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Culture minister hints at charing admission to state museums

Nov. 22, 2023 - 18:23 By Park Ga-young
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon (left) speaks during a meeting with representatives of the art community at the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, in Jung-gu, central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Charging admission at state-run museums could be considered through public discussion, Yu In-chon, the minister of culture, sports and tourism, said during a meeting with 29 members of the art community at the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday.

He made the remarks in response to a request by Savina Lee, director of the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, who said, "Due to the free admission policy of national museums and state-run art museums, private art museums are losing competitiveness.”

“With a significant budget difference between public and private institutions, there is unfair competition in admission fees, making it difficult to present diverse exhibitions and limiting the public's right to cultural enjoyment,” Lee said.

In response, Yu said, "I think a review of the free admission policy is necessary," and added, "However, it is an issue that needs to go through a gathering of public opinion."

Regarding the operation of the national art facilities, Yu said, "There is a need to revise the operation of closed days at national museums and state-run art museums. It seems necessary to have one day off a week for exhibition preparation and maintenance purposes."

In 2002, state-run museums began to offer free admissions, a policy aimed at increasing access to culture.

However, in 2006, the National Museum of Korea began charging for exhibitions at its permanent exhibition hall, only to have the move reversed in 2008 when the Lee Myung-bak administration followed up on a presidential campaign pledge to make state-run museums free.

Currently, the National Museum of Korea offers both free and paid exhibitions while the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea charges for admission to special exhibitions. Art museums and museums operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation operate free of charge.

The number of state-run museums numbered more than 500 as of the end of 2021.

Culture Minister Yu In-chon (center) and representatives from the arts industry participate in a meeting on Tuesday at the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. (Yonhap)

Returning as culture minister for a second time after serving in the role from February 2008 to January 2011 under the Lee Myung-bak administration, Yu has been meeting with representatives in the culture sector to discuss policy directions. During a press conference on Oct. 30, Yu noted that art is a new driving force for Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, saying, "The most significant change seems to be in the art market."

“If Korean art were a mountain climb, it has just moved beyond the base and is now beginning to ascend toward the summit. Through communication with people in the field, I aim to formulate policies necessary for the growth of Korean art,” he said.

Among those attending Tuesday’s meeting were artists Kwon Ki-soo, Gwon O-sang and Son Jong-jun, art critic Jung Joon-mo, art archivist Kim Dal-jin and Kukje Gallery CEO Charles Chang-han Kim, K Auction CEO Do Hyun-soon, Seoul Auction Vice Chairman Lee Ok-kyung and Art Sonje Center Director Kim Jang-un.