Culture Ministry Pledges to Protect Artists from Political Oppression and Blacklists

Culture Ministry Pledges to Protect Artists from Political Oppression and Blacklists

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- The culture ministry said Thursday it will enact a bill aimed at protecting artists from political oppression and censorship as part of measures to prevent any future blacklisting of artists critical of the government.

   Any act that violates artistic freedom and discriminates against artists for political reasons will be strictly punished under the law that will be proposed in the first half of this year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said.'

 The plan came after the former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and ex-culture minister Cho Yoon-sun were indicted early this year for masterminding the creation of a "blacklist" of nearly 10,000 artists who had voiced criticism of now-impeached President Park Geun-hye. The blacklisted artists were barred from receiving state funding or support.

   The ministry will also insert a new clause into the code of conduct for cultural ministry officials to protect officials from being punished for rejecting unjust instructions from their superiors.

   To ensure more autonomy and independence of the Arts Council Korea and the Korean Film Council, two main government agencies in charge of supporting artists, the government will let the culture and arts scene appoint their members and chairmen. Currently, the culture minister can name members and chairmen of the councils with recommendations from the scene.

   The two agencies have come under fire for taking the role of enforcing the blacklist, yielding to political pressure from the government.'

 In addition, the ministry will restore unjustly scrapped or reformed support programs in the fields of literature, theatrical play and film under the current government and create five new programs to support local publishing and performing arts. For this, the ministry earmarked 8.5 billion won (US$7.3 million) from its budget for this year.

   "Using the blacklist incident as a painful chance for self-reflection, the ministry will drastically reform existing systems and procedures so as to not infringe upon the fairness of its culture and arts policy again," Kim Young-san, director of the ministry's culture and arts policy bureau, told reporters.

   "What was announced today is a basic plan for this, and we'll develop it later through discussions with artists in the scene," he said.
 

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