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Reinventing ourselves to spearhead arts commercialization
[Festivals] Reinventing ourselves to spearhead arts commercialization
Writer : Kim Hee-sun_ ethnomusicologist 2014.02.18 Asia > Korea

Reinventing ourselves to spearhead arts commercialization
[Trends] Jung Jae-wal _ Director, Korea Arts Management Service


Amid a fast-changing international art and culture landscape against a backdrop of globalization, we can witness how the arts and culture community in Korea is also growing into its place as a pillar of the global arts and culture community. And throughout these changes, expectations are rising for the role of the Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS), which has the mission of "mediating between Korean art venturing into the world, and artists and art organizations," to a chorus of hopeful voices in Korea that have experienced the Korean wave of pop culture and are anticipating a similar phenomenon in the performing arts. In particular, with "culture" emerging as a major keyword in government policy and the neologism "K-culture" appearing on the scene and stimulating the arts and culture industry, we are filled with expectations and questions about how KAMS will respond to these changes and act as a mediator in the art world. Let’s listen to Director Jung Jae-wal discuss the plans and vision of KAMS.

Expanding externally and strengthening internally

Q : Some in the Korean performing arts world portray the arts world as divided into "before the Korea Arts Management Service" and "after the Korea Arts Management Service." That’s how important a role KAMS has in the arts and culture world in Korea. The term "arts management" itself used to be an unfamiliar term, with heavy academic connotations, but as I look forward to the 10th anniversary (in 2015) of KAMS, I believe that KAMS has clarified what "arts management" does for artists and workers in the arts through its various projects over the years. Last year, the new administration announced its plan for the arts, and the arts and culture world is full of anticipation. In addition, in 2014 KAMS will celebrate its 9th anniversary, and the Performing Arts Market Seoul (PAMS) will celebrate its 10th. It was also referenced in the "Top 5 Headlines of Arts Management in 2013" survey conducted at the end of last year by [Weekly@Arts Management], but when the new administration emphasized "cultural prosperity" as a top national agenda, expectations rose for the role of arts and culture organizations, even as their responsibilities looked to multiply. I would like to hear about the results of the projects that KAMS conducted last year, its plans for the New Year, and about future prospects. Please begin with last year’s outcomes.

Jung Jae-wal : Last year, the organization itself was in crisis at the beginning of the year. It was an issue of integration with another organization, and there was some talk after the new administration came into power that discouraged us. But when this issue came up I didn’t personally think that it would be so problematic. I believed that not because I thought KAMS had done so well, but because I judged that in this diverse international arts and culture environment the role of our organization would expand, not shrink. So I didn’t see the crisis as a crisis. I believed that policymakers would make a reasonable decision. And luckily, as I had expected, the decisions were reasonable, and KAMS overcame the situation. After that, in the latter half of the year, projects expanded and KAMS has firmly established itself as a necessary organization. That year, when we recovered from such a blow and then prepared for takeoff, was truly dramatic.

To discuss specific projects in detail, our existing educational consulting projects stabilized. For our international exchange projects, in the latter half of the year, our projects expanded into the formerly uncharted terrain of international culture. Our international projects were expanding externally. And as a central organization in international exchange, I thought it provided a great chance for us to live up to our name. Another important part of policymaking through the performing arts industry is being familiar with the market situation so you can make the right predictions about the market. KAMS will begin to run a system to read market trends through a comprehensive performing arts computer network. The project will start in earnest in 2014. Korean movies were able to develop to the extent they did up until now thanks to the ability to collect information about the film market and make predictions. And now it looks as though the power to pull the industrialization of the performing arts forward will come through this computer network. In the case of PAMS, too, our decision to focus on the Asia sphere received even more positive feedback than expected. The number of delegates that participated on their own increased from about 250 in 2012 by about 100 more in 2013, and we were able to judge interest in the Korean performing arts accordingly. I believe that this is due in part to indirect influence from the Korean Wave and an explosive increase in interest in Korean culture. Another point is that while KAMS projects focused primarily on performing arts projects for the nine years prior to 2013, in 2013 there were projects that actively embraced the visual arts as well. Up until now we’ve also supported exchange in the area of education consulting for performing arts mediators, and with this as a model we’ve also launched projects for discovering, developing and promulgating new talent for an improved field of curatorship in the visual arts.


Q : Last year’s crisis seems to have undergone a reversal, and in the latter half of the year it seems that KAMS projects greatly expanded externally, but I’m also curious as to whether KAMS’s organization and budget have been taken care of amidst these growing projects.

Jung Jae-wal : Because we’re an organization that moves based on individual projects, as our projects increased so, too, did our workers, to say nothing of our budget. Our budget increased into the KRW 8 billion range from the former KRW 6.5 billion budget during last year, and this year’s budget is more than KRW 10 billion. Compared to the beginning of last year, our budget has increased by 40 to 50 percent. There was some anxiety in terms of personnel. There’s a dual system at KAMS, with two types of employees: permanent and contract – and there was some anxiety regarding status. For an organization that would run more stably, we put in a request to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and this was accepted. Thus, this year we have 10 more permanent workers, forming a more stable foundation for future projects.

Q : While observing KAMS activities in the past, I felt that one of the biggest issues was how to run such a large number of projects with such a small number of employees. So I assumed that internally, the organization was structured organically. As you managed the organization, I also heard that you had converging formulations in mind?

Jung Jae-wal : KAMS employees work hard, and well. But when the organization is run by each project, then the emphasis is tilted towards focusing on each project, making it harder to find synergy through cooperation or working together. I thought this should be remedied, so I tried a management method of convergence, one through which we could achieve synergy with cooperation. Even the government is encouraging interdepartmental, convergent cooperation, so I decided to try and realize this within our organization as well. I’m promoting similar projects and also encouraging them to collaborate in smart ways. A prime example of this is that last year, PAMS itself was the responsibility of the International Development Department, but by bringing in the academic projects of the educational consulting team at the Planning Department we received some good results: we were able to broaden the scope of our intended audience for PAMS participation, and these projects were able to advertise together.

Q : KAMS’s most important role is in international exchange. When we observe the spread of cultural content and terminology like Korean “K-Culture,” and if the international project function of the Arts Council Korea can directly help out artists, then in the international exchange of performing arts, and in the results seen in the exchange between private organizations and artists, KAMS was significant. And abroad, recognition for groups that debuted on an international stage through KAMS or through KAMS projects has risen. How do you think KAMS rose to prominence as a leader in international exchange, and what do you see as its future goals?

Jung Jae-wal : The English abbreviation KAMS is far better known in the international exchange market than domestically. So whenever I’d go on business trips abroad, I’d believe and feel proud about the fact that KAMS was representative of the Korean Wave. I felt that the international projects we run at KAMS commanded even more attention abroad, and I believe that this should increase, maintaining a sense of integrity. In the international art market there is currently a relatively high level of interest in Asia and Korea. And of course, one aspect of this is that we did objectively well; another aspect is that this is the subjective result of a global economic stagnation. Yet domestically the question remains regarding how much KAMS is responding to the market demand for international exchange. From our end we believe that we’re getting the most we can out of our budget, but we still need to expand further in terms of the benefits we provide. And while we enjoy good partnerships with private groups that have a high level of understanding regarding international projects, we need to be aware of the fact that there are also far more private groups that are nervous about becoming part of such a system. Our task is to integrate these goals into our policies. As someone who has been preparing for the 10 years to come, I believe that this is one of our current tasks to conquer. The question is how we will incorporate this into our long-term plan.

KAMS 3.0 Project

Q : There are groups that have grown with KAMS over the past few years. But now I’m wondering whether these groups now need some sort of guideline for the next level of support they will receive at this point.

Jung Jae-wal : You raise a good point. There are two ways to think about it. The first point to think about is that the groups that grew together with KAMS don’t remain as they are, but nurture their own self-sufficiency. We need to think about how we can support them in doing this and with what system. The other point is that we create new opportunities and create a way for other groups. It’s not something that can be solved with a simple support system. Even if we end up using PAMS to meld these two aims together, we need to ponder whether it will be possible to maintain harmony. One of the projects given a boost this year is our professional development project. I believe that this project is connected to nurturing expert professionals and discovering regional experts. We need to map out a more specific plan through the big picture. The slogan I have in my head for KAMS’s upcoming 10th anniversary is the Korea Arts Management Service 3.0 Project. It includes the aim to restructure KAMS’s mission and role, and to adjust the project system to correspond to any changes.

Q : Last year, I participated in the Penang Island Jazz Festival in Malaysia as a presenter, and there, too, among industry insiders and outstanding foreign festivals, KAMS was held up as a good example of an international exchange support organization. I started to get the feeling that KAMS has become a brand of sorts for Korea. I predict that within the next 10 years, if KAMS reaps even more tangible results through a long-term plan, there will be a movement in various regions to adopt the KAMS model.

Jung Jae-wal : At this point, I would like to say a few words about something we’re quite proud of. During PAMS last year we received a visit from the National Department for Culture and Arts (http://www.jkkn.gov.my/en) of Malaysia, a country from the featured region, and heard that Malaysia was also preparing to hold a market with an emphasis on dance. And then they proposed to send about two employees to KAMS to receive training on the process of a market. In a corporation, this is like exporting plants. This is how much interest the world has shown towards KAMS—both in the sense that they understand the projects of an organization like KAMS, but also in the sense that there are specific projects that imitate what we do, as in the case of Malaysia.

Q : And these groups have grown and are now distinguishing themselves in international exchange. I am witnessing how these groups are introducing themselves as successful case studies to groups that are just now beginning to start out. As I do so, it occurs to me how systemized KAMS has become throughout the past 10 years. This year, PAMS will be in its 10th year, and I’m wondering how you’re preparing for this. This year’s focus is China, which is significant in many ways. As with politics and economics, the center of the performing arts seems to be shifting from the West to the East. Why did you select China as the featured country, and what are your tasks?

Jung Jae-wal : It’s true that PAMS is well known globally as a major market. But the question we always ask is how to specialize. Our definite goal is to go from being Asia’s leading market to being a hub for Asian contemporary performing arts under the slogan, "The window into Asian performing arts, Performing Arts Market Seoul," and I believe that we have the competitiveness to make that happen. To fulfill our function as Asia’s leading market, we have tapped into Asia’s discourse, politics, performing arts trends, and networks of artists and planners, and as an organization representing Asia I believe it is right that we take the lead. In that sense, I believed that placing Asia as the featured region was a step in the right direction, given our relationships and our role globally. Thus, in the sense that we wanted to restart, "China" topped our agenda. We had existing networks all over Asia except for China. The government has maintained pleasant relations with China, but it’s also true that there haven’t been any specific projects. So as it was the least we could do as an organization, I think it was very appropriate at this juncture to feature China as the focus country. And for this I went on a trip to China last November. The way the Chinese approach the arts and culture, in terms of policy and politics, is different from our approach. Their culture is also very influenced by the government. Private groups between the two countries have conducted their own exchanges and performed, but in reality it’s rare that these exchanges grow into anything more continuous. We must proceed by first understanding then acknowledging the system of culture and politics in China. If we proceed in the spirit of the current political approach, I believe we can make this happen. Thus, PAMS is planning to put the spotlight on China and, by inviting major figures from Korean and Chinese arts and culture, host a Korea-China Art and Culture Forum (tentative title) to share information about the current status of the market and about performances. This year, from the perspective of the Korean performing arts, will mark the first year of exchange with China on a national level. Through partner organizations such as China’s CAEG (China Arts and Entertainment Group), which plays a similar role to KAMS, it’s important to solidly build up a network and through this network support private groups so that they can network in a stable environment.

Q : From the perspective of the consumers, if there are groups that actively made use of KAMS and received assistance, there are also opinions from groups that still ask what kind of things the organization does. What do you think are the tasks and the role of the KAMS in the arts and culture world?

Jung Jae-wal : Personally, I, too, frequently receive questions about what we do. But I think that on the flip side this is a sign that interest in KAMS is growing. Previously, there weren’t even questions about what KAMS did. From an insider’s perspective, I frequently receive this question from people or groups that lead the performing arts but have never really been involved in any of our projects. I think this is evidence that we’ve definitely caught their attention. And to that, I need a clearer response, but my textbook response has been "We are an organization for indirectly supporting the self-sufficiency of Korean arts and culture." It’s difficult. Ultimately, my belief is that words are not enough. We need to make it known that they are the ones who will benefit from our projects. We need a project that will attract these groups without disappointing the groups that aren’t yet able to participate actively. This will be a part of our projects for the next 10 years. And for that, it’s necessary that KAMS sets more specific goals. Musicals, 700 billion strong, comprise more than half of the Korean performing arts market. The other part of the performing arts market is a KRW 300 billion market, but compared to other markets like movies it’s too small. Our goal every year will be to nurture leading groups for the market that can, at the very least, reach yearly sales of at least KRW 2–3 billion. I also think it’s important that we strategically nurture "small but powerful" professional groups. And for that, we need focused, customized consulting services, and to achieve that goal we also need a specific road map that will direct our international partnerships. Actively nurturing these groups with a set goal in mind—this is something that needs to be included in the bigger picture of the future. Said simply, we need to reinvent ourselves so that we can spearhead the movement towards "the commercialization of art".

기고자프로필

Kim Hee-sun_ ethnomusicologist

Kim Hee-sun studied traditional Korean music at Seoul National University and received a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a research fellow in cultural research at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore, and is currently researching and publishing papers in both domestic and international academic journals on topics such as the identity (peoples, gender, and nation) of Korean music, Asian music in the same period and cultural translation, as well as world music. After returning to Korea she participated in projects for the globalization of Korean music, and is actively working for, with an interest in, the internal and external expansion of Korean music. She is currently a professor of ethnomusicology and music education at Kookmin University, and is also the standing director of the World Music Center Foundation.

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