The Korea Herald


Seoul book fair organizer withholding details on earnings, Culture Ministry charges

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : July 24, 2023 - 18:11

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Culture Minister Park Bo-gyoon speaks in a press conference held in Yongsan-gu, on Monday. (Yonhap) Culture Minister Park Bo-gyoon speaks in a press conference held in Yongsan-gu, on Monday. (Yonhap)

The organizer of the Seoul International Book Fair allegedly did not disclose breakdowns of its earnings from the fair since 2018, the culture minister said Monday.

Minister Park Bo-gyoon also accused the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea, a public institution under the ministry that oversees distribution and use of government subsidies to the fair organizer, of lax supervision.

The Korean Publishers Association, the organizer of the annual book fair, failed to provide detailed information about its income to the KPIPA since 2018, a ministry audit found. And the KPIPA, an independently run supervisory authority, did not verify the information given, it added.

"The audit findings were shameful, uncovering deviant behavior such as the omission of details of the SIBF income," Park said during a press conference held to discuss plans on promoting Korean's publishing industry globally.

KPA, through the KPIPA, is given approximately 1 billion won ($780,360) in government subsidies for the book fair each year, according to the ministry. It earns hundreds of millions of won from admission fees and booth usage fees from the participating organizations and publishers, it added. The exact amounts were not disclosed.

More than 130,000 visitors attended this year's SIBF, which was held for five days at Coex in Gangnam-gu from June 14. A total of 530 companies, including 170 foreign companies from 36 countries participated.

The ministry also took issue with the KPA’s response when it asked for clarifications.

When the ministry requested the data, the KPA provided a financial report with some details erased, such as how much it received in participation fees from overseas organizations, according to the ministry.

“The KPA is not sufficiently explaining the part where serious moral and financial deviation is suspected,” said Park.

“The ministry will closely track whether there was tacit collusion between the KPA and the KPIPA, and whether there was a cartel-like factor involved," he said.

In response to the allegations, the KPA denied any wrongdoing in a statement and called for the minister's dismissal.

The latest move by the ministry follows President Yoon Suk Yeol's recent campaign against so-called "cartels with vested interests." On July 3, Yoon told the new vice ministers including Jang Mi-ran, an Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting, who was appointed second vice minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, to "fight ruthlessly against cartels with vested interests."