Cultural Properties Management Given More Power

Article excerpt

The cultural assets management administration of Korea is expected to shift into higher gear and become more organized with the passage of a reform bill of the government organization on May 3.

As a result, the Office of Cultural Properties (OPC) will be expanded and upgraded in its status under a new name -- the Administration of Cultural Properties -- on May 21.

In addition to inheriting most of the OPC's responsibilities of protecting and preserving cultural assets, including national monuments and prehistoric archeological properties yet to be discovered, the new agency will maintain the National Research Institute of Cultural Properties as its research arm.

Ever since its inception in 1961, the cultural assets management institution has remained an external bureau of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and its predecessors in spite of the extensive responsibilities and size of the OPC.

Accordingly, Korea's cultural management policies have failed to grant relevant authorities proper decision-making power or coordination ability. In most cases, a bureau is an administrative unit that handle specific concerns such as art and culture promotion or cultural industries promotion with at best 50 officials within the ministry.

However, as a separate organization, the new government agency will be given independence in personnel management and budget control. Currently, the OPC hires 455 officials in research, administration and management of historic and cultural properties scattered around the country, while spending more than 156 billion won mostly in repair and excavation projects this year.

Even though such a move has long been strongly desired for more efficient and quality management of the nation's cultural assets, the expansion plan came as a surprise amid the government drive to downsize its organizations. ``The promotion of the OPC marks a departure from the past position of the government toward cultural properties,'' said Lee Dong-jong, cultural assets planning manager of OPC. The move is considered evidence of the Kim Dae-jung administration's commitment to nurturing Korea's cultural industry despite these times of economic hardship, he added. …