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[Opinion] Arts Council Korea Chairman

Posted September. 03, 2008 09:39,   


Ten inaugural members were appointed to Arts Council Korea, which was launched in August 2005 by then President Roh Moo-hyun. The 10 members left office July 25 this year and their replacements will be appointed this week. The council has an annual budget of 100 billion won, or 88 million U.S. dollars, to sponsor artists and their activities. Like the size of the budget, the council wields large influence. That is why noise surrounds the body`s operations. At a session evaluating the first-term members early last month, outsiders voiced sharp criticism of the council`s ideologically biased policy, pork-barrel appropriations and favoritism committed by the first-term council. In the 2005 and 2006 management assessments of state-run organizations, the council ranked at the bottom.

In September last year, Roh appointed Kim Jung-heun, the co-leader of Cultural Action, as the first chairman of the council. On the surface, it was a competitive election. In substance, however, the socialist Roh handpicked Kim, a hard-line left-wing artist who organized demonstrations against the deployment of Korean troops to Iraq and the free trade agreement with the United States. As an ordinary member during the first term, he funneled a huge chunk of the council budget into Cultural Action and its subsidiaries. For this, he was blasted by various civic organizations.

Once the socialist Roh administration made way for the new administration, rumors flared up over Kim’s future since his socialist attitude and career seemed incompatible with those of the Lee administration. Above all, no one believed that Kim could keep a moderate position in leading the national arts organization with his “hardcore” socialist slant. Kim is still in office, however. At a July 25 news conference, he said, “I will serve the remaining two years [of my term].” He even criticized Culture Minister Yu In-chon, saying, “Mr. Yu is monopolizing the selection process for second-term members.”

Minister Yu had flip-flopped his position on Kim, urging Kim`s resignation after taking office but now remaining silent. The council chairman should be the one to communicate with the 10 other members and reach an agreement. This time, however, Kim will be the only socialist or liberal figure on the council. What can he do in practice? We also wonder what Yu will do to fix this problem.

Editorial Writer Huh Moon-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)