Seoul plans to be cultural and artistic mecca by 2030

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Seoul plans to be cultural and artistic mecca by 2030

Seoul plans to spend about 3.6 trillion won ($3.1 billion) over the next four years in order to turn itself into a cultural and artistic center rivaling Paris or Tokyo, the city government announced on Tuesday.

Under the plan “Vision 2030 Cultural Seoul,” the city will create at least five new arts and culture centers by 2020, including a classical music concert hall, an art museum and theaters.

“A plan that we announce today to encourage cultural activities in the city,” said Go Hong-seok, head of the Culture Headquarters at the city government, “is the result of 3-year-long discussions among more than 5,000 citizens, experts and public officials.”

In addition to organizing more than 3,000 arts exhibits and street performances, transforming the Seoul Station overpass into a public arts platform and renovating old neighborhoods like central Seoul’s Changsin-dong and Sungin-dong, the city will seek to provide artists with about 1,000 rental apartments by 2030.

Seoul ranked No. 35 among 40 cities surveyed by the Mori Memorial Foundation in 2015 to determine their openness toward and support of artists and their work. Paris ranked first, while Tokyo was eighth. But some worry that where artistic communities go, gentrification follows. The Parisian arrondissement of Saint-Denis is a now infamous example of this.

“We will seek measures to prevent gentrification,” Kim said, “and limit the entrance of franchise corporations into these artsy streets and corners.”

The “Vision 2030” plan had a forerunner that began in 2006 and over the next nine years, increased the number of performance stages from 286 to 504, the number of museums from 111 to 144 and the number of public libraries from 66 to 135.

Yet even as their options continue grow, many residents still prefer to simply watch movies.

The city government found that 63.2 percent of the residents they surveyed in 2015 watch movies in their leisure times, while the rest, some 10 percent or less each, watch plays, musicals, visit exhibits or go to libraries.

Part of the reason may be a lack of leisure time.

In Seoul Survey 2015, 42.7 percent answered “high cost” as the reason they could not enjoy cultural and artistic events, while another 25.8 percent said they simply don’t have the time.

According to the OECD Factbook 2015-2016, the average person in OECD member countries works 34 hours per week, while the average Korean works 41 hours per week (in France, the average is 28 hours per week). To address this, the city government said it will be promoting a so-called cultural holiday system.

“If passed, the measure will begin by allowing city hall officials to take off work for the day or reduce their working hours in order to enjoy cultural and artistic events,” Kim said. “If the policy works, then we will start talking with schools and other organizations to see if the holiday system can be practiced city-wide.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will also seek Unesco World Cultural Heritage approval for the Seoul City Wall, the Munmyo Confucian Shrine and Seonggyungwan National Academy by 2025.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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