Culture minister seeks advice on promoting Korea overseas
By Lee Hyo-won
A high school student sharply pointed out to the minister of culture, sports and tourism that adolescent efforts to promote Korean culture overseas are often overlooked.
The issue was raised during an unconventional briefing Wednesday in Seoul, where the newly appointed Minister Choung Byoung-gug and officials of the state-run Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) remained on the sidelines to hear feedback from 46 representatives of various cultural sectors, rather than just announce the ministry’s 2010 report and future projects.
“I served on the National Assembly’s culture, sports and tourism committee for over 10 years, and the same criticisms are raised each year. The government tries its best but civil servant positions change every two years; there is thus a lack of continuity and projects are often disrupted. We are here today to hear your observations and feedback to better introduce Korean culture to the world,” said Minister Choung.
Many participants agreed that the G20 Seoul Summit last November helped boost the national image. Choi Jung-hwa, president of the Corea Image Consulting Institute (CICI), organized a “C20” (Culture 20) event, inviting culture experts from G20 member countries. “They were deeply impressed by the local culinary and music scene,” she said.
There was a consensus that the Korean “hallyu” wave was a positive driving force. “My wife and daughter are fans of Korean TV dramas and food,” said Che Zhao He, director of the China Cultural Center in Seoul. Hiroshi Suzuki, the director of the Japanese Cultural Center here, agreed, “Yonsama (actor Bae Yong-joon) singlehandedly realized a revolution... Korea needs a second, third Yonsama in different areas and countries to grab people’s hearts.”
Participants voiced several points to improve upon.
Kim Joo-ho, CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, noted that using the word hallyu in policy-making can appear aggressive. Kim Hyeong-gi of KBS World pointed out the importance of branding cultural assets — Choi concurred, saying that promotional magazines need sexier titles, rather than “Korean Policies.”
Steve Miller, a power blogger famous for producing YouTube clips on local heritage sites, said he receives hundreds of email inquiries about Korea from both near and far. He suggested that government-produced promotional videos should discern what would appeal to a specific target audience.
Others mentioned the need to expand the target audience. Sergio Flores, a Guatemalan student studying at Seoul National University, said Korea needs to promote its culture more in Central America, and was glad that KOCIS has cultural centers in South America and will be opening one in Mexico. Seo Kang-soo, director of KOCIS, said 24 centers will be built by the end of the year, including off-the-beaten track areas such as Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
These centers, however, should provide something more than information about kimchi. “Promoting culture should not be a one-way affair — bilateral exchange and finding common values by acknowledging differences are crucial,” said the minister.
For more information or to submit comments about the ministry’s efforts to promote Korean culture overseas, visit KOCIS’ website www.kocis.go.kr (Korean and English).