South Korea/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

A strong tradition of state intervention exists in many policy fields in Korea and culture and the arts was no exception. The national government played a vital role in instituting the cultural policy agenda and coordinating emerging issues in the cultural field. The most important role player in cultural policy and administration is undoubtedly the central government. There are pros and cons of having ministerial system with strong initiatives. It reinforces the perception of the public that arts and culture is a field that should be preserved by the responsibility of the government. Strong initiatives from the government side make the policy vulnerable to political changes. Every five years, accordingly to the change of ruling party and its political orientation, the government is susceptible to changes in its emphasis.

As of 2013, the Ministry of Culture is consisted of 10 sub fields excluding planning and administrative sector. Sub policy fields are for example religious affairs, cultural content industry, cultural policy, arts policy. tourism policy, library and museum, public communication affairs, sports policy, and media policy. The Ministry of Culture is one of the ministries that hold large number of appendix organizations under its jurisdiction. There are 16 organization that are subordinate to the Ministry (directly controlled by dispatching public officials to the organization) and 43 public and non-governmental organizations (equivalent to Non Departmental Public Bodiesin the UK). There exists also various committee that gives policy consultation to the government. Since 2013, an emphasis on the “ Creative Economy” and “Cultural Prosperity”, both of Park Geun-Hye administration’s important policy orientation, has resulted in instituting a new presidential council 〔Presidential Council on Cultural Prosperity〕. The field of cultural heritage is administered by separate government entity, The Cultural Heritage Administration. It is independent in terms of that the institution has to deal independently with appropriation process and has full responsibility for obtaining the budget.

Another important body in the same field is the Arts Council of Korea. It is, in principal, an independent public organization consisting of 12 council members as a decision making body. However, in practice it would be difficult to say the Council is completely independent since the council members are finally approved by the Ministry and the council chair being appointed by the minister of the Ministry of Culture from two candidates.

The civil society in the cultural sector was inert or latent until the actual democratization process began. The civil society in this sector was no more than a collection of interest groups organized according to specific artistic genres. The most visible and broadly encompassing had been the Federation of Artistic and Cultural Organizations of Korea. With the progress of democracy, new civil society groups, such as the Korean Peoples’ Artist Federation and Cultural Action have come onto the scene. Nongovernmental policy research groups and advocacy organization provided various voices and constructive criticism and opinions.

Chapter published: 29-11-2013