Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Interview: Mr.Yu In-chon, Minister of Culture, Sports & Tourism

Early last year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism set three main goals ― give people hope through culture; enhance the economic vitality through cultural contents; and build future-oriented, global Korea ― and suggested 10 tasks to achieve them.  These tasks are intended to give hope and comfort, create more jobs and encourage more investments. In the long term, the goals reflect the government's intention to reinvigorate the social atmosphere. For this purpose, the ministry set aside close to 3 trillion won in creating jobs in the culture, sports and tourism sectors and building culture and arts infrastructures to enhance the local quality of life.
The ministry also promised to establish more culture and sports facilities to live up to the standards of the OECD. On the business side, the cultural contents industry is the driving force of the next generation's economic growth, and the ministry has identified this sector to create quality jobs for young jobseekers through various programs. Furthermore, the production and development of next generation fusion content such as computer graphics will be supported. Future-oriented game technology will also be supported through a global game hub center for content development and experts will be hired to help open new businesses.
All these are just some of the plans that the Ministry has announced. To listen to more of the policy actions and vision of this ministry, I interviewed Minister Yu In-chon. The following are excerpts:
The Ministry’s policy vision is to develop a Happy Korea by expanding the societal and economic values of culture through:
• Resolving imbalance between regions and social classes in the culture, sports and tourism sectors, and spreading culture-sharing programs
• Ensuring the stabilization of the people’s livelihood through developing and spreading programs on adapting to an aging and multi-cultural society as well as programs on enhancing lifestyle such as developing more cultural and sports facilities
• Increasing fundamental investment in culture and arts to establish basis to foster a creative industry, developing contents and creating a business-friendly environment in the era of convergence, and encouraging private investment and facilitating employment in the culture, sports and tourism sectors to fuel national growth
• Planning and implementing symbolic national programs to build a strong national brand and promoting strategic cultural exchanges to ensure continuity of Hallyu
The Ministry’s priority for this year is to overcome the current economic crisis by implementing economic recovery programs that include:
• Instilling hope and courage to the public through culture in order to uplift the dampened public mood caused by the economic crisis
• Expanding employment opportunities and facilitating business investment activities to revive the economy as well as expanding support for export businesses
• Preparing for a low-carbon green growth society and building a stronger national brand
Approximately 14,000 social service jobs were created through early budget execution based on review of past achievements. There are plans to create 3,000 social jobs and develop more than 200 social-purpose enterprises in the culture and arts sector.
Based on expanding investment support in the area of contents and tourism, establishing and operating the global contents center, and pursuing strategic tourism marketing, this resulted in the gaming industry posting export growth of 35% and the number of overseas tourists increased 27% to 3.26 million in 2009 H1 compared to the same period last year.
The implementation of public-wide hope campaigns and programs (e.g. ‘Bokjumeoni Bongsadan’) during the first half of the year supported approximately 470,000 people in the poor and low-income class.
In an effort to establish cultural identity and national brand, the National Brand Committee was organized (Jan. 22), the establishment of the National Modern Museum on the old defense security command site was announced (Jan. 15), and the Steering Committee on Constructing the National Museum of Korea was organized (Apr. 16) in order to record and display the history of Korea’s development.

The economic crisis and the influenza outbreak has had a negative impact on the global tourism industry but in the case of Korea, there was a sharp increase in Japanese tourist numbers based on the foreign currency effect in late 2008 and early 2009.
As of July end, the number of foreign tourists increased 14.1% to 4.4 million compared to the previous year. It is likely that this year’s target of 7.5 million will be reached.
The new government has placed focused on the importance and potential of the tourism industry and is pursuing efforts to attract more foreign tourists by ▲initiating the 2010-2012 Visit Korea Year ▲ easing regulations and improving policies to strengthen competitiveness of the tourism industry ▲ fostering high-value added tourism industries such as MICE and medical tourism ▲ developing more unique Korean-style tourism contents and ▲ improving accommodation & restaurant facilities, tourist information service and visa process. Other ongoing plans will be carried out including efforts to enhance the value of Korea’s tourism brand and improve hospitality service.

As part of the effort to realize low-carbon green growth, the Ministry is in pursuit of facilitating green tourism using Korea’s natural resources and environment, and fostering low-cost high-efficient contents industry.
In order to facilitate green growth, the Ministry is working to develop a high-value added and converged tourism industry (e.g. medical care, MICE, performances and shopping), initiate the cultural eco tour called the ‘Journey of Thousand Miles Project’ featuring various historical and cultural stories, and transform used resources like closed railroads (22 tracks nationwide, 704km) and train stops into theme-type tourism resources.
The Ministry is also working to strategically foster the contents industry by acquiring global competitiveness in core contents (e.g. game, film) and developing next-generation converged contents (e.g. u-learning, virtual world), and strengthening the self-sustaining ability of the contents industry by establishing copyright protection systems and creating an environment of fair copyright usage.
Furthermore, the Ministry’s focus lies on realizing green revolution in everyday life. For example, the bicycle festival was held to encourage the public to ride bicycles, used and closed industrial facilities such as the Gunsan harbor are being transformed into cultural space, and educational-purpose game contents on the topic of climate change are being developed to shift the public awareness.