one will be held if needed.

Youn also answered that he would like to see MMCA’s four venues each have a vice director, as that would “save trouble” for him, when asked about his opinion on having such a system.

Meanwhile, Youn did not comment on controversy surrounding his appointment. The Culture Ministry has been criticized for allegedly manipulating the open hiring process.

“I don’t think I am in a position to talk about the decision,” said Youn.

“I will focus on making the museum open and friendly space, where ordinary people can come and dream,” Youn said. “I will take criticisms and put utmost efforts to improve the museum.”

By Shim Woo-hyun (

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