[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.3] The Direction of Policy on International Culture Exchange And its Cases

Ⅰ. Changes of policy on international culture exchange in Korea


According to the Article 2 of Korea’s International Culture Exchange Promotion Act, which was legislated in March 2017, ‘international culture exchange’ refers to international cooperation and activities that are carried out to improve countries’ mutual understanding of their cultures in relevant fields including culture, arts and tourism.


Indeed, the professional people with exchange activities understand ‘international culture exchange’through its broad and narrow concept. From a broad perspective, international culture exchange means activities of all mutual exchange with parties by means of cultural content without any limitation. On the other hand, from a narrow perspective, all participants of international culture exchange have to accomplish one thing among three level effects are given as follows. As an individual level, it means to understand different cultures and to be stimulated creatively. As a national level, it means to achieve cultural development by exchanging the arts and culture activities or cultural industries. As a global level, it has to recognized as an activities contributing to sustain and spread of cultural diversity. These definitions, which have been manipulated in some way, focus on the main purposes of international culture exchange. Nevertheless, international culture exchange actually takes place more freely by participants without any self-censorship regardless of such definitions. However, when investing government budget, the public sector requests the evaluation of the achievements made by a given project so in this case, a limited definition is necessary to be used as criteria for such evaluation.


When it comes to the purpose of culture, cultural diplomacy tends to regard cultural exchange as a means to achieve political and economic national goals. In that sense, international cultural exchange consists in first seeking mutual understanding and cooperation in order to develope each culture itself.1) In particular, those participating in international cultural exchange and discussion on policy have generally agreed that the true cultural exchange requires efforts to acknowledge and understand each other’s cultural identity.


Considering Korea’s law, institutions or systems, it is relatively clear that the country’s policy on international arts and culture exchange started with a goal to improve the country’s status by promoting Korean culture. Such an initial goal is common to most countries or cities. Recently, although Korea doesn’t ignore this goal completely, it is true that the country has gone beyond it to gradually focus on the strengthening of Korean and international artists’ creativity and on the exchange and distribution of their works. Or, the country has organized global arts events in order to improve the image of local culture exchanging and distributing art works. In this way, the country has carried out a variety of exchange projects.


The international arts and culture exchange of the 21st century has the following trends: 1. to emphasize the solidarity within each region of the world, 2. to strike a balance between such regional solidarity and exchange with other regions and 3. to regard venues of international contests, performances and exhibitions as strategic points of exchange among all countries and cities, thanks to the development of transport and ICT




These days, UNESCO, which serves as an official intergovernmental organization specializing in culture, has taken the lead in conserving and utilizing each country’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage, thus suggesting and implementing policies and projects intended to strengthen cultural diversity. For example, UNESCO has actively carried out the UNESCO creative city network project in order to seek the creative industrialization of culture by means of cultural resources. The project has formed a basis for the establishment of a network of international cultural exchange.


After all, the 21st century is an era in which participants or beneficiaries of international cultural exchange are not only countries but also individuals, cities, citizens, businesses and international organizations. Consequently, unilateral exchange has lost its ground while interactive exchange has prevailed. Meanwhile, multilateral exchange is also increasing gradually. Naturally, the goal of cultural exchange is developing from simple contact to the strengthening of identity or attractiveness of countries or cities, and from dominance, cultural grafts and national benefits to communication, coexistence and understanding.


1) Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 2015, Research on the Medium and Long-term Plan of Policy on International Cultural Exchange, KIM Hye-in, senior researcher at Korea Culture & Tourism Institute, p.12.

2) Jeongsook Chung, 2012, Plan to Promote International Cultural Exchange, Korea Culture & Tourism Institute, p.91.



Ⅱ. Cases of Implemented International Arts and Culture Exchange4)


Best practices of successfully implemented international arts and culture exchange are likely to be mentioned in different ways depending on criteria and perspectives. Thus, different cases may be selected according to the following criteria: autonomous process of overall exchange, excellence of the planning of exchange, results of exchange (e.g. global level of aware ness and official relationships that will secure sustainable exchange), overall satisfaction of the participants of exchange and the degree of greatly stimulating creativity or touching people.




Focusing on Korean participants of international cultural exchange, this paper shares some of the success stories from interviews with experts who supervised cultural exchange projects. By doing so, it provides below the tips that could be helpful for artists and planners who are planning international exchange projects.


First, you should verify the competitiveness of certain works when planning an exchange project and when securing high-quality artistic works for exchange by considering the purpose of the project or the other party’s demand. In other words, art works with a high esthetic quality are able to recognize by the other party. “Outstanding merchandise always goes global. Once it grows into something valuable and it is trusted in its own country, in the result it can be successful abroad.”, “Modern art works were recognized excellent in Korean society has benefited from positive response in Korea-China cultural exchange programs, thus proving their potential of success in the all of the world.”


Second, an exchange program itself must be proper in the context. An outstanding program that could build its participants’creative capacity should be planned as an exchange project. “Arts Council Korea’s Nomadic Project helps international artists experience in a new environment, widen their perspectives and create new works. The project is meaningful in that such widened perspectives will be expect to reach the public in the future.”,“The Korea Foundation’s Curator Workshop Program has constantly met its participants’ demand by adopting experts’ advice based on the Foundation’s surveys on participants’ satisfaction and demand.”


3) Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 2015, Research on the Medium and Long-term Plan of Policy on Inter-national Cultural Exchange, KIM Hye-in, senior researcher at Korea Culture & Tourism Institute, p.26.

4) Jeongsook Chung, 2012, Plan to Promote International Cultural Exchange, Korea Culture & Tourism Institute, pp. 53-57.

5) Jeongsook Chung, 2017, “Best Practices of International Cultural Exchange in Foreign Countries,” Korea Arts Management Service, 2017, White Paper on the Arts and Culture of the 2015-2016 France-Korea Year, pp. 404-423.


Third, it is necessary to establish a preliminary plan that is professionalized and localized. One of the essential elements of success is a meticulous process of preparation. In that process, it is necessary to plan for a sufficient period of time an exchange program and its venue on the basis of a long-term perspective and professional planning intended to show what the other party wants. “To prepare events for the anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and other countries, France’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs planned the events and reserved theaters and galleries two to three years before. The case reveals the attitude of a cultural superpower countries.”,“If you prepare international exchange programs in advance, the other country’s audience can take sufficient time to enjoy Korean works.”


Fourth, indirect support that acknowledges participants’ autonomy ensures the success of international cultural exchange. In this context, a mediator’s role is important; instead of just providing economic support, the mediator needs to professionally support a market where participants are likely to enter in diverse ways. Or, the mediator could also connect artists as the participants to major theaters and festivals in partner's country. Artists dislike cases in which the government’s support for exchange influences even artists’ works.


Fifth, seamless exchange requires cooperation among ministries. The private sector organizations in developing countries find it difficult to engage in direct exchange activities compared to those in developed countries. Thus, civil servants in charge of foreign affairs could be of great help. “We planned the KBS TV program Music Bank in Vietnam. Since it is a communist country, we went through difficulties in negotiating for the theater rental fee. The Korean ambassador then visit to the Vietnamese prime minister to request the use of the theater. We were then able to pay almost nothing to stage the program. We also adopted some of the ambassador’s ideas to invite persons with disabilities to the program. As a result, we left a positive image for local citizens.”,“London’s K-culture Festival indirectly helped the musicians solve their visa problems.”


Sixth, networks of Korean nationals in the international cultural field constitute cultural resources that are important for seamless cultural exchange. Such networks encompass culture, tourism and sports(e.g. network of Taekwondo instructors). “The Danish like Japanese culture. On the other hand, they don’t know much about Korea. Under these circumstances, Taekwondo instructor Go Tae-jeong suggested that we bring some cultural programs that could be learned and experienced easily. So we shared Korean musical instruments (Danso and Janggu) and Korean mask dance in 2011. The purpose of the international cultural exchange program was clear. For a week, we held three workshops and a performance, targeting 30 high school students. Living in Denmark, Go Tae-jeong was running a Korean language school for children adopted from Korea and he promised us to provide accommodation.”


Seventh, it is necessary to make use of joint investment and cooperation with local planners. A case in point is the success of the exchange project for countries specially invited to the ARKO Art Fair that took place in Spain in 2007. “For example, the ARKO Art Fair was organized in Madrid, Spain in 2007. Korea, one of the fair’s partners, was specially invited on that occasion. It was an opportunity for Korean participants to be exposed not only to Madrid’s gallery projects but also to the city’s all cultural facilities. In consultation with the arts and culture bureau of the Korean Ministry of Culture, the Korean participants organized seven exhibitions of modern art in addition to a gallery art festival as well as a film festival and shaman ritual. Moreover, Korean representatives directly cooperated with local planners to plan all projects including the Gwangju Biennale, Nam June Paik Art Center (by GyeongGi Cultural Foundation), Korean Alternative Space, Design Art, Kim Deok-su’s Samul nori performance and distribution of 1,000 picture books. At that time, the planner on the Korean side had lived in Europe for 15 years. The Korean and local planners invested in and planned the programs together. They also invited promotion experts to promote the events. As a result, three major local daily newspapers voluntarily had a special weekend edition introducing Korea. Finally, tickets to the Art Fair were sold out in just two hours. This was an amazing result, considering the fact that six years before, Korean art works had been considered as mediocre. Consequently, artists met collectors, were connected to galleries and, from then on, made inroads into global markets fearlessly.”


Eighth, another major factor of successful arts and culture international exchange consists in appealing to local people by considering local contexts when translating works into the local language for international cultural exchange. For instance, the 2011 performance Killbeth in Ankara successfully appealed to the local audience thanks to its high-quality translation. “The play Killbeth won the Dong-A Theater Awards. To present the play in Ankara in 2011, the text was translated by 20 students of Korean studies at Ankara University and was greatly acclaimed by the local audience in Ankara. Ukchuk-ga: Pansori Mother Courage by Lee Jaram was also presented with sophisticated subtitles in order to enable the local audience to catch its punch lines.”


Ninth, networking enables sustainable exchange and gives hope to future generations of international cultural exchange. In this way, exchange isn’t limited to one single event but it is transmitted and developed in a sustainable manner. “In 2008 when the Beijing Olympics were held, Korea Arts Management Service helped us form partnerships with Chinese arts and culture organizations and groups in the framework of a bilateral cultural exchange program. The program helped us find partners necessary for international cultural exchange and understand the current situation of the arts scene.”





Ⅲ. Future Direction of International Arts and Culture Exchange


Now is the time for GyeongGi Cultural Foundation to set its future direction that will lead it to engage in meaningful international arts and culture exchange. Regarding such a direction, it would be necessary to review characteristics of international arts and culture exchange common to major countries. After studying the trends of international cultural exchange and roles of organizations in charge of international cultural exchange in six countries (UK, Germany, France, US, Japan and China), I found the following common elements.5)


First, most of the countries have adopted and properly mixed two kinds of visions for their international cultural exchange:


1. to understand other cultures in order to resolve conflict

2. to regard exchange as ‘promotion or trade’ from the perspective of cultural industries.


For example, although the British Council and the Goethe-Institute use their respective languages as a major element of exchange, even though they don’t neglect exchange of artists. On the other hand, China has a strong vision for ‘cultural trade.’ In this context, Korean local governments need to seek mutual understanding while also paying attention to the commercialization and distribution of exchanged art works.


Second, even if countries emphasize mutual understanding when engaging in international cultural exchange, they tend to focus more on promoting the strengths of their culture through their art works. To be more specific, when they dispatch young artists abroad, they also include programs of showing and explaining the excellence of their culture.


Third, as for the targets and budget of international cultural exchange, most of the countries concentrate their budget on the exchange projects involving the parties with whom they need to resolve conflict. For instance, the US has focused on exchange with and research on Islamic culture after the September 11 attacks.


Fourth, for their international cultural exchange, the six countries tend to choose partner countries that are linked to their historical experience and that are geographically close to them. Japan’s major partners are Southeast Asian countries while the US communicates more with Latin American countries. This is interpreted as part of their strategies to improve their relations with their neighboring countries.


Fifth, the six countries don’t carry out international cultural exchange just through a couple of organizations in charge. Rather, all relevant national organizations cooperate together to engage in international cultural exchange.


Sixth, the countries’ overseas cultural exchange facilities mostly started with teaching their respective languages. Gradually, they have met local people’s demand for their cultures to diversity their cultural programs.


If Korea considers these characteristics common to the six countries and if it shares the achievements of its international cultural exchange with citizens in a detailed manner, it will be able to help them better understand different cultures and improve their cultural sensitivity. International cultural exchange will then be used as a material or resource improving their quality of life.

#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.3 #Cultural Policy #Culture Exchange

@Chung Jeongsook

    • Write/ Chung Jeongsook, Representative Director of Jeonju Cultural Foundation

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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