South Korea/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.3 Cultural/creative industries: policies and programmes

Cultural industry before 1988

            Recognizing the importance for cultural industry had influenced by the political situation and the role of cultural policy had to take during the period of political environment between 1960s to late 1980s. As for the cultural policy in general, special emphasis was placed on the field of national and traditional culture in order to recover destructions made during the colonial period. It was also important for the government to formulate a unified national cultural identity for political and economic reasons. Popular culture in general was negatively perceived, such as consumptive, decadent, and even rebellious. Import of cultural product was controlled for historical reasons (Japan) as well as for political reasons (Western popular culture for spreading liberal thoughts). Broadcasting, cinema, songs, and publication, hose classified as cultural industry products were under censorship on political ideology and moral grounds. There was little possibility that these genres as bearing economic value not to say of societal value.


            Recognition and initiation of cultural industry policy

            It was only after 1988, where the government (Roh Tae-Woo as president) separated cultural administration from public information and established an independent ministry cultural policy. The wave of globalization growing, Kim Yong-Sam government established division for cultural industry in 1994. This may regarded as a turning point for relevant genres because they came to be seen from a international perspective rather than object of regulation from a national perspective.


            Neo liberalism and the rise of cultural industry policy

            The financial crisis in 1997 that struck Korea massively engendered serious interest for the economic value that cultural industry could create. Kim Dae-Jung government acknowledged the cultural sector to be one of the instruments to make a breakthrough in economic hardship and furnish the environment to promote cultural industry sector in a global setting. In order to do this, president Kim fully opened up the market for the Japanese popular culture, which was a controversial issue due to historical legacy. The first legal provision for cultural industry, 「Framework Act for the Promotion of the Cultural Industries」was issued in 1999. It is essential in that the law provided comprehensive and clear definition on cultural policy for the first time. The law defines cultural industry as ‘industries related to the production, distribution, and consumption of cultural product’ by which the cultural product refers to both tangible and intangible goods and services that create economic value by embodying cultural elements. Cultural product, following the definitional logic of this law, could include familiar forms of product such as the film, sound recording, game software, animation but also theatrical performance, traditional clothing, and even traditional food.


            Support and promotion for cultural industry sector was empowered by newly established organization such as the Korean Film Council, Korea Media Rating Board, Korea Games Promotion Center. All were in fact to eliminate a former regulative function from the past organizations and confer new mission for the promotion of each industry. It provided platform of policy discourse and interaction with independent policy research function.


            From cultural industry to content industry


Announcement of Content Korea Vision 21 marked significant shift in the scope of what cultural industry policy should be doing for the future years to come. Digitalization and media convergence recognize to be an important change surrounding the cultural industry the government saw potential sources of radical expansion of the content market. The term cultural industry was replaced by the term content industry, specifically the cultural content industry. To have the cultural content industry to flourish it should have close connection with the IT industry still comprising essential features of cultural industry. In Content Korea Vision 21 this is denoted asCT (culture technology), the technology with which cultural contents can be digitalized. CT concept acquired the status equivalent to that of information technology (IT), biotechnology (BT), and nanotechnology (NT) in terms of inducing government support. Korea Cultural Content Agency (KOCCA) was established for a comprehensive promotion of the cultural content industry sector.

            Subsequent action took place following the Creative Korea (2004) report, which introduced the Culture Industry Process System mode. It emphasized the organic connection between the input output process, policy support, and importance of the infrastructure. Infrastructure was understood to be essential in the field where government intention should not dominate over market forces. Accordingly, input infrastructure such as human resource development, technology development, financial assistance, policy research and information infrastructure became the main issued of policy support. Favorable environment for the cultural industry in terms of legal system such as tax, copyright regulation was considered to be effective producing new systems and institutions.

            The convergence of cultural industry with content industry accelerated from 2008 when the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism took responsibility of overall digital content industry sector. However, this was a period of global economic downturn and cultural industry was not an exception. Sales declined and employment opportunities shrank thus content industry’s direction also moved to creating jobs, creating business friendly environment, supporting export and global competiveness.

Chapter published: 29-11-2013