Kim, Hyein (Korea Culture & Tourism Institute)
The ASEAN regions are considered as one of the most favorable travel sites for Koreans. The actual figures indicate that the ASEAN countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Laos, and Myanmar are enormously favored by Koreans as tourist destinations. The fact that these countries are visited as tourist destinations means that Koreans must have had general insights on their experiences of people, cultures, linguistic characteristics, preferences, and perceptions of the regions.
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ASEAN-Korea Cultural Partnership
Hello, it is my pleasure to meet you. I am Hyein Kim form the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute. Through the ASEAN-ROK Culture Innovation Summit, it is my great pleasure to have a chance to connect with you online. Today, I would like to talk briefly about the need for a cooperative art organization between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea.
In fact, the history of cultural exchange and communication between Korea and ASEAN is quite deep. In the ASEAN countries, people are familiar with Korean pop culture because of K-Pop and others, and in Korea, people are quite knowledgeable about the basic traditions and lifestyle of the ASEAN countries. Recently, the Korean government, with the New Southern Policy, is actively discussing about strengthening the partnership with ASEAN by taking a step beyond mere dialogues or communication exchanges. To this end, raising related funds or fortifying policy projects are currently on the table, and some are actually being implemented. I understand today’s forum has been planned as a part of this process between Korea and ASEAN.
There are already more than 60 government-level public organizations and exchange and cooperation at different levels and within different fields, such as summits or meetings amongst culture ministers, are under discussion. These days, Korea has placed an emphasis on developing a better partnership with ASEAN, the partnership leading to co-existence, cooperation, and co-creation.
Korea is laying the foundation for more productive and evolutive relations, with a clear direction toward a better partnership. For example, in the case of the ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund, which has raised funds since the 1990s, the Korean government often made additional investments in it and generated many other public policy funds at government level, paving the way for exchanging projects, events, and activities at various levels. In that sense, in Korea, organizations like ASEAN Culture House, ASEAN-Korea Centre, and Asia Culture Center, proactively act as a medium between the government and many cooperative organizations.
However, an issue which claims our attention is that the Korean people are relatively accustomed to performance cultures in the ASEAN regions. I mean, for instance, they aware of the traditional performances of the Philippines, as well as the traditional music instruments of Malaysia. People are frequently exposed to these cultural performances and they are neighboring us. On the other hand, we might lack the capacity to answer questions such as what kind of artists, what kind of at culture and planners, and what kind of exhibitions and spaces these regions have. Some of these remain less discovered and unknown. Some exchange exhibitions were held in Korea in cooperation with the ASEAN countries. For example, under the 10 common themes of democracy, peace, light, and so on, the Asia Culture Center held a joint exhibition with related artists and planners. But in fact, many exhibitions and exchanges dealing with expertise can be rarely found. In addition, we are not much aware of art organizations or active artist in these regions, due to the lack of exchanges and studies compared to those of other countries and cultures. Recently, the awareness of challenges and problems is rising and more active engagement is expected
In fact, in Korea, there are many organizations, groups, and artists in the art ecosystem. In terms of art museums, Korea has approximately 250, as well as nearly 500 galleries. In terms of biennales, there are 3 major biennales at international level, along with many other biennales in the field of sculpture, craft, and others. A large number of art fairs are occurring alongside a diverse utilization of spaces including residencies, creative spaces, and alternative spaces, in addition to a great number of art people working actively in the industry.
Korean seems to have relatively little information as to what kind of art environment ASEAN culture possesses, and it seems that little research has taken place. Currently, we are trying to address this issue. We need to more actively study and find out about ASEAN, the artist who are engaging in significant activates, the roles of groups and organizations, and some distinctive and innovative activities of creative or alternative spaces, to name but a few. We need to study more and discover things we can do together. On the other hand, we also expect ASEAN art people to discover major activities in Korea and prospects for future cooperative activities. These expectations are rising within our art scene and public sectors.
The Korean private art sector demonstrates its active aspect, too. Among the aforementioned 250 art museums, more than half of them are private and they engage in extensive activities at private level. In addition, there are also private galleries, art fairs, and alternative places in full swing. Active and rich cultural exchanges between countries must be preceded by exchanges at public level. In other words, the public-level exchanges may act as a framework or a backbone for long-term relationships, and based on them, the exchange of a variety of subjects, and details is possible at private level, allowing more abundant cultural exchanges.
However, I feel sorry to see less active private-level art exchanges between the ASEAN countries, especially in the field of traditional art. Looking into several cultural exchange events taking place in Korea, many events are funded by the government. In fact, the art world alone supports and organizes many exhibitions after having discovered significant discourses or valuable sources of exchange in the art world. Yet, in the case of ASEAN, despite our close proximity, considerable communication, and comprehensive understanding of each other’s culture, there are relatively few in-depth exchanges and lacking profound exposure to mutual content within the field. At first glance, ASEAN might have held occasional exhibitions introducing Korean art-there were not many, relatively. Also in Korea, when we ask ourselves if we are familiar with various aspects of the ASEAN artists, in which I refer to various art pieces from traditional to contemporary ASEAN artists, the answer will be not likely.
The ASEAN regions are considered as one of the most favorable travel sites for Koreans. The actual figures indicate that the ASEAN countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Laos, and Myanmar are enormously favored by Koreans as tourist destinations. The fact that these countries are visited as tourist destinations means that Koreans must have had general insights on their experiences of people, cultures, linguistic characteristics, preferences, and perceptions of the regions. Meanwhile, many ASEAN tourists have visited Korea and, although they proactively experience general culture and the artistic/cultural content of Korea, the frequency of exchange and the level of concentration in the art field is less so than the general cultural exchanges and feeling of familiarity we have with each other. As we have been talking about our lack of attention, to ASEAN as a counterpart for artistic exchanges and partnerships, a recent attempt that the Korean government has been making is to form an art cooperative organization between Korea and ASEAN. The name could be the ASEAN-Korea Art Cooperation Center, or the ASEAN-Korea, or the Asian Art Cooperative Organization. Within the art field we have been discussing and considering where the influence is most needed, my first thought is of various ASEAN-ROK art exhibitions or similar exhibitions organized in a multilateral manner. We might also find it desirable that these exhibitions are co-planned and co-produced from their inception, with activities cooperatively devised in various public art projects. Most importantly, this organization will provide time and opportunities for both Korean and ASEAN artists, planners, and scholars, in which they might interact and consider what we can do together. In that aspect, if active exchanges can be made through residencies or creative spaces, if the ASEAN-Korean art cooperative organization plays a leading role in all of them, many encouraging events await us.
In facing the arrival of the Post Covid-19 era, art industries all over the world convey a great deal of concern about art activities ahead. This grave issue affects Kore and the ASEAN countries as well, I believe. The concerns will be related to devising exhibitions, circulating works, and interacting with people. Of course, it is possible to exchange content online but there are many other methods which online communication cannot cover. Korea is on the way to tackling the issue but I think better ways can be devised when we put our heads together. In addition, Korea has been paying keen attention to a better way to digitally preserve and archive cultural traditions and art heritages. I believe, through the cooperative organization, we can consider issues such as how to archive the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the ASEAN countries and use them as future content. The cooperative organization will give an opportunity to create discourses and explore future-oriented approaches together.
Although there have been a few events and exhibitions between Korea and ASEAN, I believe that this cooperative organization, or some activities organized by it, can bring about the realization of long-term plans, as well as gathering opportunities for various groups of various sizes at various levels. Hence, it can be considered a milestone at which can bring to think of the future after 2020. Korea will strive to find a way to actively cooperate with the ASEAN countries for the art cooperative organization and further art cooperation activities. I understand the ASEAN countries retain rich and professional art museums and art organizations, I hope for close and friendly partnerships and many related activities within these organizations. Thank you.
Kim, Hyein Kim
Research Fellow, Korea Culture and Tourism Research Institute.
Adjunct Professor, Kyunghee University.