South Korea/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy

At the central level three ministries are involved directly or indirectly in international cultural exchange and cooperation. The Ministry of Culture, including the Cultural Heritage Administration, has allocated the largest budget and also the support structure for cultural exchange. After the appearance of the Arts Council, both the Ministry and the Council are exploring how to coordinate division of labor in order to provide more opportunity of cultural exchange.

With the long history of public action in cultural field, the term “international cultural exchange” has been more familiar to those who have been involved in the arts and culture. Cultural diplomacy, as with its short history and its origin to public diplomacy and soft power is perceived to be strategic and bounded in terms of certifying free acting artistic and cultural will. Support for international cultural exchange takes two forms. The Arts Council and Korea Arts Management Service provides funding for individual artists and organizations. The Ministry of Culture focuses on managing overseas infrastructure to assure ongoing programs and various presentation of cultural exchange. It runs the Korea Cultural Service in 23 places around the world (http://www.mcst.go.kr/usr/culture/index.jsp) A few locations provide integrated service pertaining to cultural industry content marketing and tourism promotion. The Korean Cultural Service aims to be a place not only to introduce Korean culture to the public, but also to act as a locus of exchange and lend diversity to the cultural setting in the host country. The Cultural Heritage Administration also executes projects with less developed countries to restore, protect, and preserve their cultural heritage.

In 2008, the Ministry of Culture introduced a new system for providing Korean language education in foreign countries, The Sejong Institute. Sejong Institute was named after the most respected king in Josun dynasty who actually invented the Korean alphabet. Korean Cultural Services ran language programs but these classes were not meeting the steeply rising demand, especially in the Asian region. The Sejong Institute has a flexible system of forming partnerships with universities that already offer Korean language classes. Instead of creating new facilities for Korean language education, the system supports existing Korean language educational initiatives by providing professional teachers and publications required for proper education.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working to establish its own field of activities in the name of cultural diplomacy. It supports cultural events and activities in embassies and consulates abroad. The public diplomacy organization, Korea Foundation that funds international exchange for scholars and opinion leaders of various countries also provides fund for international cultural exchange. The Foundation supports activities to promote Korean studies internationally and runs four satellite agencies abroad to liaise with host countries.

Presently, the Korean government has concluded Memorandums of Understanding with 97 countries to support cultural exchange activities. Among those 97 countries, 34 countries have Committees on Cultural Exchange to develop specific action plans for an interim period of two or three years. Not all of the Memorandums include obligatory clauses, but few have content of practical benefits. It is also the Ministry of Culture’s responsibility to allocate funds to support cultural activities to commemorate diplomatic treaties. Public organizations and nonprofit institutions are funded under this program.


Chapter published: 29-11-2013


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