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[Herald interview] Culture budget should double: minister

SYDNEY ― Funding for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism takes up about 1 percent of the Korea’s total budget this year, but spending should be doubled, Culture Minister Choung Byoung-gug said.

“The cultural content industry is a new growth engine for the Korean economy and about 1 percent of the national budget should go to investment for cultural content development,” Choung told The Korea Herald on Monday in Sydney, a city he is visiting with Korean government officials, lawmakers and artists to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Australia and the opening of a new Korean cultural center.

“That will make the Cultural Ministry’s budget take up about 2 percent of the national budget. Meanwhile, the steel, auto and shipbuilding industries have been receiving investment worth 2 to 7 percent of the national budget,” he said.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s budget for 2011 increased 6.2 percent to 3.37 trillion won ($2.95 billion) from 3.17 trillion won a year earlier.

The allotment accounts for 1.09 percent of the Korean government’s total budget of 309.6 trillion won which is the highest ratio in history.

Taking office in February, Choung vowed to focus on improving the quality of Korean tourism during his term.
Culture Minister Choung Byoung-gug speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Sydney. (KOCIS)
Culture Minister Choung Byoung-gug speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Sydney. (KOCIS)

“The government has begun studying what kinds of complaints international travelers actually have when touring Korea. And I heard there are so many complaints from Chinese people about poor food servings,” said Choung, who recently met a famous epicurean in Hong Kong.

“We decided to develop together Korean dishes that will especially cater to the Chinese tastes and promote them through a major cable TV in Hong Kong,” he said.

Choung said he will also tighten standards of tour guides when issuing government certificates.

Until now, tour guide aspirants only had to pass a paper test. But from now on, they will have to prove that they have field experience, Choung said.

In cooperation with the tourism industry, the Culture Ministry will also pick the worst and the best restaurants regularly and update the results online so that international visitors can easily decide which restaurants they want to go in advance, he said.

Choung is scheduled to fly to London, the host city of SportsAccord Convention 2011 that runs through April 8, to promote PyeongChang’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The SportsAccord event is a powerful opportunity for international sports families to build network, share knowledge and create ideas.

“I will explain to the IOC members why PyeongChang Winter Olympics will become not only Korea’s event but all of Asia’s celebration, which will open a new chapter for international winter sports,” Choung said.

By Kim Yoon-mi, Korea Herald correspondent (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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