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

(*5) Guests from the Asian countries will receive part of air fare and lodging and pay no participation fees, while guests from other countries must pay their own air fare.
University Street has over 40 theaters. Do you have tie-ups in place with these private sector theaters and arts companies?
There is no special tie-up agreement made, but the synergistic effect should be big. We have planned a University Street tour for our overseas guests, and I think the biggest of all will be the effect of having the market participants come to University Street and naturally get a picture of the Korean performing arts scene in that way.

You mentioned that this year you have adopted a clear strategy and concepts. Can you be specific about what those are?
In terms of strategy, we have focused on the make-up of the foreign guests. We have divided the world into the seven regions of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North America, Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand and Asia. And from these regions we have invited primarily producers from theaters and arts centers rather just festival directors. Taking the case of Australia for example, we will invite the representatives of the Opera House in Sydney, the Victoria Arts Center in Melbourne and the Performing Arts Center in Queensland. Our aim is to create a base that would enable a Korean company going to Australia to link together a tour that would include all of these cities. Until now the guests were mainly overseas festival representatives, which meant that most invitations ended up as a single performance in a single city, and it also meant that the timing was restricted to that of a particular festival. That means little return on the labor and investment made. Also, if you are dealing with theaters and arts centers the schedule can be set at any time during the year that best suits both parties, which opens up possibilities for other performances in the neighboring regions.
In terms of the market’s concept, the main concept this time is Asia. This is based on the decision that we are now in a time when we have to focus on Asia. One of the things that characterizes this year’s PAMS is that we are paying completely for all the guests coming from Asia, which means that they are being given financially priority compared to guests from other regions (*5). Of course this is partly due the difference in economic conditions, but it is also because we feel a definite need to build a market in the Asian region. Because Asia is a region where we can build mutually beneficial markets. Also, in places like the U.S. and Europe the internal market is already formed, so rather than investing large amounts of money for the task of getting into those markets, by winning attention in markets in Asia, I think it can have a natural effect on markets in other regions.

Listening to you speak, it sounds like a much more logical strategy than what we might have heard from the older generation.
The Korean performing arts world in now in a stage where the next generation is beginning to move in. The “PAMS Choice 2006” event that selected the showcase entries for this year’s PAMS was conducted by a program director system that involved experts in each field who were in their 40s or younger. In addition to making the system responsible for finding and selecting works that have the potential to be taken abroad, this system was also aimed at bringing attention to younger, more experimental works that might not have surfaced in the normal context of Korea’s cultural atmosphere as it is today. The result of this selection process based on the eyes of younger experts we selected a total of 25 works that reflect the diversity, progressiveness and contemporary relevance of Korean performing arts, including seven theater works, nine dance works, four music works, four multidisciplinary arts and one other.

How do you view the current condition of performing arts in South Korea?
Korean performing arts today are extremely diverse and full of creativity. In terms of diversity, if you consider the fact there are over 1,500 arts groups actively performing today and about 7,500 works are being introduced annually, I think you will see just how diverse it is. In terms of creativity, we are seeing the emergence of a third form of arts that creates contemporary works fusing aspects of traditional Korean arts along with Western methodologies. Despite this diversity and creativity, however, the distribution side of the market is still small, with only about 500 [producing organizations] operating domestically. The same is true overseas. Despite the fact that we have arts companies and works that definitely have the quality to compete abroad, we calculate that a mere 2.4% of them are introduced to foreign audiences. So, I believe that the current issue for the Korean performing arts is creating the mechanisms and venues for domestic and overseas distribution.

Does overseas development mean primarily exchanges or opening up new markets overseas?
I think we are in an age when exchange can’t be separated from economical aspects. Speaking in practical terms, economic [revenue] stability is essential for sustaining a performing arts company. If the economic situation is stable, reproduction is possible – in other words it gives you foundation to create the next work. However, because our domestic market is limited in size, we need to expand our market overseas. Artistically speaking, if you are only performing in the domestic market you tend to become like a frog in the well that knows nothing about the outside world. Expanding into foreign markets is also meaningful from the standpoint of mutual cultural development. Therefore, I think that both aspects are involved in real exchange.

What do you think about the relationship with Japan?
At the coming Performing Arts Market in Seoul, we have scheduled a ceremony to officially sign a program exchange agreement with the Tokyo Performing Arts Market. This is because our two countries are big mutual markets for each other. We intend to continue to actively pursue this kind of exchange in the future.

Finally, would you tell us your vision of what you would like to see happening in the future?
I want to do the very best job I can in my new role as the director of KAMS. My contract is for five years and during this term I want to create institutions and policies that are truly necessary and in the best interests of the artists. In other words, I want to have the political system working for the benefit of culture and the arts. And, in the areas of the performing arts scene where there is a need for a change of generations, I want to help see that there is more than simply a generation change. I want to work in ways that will bring about truly meaningful change.
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