Government to inject 156.9 billion won into arts sector
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will spend 156.9 billion won ($131.2 million) from its third supplementary budget to support the Korean arts field hit by the coronavirus, giving both direct and indirect funds to help sustain the virus-stricken industry through monetary aid, the creation of jobs and the encouragement of public expenditure on arts events, the ministry said on Wednesday.
"All sectors are struggling due to Covid-19," First Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Oh Yeong-woo said. "Yet, the sectors that are overseen by our ministry — the culture, sports and tourism fields — were hit especially hard. Our third supplementary budget was passed last week, of which we will spend almost half the raised amount to support the arts sector."
On Friday, a record-breaking 35.1 trillion won supplementary budget was passed by the National Assembly, of which 346.9 billion won was allocated to the Culture Ministry. Wednesday's announcement stated that 45 percent of that amount will go to help reviving the arts field during the second half of 2020, as it is "highly unlikely that a fourth supplementary budget will be administered" this year.
Direct funding of 23.2 billion won will go to 7,725 artists, who will each receive 3 million won to overcome the financial crisis they have incurred due to the coronavirus. Artists can start applying from July 13 until July 31, and the distribution of the money will be made in September after papers are evaluated.
Special loan services for artists have also been changed. The maximum amount has been raised from 5 million to 10 million won, as well as prolonging the amount of time interest-only payments can be made from one year to two. The interest rate will also be lowered from 2.2 percent to 1.2 percent.
Much of the budget will go to indirect funding, mostly on creating new job opportunities for artists.
Almost half the supplementary budget will go to the "Public Art Project," whereby the ministry will distribute 75.9 billion won to 228 regional governments to hire 8,500 people from the art industry to create public art in their respective regions. Each local government will be allowed to flexibly plan and execute their own art projects, spanning from creating and installing new artwork in the streets, creating new cultural spaces, renovating old city facilities, holding exhibitions and running public art programs for the residents.
For the performing arts field, 31.9 billion won will be given to support 3,500 jobs, including those related to disinfecting the facilities as well as creators, actors and administrative workers.
Support will also go to help people take art to the digital platform. Some 14.9 billion won will be spent on supporting artists launch their artwork online, including educating artists on how to do so, while 3.3 billion won will go to digitally archiving art materials on online platforms, including art catalogs as well as play scripts.
For the Korean public, the ministry will give out 15.9 billion won worth of discount coupons — 1.8 million coupons of 8,000 won — for people to use when buying tickets for performances and 5.2 billion won worth of coupons for art exhibitions — 1.6 million coupons of 3,000 won.
"Jackson Pollock, who is considered one of the greatest American artists of the 20th century, overcame the American financial crisis during the 1930s thanks to the government's public art project and mastered his art in the 1940s," said Vice Minister Oh.
"The times are difficult for the arts field, and it's difficult for us to encourage spending on art, but our endeavors to support this field is ongoing. We vow to make sure that our budget, including the supplementary budget, goes to the people who need it the most in the field."
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]