South Korea/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies

Social cohesion has become an important cultural policy issue and was instituted as a program at the beginning of 2005 to reduce disadvantage in cultural life as a result of income barriers. The policy took two forms of which one was to directly subsidize the consumer and the other to increase accessibility to culture for the disadvantaged group. The exemplary program of the former is the “cultural voucher” service for those in the second lowest income category. About 990,000 people received these vouchers over three years period (2008~2010). The cultural voucher is valid for the purchase of performance, exhibition and cinema tickets, books, DVDs and the like. At the beginning it was administered based on a point system which required registering on a specific internet site, but as this did not reach the target group effectively, it was transformed to a debit card like system for the user’s convenience. Meanwhile regional nodes (mostly regional arts foundations) for managing the service have been appointed to meet the specific needs of each area. To address the supply side provision of the service, arts and cultural organizations were subsidized to allocate a certain proportion of seats to the designated target group. Since this type of service rendering ran the risk of stigmatizing the recipient, the national art organization instead toured and visited social welfare organizations to increase exposure to the target group.

Disparity and polarization was also a problem in geographical terms and for certain social groups who were being pushed to the margins of a rapidly changing society. The Arts and Culture Education Service designated three elementary schools as part of the “Arts Blooming from the Seeds” school project in the first year. As a result of 4 years of support, those schools survived by redefining themselves as a specified school in the arts and even attracted students from bigger cities.

The social enterprise scheme was another tool for achieving social cohesion through the arts. Under the scheme the social enterprise, one should either employ a certain percentage of disabled people from the lowest income strata or provide a certain portion of their service to socially disadvantaged groups. A few portion of nonprofit arts organization moves to acquire this status in order to get qualified to receive subsidy for personnel expenses.

Chapter published: 29-11-2013