Chung Jae-suk, administrator of the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), says that the CHA’s policy will be shifted to one that will “impress the people.” In an interview with The Korea Post, Administrator Chung said that the way of enjoying the cultural heritage is being transformed into the digital age.
Following is a summary of the interview:
Question: Could you outline the Cultural Heritage Administration's main tasks for the New Year?
Answer: This year's budget for the Cultural Heritage Administration(CHA)
has risen sharply from 0.19% to 0.21% of the government's total budget,
amounting to 1.09 trillion won. This represents a rise of 190 billion won from last year, the largest rise since the creation of the Cultural Heritage Administration.
In the 21st century, an era of culture, there has been a substantial shift in public interest toward cultural heritage, as well as in the ways of enjoying it. In this regard, the Cultural Heritage Administration will devote its utmost efforts to not simply preserving and managing cultural heritage, but also to promoting it. We will pursue a policy that will impress the people.
The importance of Korea’s cultural and tourism industry is rising in regard to the arrivals of 20 million foreign tourists, and the improved living standards of Koreans, and employing a five-day workweek. In other words, the public's demand for the promotion of the national cultural service and public value is growing stronger.
This year the budget outlay for the use of cultural assets and preservation of ancient palaces and tombs were greatly increased. For instance, 5.1 billion won were set aside for finding historical cultural resources; 19.7 billion won for developing tangible contents for cultural heritage; and 16.5 billion won for developing and operating contents utilizing palaces and tombs;
Backed by the budget surge, the CHA will be able to implement a new cultural property preservation system that aims to upgrade the protection of non-designated cultural assets and promote active use of advanced science and technology in cultural assets. We will also seek to improve the viewing environment of Korea's representative cultural heritage in preparation for 20 million foreign tourist arrivals.
Q: Could you outline measures for the conservation of cultural assets?
A: As the practical aspects of the use of cultural properties are magnified these days, the CHA is taking great care not to neglect basic cultural asset preservation and management. As this year's budget for disaster prevention programs jumped by about 27% year-on-year to 31.7 billion won, the CHA will be well prepared for the preservation of national treasures and national folk cultural assets, which had been given relatively little support compared to national treasures.
Major technologies for the 4th Industrial Revolution will play a major role in keeping cultural assets safe. Concerted efforts will be made for the installation of CCTVs using IOT technology, introduction of an electronic fire prevention ICT system and applying of drone technology in the prevention of cultural heritage theft and calculation of damages on cultural assets.
Q: Is there any possibility of inter-Korean exchanges of cultural properties?
A: Inter-Korean exchanges are greatly influenced by external conditions, but the reason why inter-Korean cooperation projects such as the joint excavation of Manwoldae in Kaesong, North Korea could continue despite difficult situations in the past is because cultural heritage is a joint national legacy which facilitates mutual understanding and cooperation between the two Koreas.
The cultural heritage is considered to be an important area of cooperation for restoring the homogeneity of the two Koreas, as it is relatively easier to agree on inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation than other areas. This is also the reason why cooperation projects such as the joint excavation of Manwoldae in Kaesong have been able to last for the past decade despite various political situations.
The recent strained inter-Korean relations need to be improved first in the cultural assets field. This year, we will focus on the joint registration of the DMZ World Heritage site as proposed by President Moon Jae-in in his address to the U.N. General Assembly last year and his New Year's address this year. In addition, we will propose various cooperation projects, such as a joint survey of Kaesong Manwoldae, intangible cultural assets and natural monuments.
For the time being, inter-Korean cultural heritage exchange projects are expected to be difficult due to many external variables, but we plan to actively propose projects such as joint inter-Korean research at Kaesong Manwoldae and Cheorwonseong Fortress, or to propose projects that have already been agreed upon, and enlarge the opportunities for inter-Korean exchanges through invents of UNESCO and other international organizations.
Q: The content using royal palaces and tombs is very popular. It was reported that there will be more programs using it this year. What plans do you have?
A: If various contents (experience, performance, exhibitions, etc.) are presented, and the palace functions as a place to utilize cultural content, this will help to enhance the preservation and value of the cultural heritage of the royal court.
Since the establishment of the royal palace end tomb heritage headquarters in January 2019, the number of visitors to the royal palaces and tombs (4 palaces, Jongmyo Shrine, and Joseon royal tombs) has increased sharply by 17.8% year-on-year to 13.4 million (the largest number of visitors in history).
Last year, the number of both visitors to the royal palaces and foreign visitors increased significantly compared to the previous year, which contributed greatly to the successful hosting of the royal cultural festival and the continued use of the palace programs, the opening of special nighttime views, the opening of private areas, and the expansion of various content using the palaces, including the expansion of foreign language commentators
This year, the royal cultural festival will be expanded from once a year to twice a year. We will also develop contents to attract royal visitors, such as the first hosting of the Joseon Royal Tomb Cultural Festival, the reorganization of the historical and cultural centers of the royal tombs, and the creation of a ”themed forest road."
Q: Could you introduce projects related to ancient Gaya culture?
A: This year's Gaya-related projects by the Cultural Heritage Administration include the excavation of important sites in Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces, such as the ruins in Bonghwang-dong, Gimhae, and the designation of cultural assets that have been newly identified through the excavation and scientific investigation, the establishment of a digital-based research archive for the Gaya culture and the registration of the World Heritage Site of the Gaya tombs.
A new project for this year is the establishment of the Gaya Historical and Cultural Center. The Gaya Historical and Cultural Center is designed to provide a control tower for Gaya's policies by integrating data and performances related to Gaya's cultural sphere into archives. The Gaya Historical and Cultural Center is due to open in 2023.
Q: These days, digital galleries allow people to enjoy art without having to go to art galleries. Would you like to let them access their cultural heritage digitally?
A: In recent years, the word “Fourth Industrial Revolution” has become a key keyword globally. Now, the IT technology revolution is rapidly spreading not only in the realm of industry but throughout society, including tourism, health care, national defense, and education. The way of enjoying the cultural heritage is also being transformed to fit the digital age.
Currently, the U.S. and European countries are rapidly converging digital technology into the cultural heritage sector, and as Korea began commercializing 5G for the first time in the world in April 2019, people's expectations and demand are also growing stronger.
Q: The content using ancient palaces and tombs is very popular. It was reported that there will be more programs using it this year. What plans do you have?
A: The CHA has digitally produced various cultural assets, including Seokguram Grotto and Tripitaka Koreana, since 2011, and exposed them to the public through its cultural heritage channel website. These contents are being provided free of charge to elementary and secondary schools and is being used as educational material.
Starting this year, the CHA has promoted a three-year "Hanyangdoseong Time Machine Project,” which will digitally restore the 600-year-old cultural heritage of Hanyangdoseong, which is centered on Gwanghwamun since the foundation of Joseon Dynasty. Once the project is completed, visitors will be able to experience Hanyang's streets and daily life vividly during the Joseon Dynasty using VR and AR. Hanyangdoseong is a fortress city wall that has been protecting Seoul for over 600 years.
Q: Please explain about the policy vision of Cultural Heritage Administration.
A: On June 11 last year, the Cultural Heritage Administration declared “Our Heritage That Creates Future Value” as our future policy vision. To this end, we will seek to implement policies to promote voluntary participation of local communities and private sectors and revitalize activities of small cities, and devote more efforts to conservation of non-designated cultural assets. Overall, we will be well prepared for “preservation and creation of value.”
As it is the first year since the declaration of the vision, we are planning a "Cultural Heritage Visit Campaign 2020" project that embraces the new policies contained in the vision. The project aims to rediscover cultural heritage as a tourist resource and provide opportunities for many visitors to find and enjoy our cultural heritage.
Cultural assets are a window for our ancestors' lives and cultures and an important asset for us to look back on our history, and it is very important to preserve them in their original form. In addition to the "value of original preservation," the focus will be on developing a number of projects that can augment the "value of being together" in order to expand the contacts between cultural heritage and the people in everyday life.