SEOUL, KOREA – K-pop and Korean drama’s increased popularity, along with Psy’s “Gangnam Style” becoming a worldwide viral hit, has fostered greater interest in Korean culture. As opposed to the catchy and stylish K-pop and Korean dramas seen across the world, ordinary Koreans seem unable to afford cultural activities in this highly competitive society. People here work the longest hours in the OECD member nations, and the majority of them have the usual passive leisure activities – watching TV, taking a nap or taking a walk (36.2%) - rather than participating in active cultural arts (7.2%), sport (9.5%) or travelling (4.7%). Without being exposed to active cultural activities, many teenagers are struggling with mental problems such as school violence and game addiction, and employees frequently relieve their stress through binge drinking. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) is now encouraging a more creative cultural environment for the public to improve their quality of life as well as their professional productivity.
“One Person, Two Talents”
‘One Person, Two Talents’ is the recent focus of Kwang-shik Choe, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), encouraging the public to regularly participate in one sport as well as one cultural activity such as music, art, or musicals. “As creativity is the biggest growth engine and measure of competitiveness in the future of a smart society, it is essential for the public to have diverse cultural experiences. The MCST is planning to foster more public sports and music programs as the five-day work and school week expand, and to encourage more talent donation programs – contributing individual talents to public welfare. Personally, I started to learn Danso, a Korean short bamboo flute, and it provides me with immense refreshment. Now, I am proud of being able to play ‘Arirang’, a Korean folk song,“ the minister said.
‘One Day, Two Nights’ is another slogan the minister has advocated to foster a more productive and creative leisure environment. “The MCST is promoting domestic tourism for the public to travel to various places throughout the country for one day and two nights, and also to boost regional economies. Korea has many beautiful tourist attractions that are not well known, so the MCST has selected ’99 Must-Visit Tourist Attractions’. The list, compiled by local travel experts after a thorough examination of tourist attractions across Korea, will be useful for both Korean and foreign travelers alike.”
“With the rapid penetration of smart devices – reaching 30 million - and the advanced digital infrastructure, the MCST is stimulating smarter tourism. Tourists can reserve hotels, purchase train and airline tickets in real time via their smart phones, as well as share travel information and experiences with social networking services in real time. ‘Visit Korea 2.0’ is the representative application through which visitors can conveniently find tourist attractions, restaurants, accommodation, and shopping information. They can also easily locate destinations with mapping services and way-finding services. Besides, the ‘Korea Smart Tour Guide’ application provides audio services and digital contents for the tourists to better enjoy the stories behind Korea’s major historical heritages, as well as national museums,” he said.
For foreign tourists, the language barrier which is the biggest obstacle for travels, can be removed with the help of ‘Genietalk’, the Korean-English interpretation application, developed by Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). Providing 270,000 Korean words and 65,000 English words, it boasts over an 80% successful interpretation rate in a real-life situation. It is expected to add six more languages including Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish by 2018. For a tourist to report a complaint, visitors can call 1330, which is offered in four languages, Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese.
Smart Cultural Exchange
“The MCST also took an initiative in promoting a global cultural exchange with the advancement of smart technology. As seen from the huge ripple effect of Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, SNS has become an effective channel for the fast and easy delivery of content. We have been running Korea Culture Centers across the world to exchange diverse cultures through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. They allow local people to experience the traditions and history of Korea through specialized programs, events, and multiple learning resources. On top of this, Korean cultural arts are promoted and shared in collaboration with Google Art Project, an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artwork housed in the initiative’s partner museums. Currently, around 5,000 pieces of Korean art are posted on the website.”
The advancement of personal smart devices has had an influence on the Korean content industry – games, film, music, and animation – which has steadily grown for the past few years. The amount of content exported increased to USD 4.3 billion in 2011, an increase of 35% from the previous year. Korean game companies such as NEXON and NCsoft account for around 60% of the total content exported and ranked 6th in global market share. Keeping pace with the smart trends, they are now focusing on developing games transcending the boundaries of the Internet, mobile, and game consoles. K-pop and Korean dramas, which used to center around Asian regions, are now expanding into other continents through social media. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was viewed on YouTube throughout 222 countries. Promoting Korean culture overseas has helped improve the perception of Korean people, as well as the economy.
Minister Choe also emphasized the importance of global content exchange. Quality content is created based on cultural diversity and experiences that serve as momentum to raise the value of the Korean content industry. In the early 2000s, we used to have an abundance of co-productions of films and dramas with Chinese and Japanese industries, but now it seems a little stagnant. The MCST plans to encourage more global content exchange in the form of joint production and personnel exchanges. Indeed, personnel exchange of producers and actors have been on the rise recently. It is essential for the government to enable more diverse content to be introduced across the border.
Under the vision of ‘Envisioning a greater tomorrow through culture’, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism is now aiming for enjoyment, harmony, and progress through cultural promotion. “The MCST is aiming to re-energize life as well as the creativity of work by fostering cultural activities and increasing global cultural exchange, along with the help of the increasing number of smart devices,” he said.