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[Editorial] Lopsided State Subsidies Need Probe

Posted January. 27, 2008 23:16,   


The Korean Directors` Society said in a statement yesterday that certain figures in the film industry colluded with the Roh Moo-hyun government to dominate the Korean Film Council and unilaterally implement a gross budget of 300 billion won over the past five years. This absurdity resulted in a huge amount of tax money being used to support left-wing activists and neglecting the original intent of promoting the Korean film industry. Under these circumstances, freedom of expression was utilized to overturn existing values and norms, and the screen quota system turned into a symbol of the anti-American movement, the statement said.

The criticism suggests how tenaciously the incumbent administration has forced culture and art circles to follow the government’s policy code. Having taken the reins of the film council and the Arts Council Korea early in his term, President Roh sought to bring the cultural community under his influence by allowing left-wing artists to execute the budget.

Financial resources for the art sector come from the two councils. The film council, with 270 billion won in tax money, invested in a number of businesses. The arts council provides assistances to artists with 110 billion won of tax money. Criticism is mounting that the two organizations unfairly distributed financial assistance in favor of leftist forces.

The Korean People’s Artists Federation, which eagerly curried favor with the government, enjoyed lavish subsidies, while the conservative Korean Federation of Art & Culture Organizations and its member associations struggled with meager assistance. Considering that the conservative federation has 1,200,000 members, or 12 times that of its rival, it is clear how unfair government discrimination has been.

Inside the art community, rumors have spread that the Korea Research Foundation, which is responsible for distributing research subsidies of 900 billion won each year, provided the most aid to left-wing scholars and institutes or those who contributed to the Roh administration.

Some say that instead of trying to establish a national identity, organizations and agencies on the receiving end of state budget have been pawns of the administration, promoting its ideology and code. What’s more, their use in recreating power and fueling anti-American sentiment is outrageous. The Korean film industry has been free-falling out of control, and high art is teetering on collapse, for which the film and arts councils are not free from responsibility.

The new administration should launch a thorough investigation into the allegations. By shedding light on the government’s illegal practices and wrongdoings, this probe should serve as an opportunity to strengthen national identity and revive cultural diversity.