The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Bringing Korean performing arts to the world scene

University Street (Taehangno)
Photo: Noriko Kimura

(*3) University Street (Taehangno): About 40 small theaters are concentrated in this area of Seoul and it is known as the trendsetting of new performing arts.

(*4) Seoul Arts Center: This comprehensive arts complex in the Nambu district of Seoul includes Opera House, Music House, Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Calligraphy Art Museum and Arts Library (Design Museum).
How about the Office of Asia Artplex?
The main jobs of the Foreign Programs Team are promoting international exchange and assisting the overseas activities of Korean artists. The operations are divided between Inbound and Outbound projects. Inbound involves introducing Korean artists to foreign presenters through venues like the PAMS, while Outbound involves publicizing Korean artists internationally through participation in overseas arts markets. Since we have just begun operations we do not have a clear picture yet about the scale of our budget in these areas, but at present a larger part of our efforts are going into the Inbound side. However, in the future we intend to shift more emphasis to the Outbound side.

How about the Asia Art-plex Team?
This is one of the “Central Cultural City Creation” programs that were begun during the previous presidency of Kim Dae Jung. Under this program city of Kyongju was designated as the Culture Center for the traditional arts of Kyongsangbukto province, Chonju the Culture Center for the traditional arts of Chollabukto province, Taegu was designated the “Fashion Design City,” Pusan was designated the Culture Center for film and video arts and Gwangju was designated the Asian Culture Center. The programs have already been established and are functioning in the first four cities and now we are concentrating efforts on the Asian Culture Center program in Gwangju. This is the Asia Art-plex program. Three years ago a special bill was passed for this program and an action group was formed under the direct supervision of the President. From now on, this will be one of the main programs that KAMS will be working on. Plans call for the opening of a new Asian Culture Complex in Gwangju in the year 2010. This complex will consist of an Asian Culture Network Center, the Asia Art-plex (arts creation center), a theater and a Children’s Museum.

It seems that in recent year the government’s eyes are focused on the provinces domestically and on Asia internationally.
Korea has a long history of conflict between the domestic provinces and during the previous presidency of Kim Dae Jung efforts were begun to dismantle the mechanisms and organizations that promoted this inter-provincial conflict. The city of Gwangju is the center of Kyongsangnamdo, a province that was long been alienated, from the rest of the country both culturally and economically, and it is also an area that continues to bear scars from the era of the democracy movement. So, I believe that there is special political significance behind the decision to designate Gwangju as the Asian Culture Center. Another factor is the recent government efforts to counter the tendency of centralization of everything in Seoul by promotion the division of government functions and shifting them to the regional cities. The Asian region has now achieved a certain level of economic growth and the government is definitely focusing now on South Korea’s role in Asia and our role as a cultural center of Asia, including phenomenon like the recent pan-Asian popularity of Korean TV dramas music and movies.

It also seems that the South Korean government is actively providing more back-up for the domestic performing arts companies through such programs as support for their overseas performance.
Yes. There has been some expansion of programs for introducing movies and music overseas, and I believe that we are now beginning to see the start of efforts to promote the performing arts like theater and dance as well. In fact, movies and music are relatively easy to promote because there are direct economic benefits. On the other hand, this is not the case with the performing arts. It is still an area where we are waiting to see more government support. This is another area where KAMS must play a role.

Last year, the first Performing Arts Market, Seoul was held amidst big expectations in the performing arts world following when the creation of a special office by the government’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. However, we have heard that there was considerable criticism about the size and contents of the market. This year KAMS will play the central role in organizing PAMS. Will there be any significant changes?
Last year PAMS was organized with input from a lot of people but no unifying strategy. The may have detracted from the event as a whole. Based on last year’s experience, we have established clear strategy and concepts for this year’s market. The biggest difference is that the main venue has been moved from the National Theater to the Alco Theater on “University Street (*3). As government backed institutions, it is certainly understandable that officials would want to make the National Theater or the Seoul Arts Center (*4) the venue for the market, but you can’t expect an effective event if it is held in a place like SAC that is a considerable distance from the performing arts scene and the flow of people in the city. This year’s budget is 770 million won (approx. 806,000 US dollar). Despite the fact that this is over 200 million won less that last year’s one billion won (approx. 1,050,000 US dollar) budget, I believe that we can expect a big positive effect from moving the venue to University Street. Also, despite the lower budget we have set ambitious goals to increase the number of showcases from 41 to 50, the number of overseas guests from 94 people from 22 countries to 120 people from 25 countries and the number of domestic participants to 3,000 and the total audience to 10,000.
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