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MMCA inappropriately purchased artworks, illegally spent funds: audit

MMCA Seoul (MMCA)
MMCA Seoul (MMCA)

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea was found to have committed 16 illegal or inappropriate deeds in managing the museum, according to the result of a special audit released by the Culture Ministry on Monday.

The 16 cases include inappropriate process of purchasing artworks and illegal spending of the MMCA Foundation fund as incentives to the museum’s employees. The foundation, also led by the museum's director, was established in 2013 to support the museum.

The special audit, which was conducted from Oct. 24 to Dec. 1 last year, showed 32 million won ($25,700) from the sales generated at the museum’s facilities such as the cafeterias, art shops and parking lot were spent as incentives for museum employees.

According to the law, the foundation and the museum are required to settle income and spending each year. When the income exceeds spending, the difference must be turned in to the state. The Culture Ministry said that the 32 million won would be confiscated.

The special audit also found the museum had reduced the number of designated external specialists for purchasing artworks for the museum’s collection from 50 to 11 in 2021 as well as downsized the number of required internal curators in 2020.

Reducing the external experts has caused the museum to fail to reflect the diversity in purchasing artworks for its collection, according to the audit report. The number of suggestions on acquisition of artworks by the experts has decreased to 34 cases in 2022 from 72 cases in 2020.

The report also said seven to eight employees were involved in purchasing artworks at auctions, communicating using KakaoTalk, a mobile messaging app. The ministry urged the museum to come up with a strict guideline on acquiring artwork.

The museum said it would review the audit report and take appropriate action. It also said its director, Youn Bum-mo, would answer questions on the audit at a scheduled press conference on Tuesday.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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