Triumph, Agony: Scenes of Culture, Art
With the onset of the year 2000 just around the corner, retrospectives and evaluations of the past are abound in local newspapers and magazines. For many, the focus has been on the year rather than a millennium or a century, which seems natural as the others are too great a time frame to be covered in a few paragraphs or a couple of pages.
Like any other year, good and bad moments crisscrossed the cultural scene of 1999.
The year yielded a number of talented young artists making remarkable achievements in various fields such as performing arts, fine arts and movies. These cultural pioneers are mostly young, uninhibited by conventional thoughts, and work independently of the established system.
Yet like other social areas which endured the enormous cost of self-transformation during economic and political restructuring, the cultural scene had its own share of hardships.
In the performing arts, actors whose livelihoods were seriously affected due to the recession demanded more active state support. Their insistence that the government to put them on the welfare roll by recognizing their stage acting as ``public works,'' was the subject of hot debate within the theater circle itself over its implication on the integrity of acting profession.
A series of controversial new policies were introduced by the government, including the decision to open the cultural market to Japan, the introduction of Chinese characters to be used on official documents side by side with Korean and a plan to revise the romanization of Korean.
In all three cases, although to slightly varying degrees, the policy makers hardly escaped public criticism for their poor preparation and pre-evaluation, along with the bureaucratic mentality of ``act first and think later.'' In particular, the latest revision on romanizing the Korean language drew fire both from locals and foreigners for its impracticality and innate nationalism.
The policy with the most far-reaching consequences was the August announcement of a plan to open Korea to the Japanese cultural market, including films, comic books and pop music. The decision itself came as no surprise, since the government had made such an overture a year before. But most of the affected sectors have been left totally vulnerable to the future invasion of powerful Japanese imports and their militant marketing. …