Saving the arts

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Saving the arts

Art critic Oh Kwang-su was inaugurated yesterday as the third chairman of the Arts Council Korea.

A myriad of arts-related problems await the new head.

The council was reborn as an independent entity comprised of arts and cultural experts instead of bureaucrats when it broke from the Korean Cultural and Arts Foundation.

Over a three-year course, the council had been reeling from internal conflict and stricken with criticism over favoritism in certain art categories and appointments. Its first head, Kim Byung-ik, resigned while his successor, Kim Jung-hun, was fired due to poor management of arts funds.

Oh Kwang-su must first of all restore order and reorganize the agency in order to return to its original function as an arts promotion fund.

The fund spent 83.2 billion won ($54.9 million) last year and has a budget of 76 billion won this year. Council executives should stop squabbling over taxpayers’ money to funnel into their own line of art. We should not see a repeat of partiality in funding and appointments. The Council needs to restructure umbrella entities and businesses.

The council is on the brink of insolvency. It has been using 30 billion won to 40 billion won of its reserves from the arts promotion fund each year and in 10 years’ time it will have nothing left in its account.

Gains from lotteries are also dangerously low. It needs to seek out other sources of steady funding to stay afloat.

It needs to reinstate its relationship with the government and legislative arts committee. It would be a good idea to benchmark England and strike an arrangement on fund management with the Cultural and Tourism Ministry to enhance its independence.

We are going through an unprecedented difficult period abroad and at home.

The U.S., in face of the worst recession since the Great Depression, has stepped up funding for the arts.

We hope to see the new head’s experience and leadership help the council stand at the forefront of an expansive and creative cultivation of the arts.
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