MCST and MSS to work with Cities of Culture and local creators to build “cities that make people want to stay”

Date Mar 15, 2023

The first policy talks with “MCST Cultural Cities” × “MSS Local Creators” in Busan on March 9


The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Minister Park Bo Gyoon, MCST) and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (Minister LEE Young, MSS) held the first policy talk show at Blue Port 2021 in Yeongdo-gu (Busan) on March 9 (Thur) to discuss cooperation in implementing the “city of culture” policy to promote balanced cultural development led by local communities and the “local creator policy” to build the spontaneous and creative capabilities of local communities.


The ministerial dialogue was aimed at unraveling policy secrets to boldly tear down ministerial silos thwarting regional development and promoting the growth of local industries based on the unique cultural assets of each region. With these policies, the ministries plan to facilitate the brand growth of microenterprises dealing in creative local content as a way to address the population decline issue threatening many regions outside the Seoul Metropolitan Area and boost the growth of local economies.


Under the Regional Culture Promotion Act, the MCST has designated “cities of culture” for comprehensive support to lay the groundwork for local cultures, identify and promote local content, and train creative cultural professionals. The ministry will commit a total budget of KRW 10 billion over five years to build a foundation for the cultural growth of the selected cities and help them implement their own cultural policies.


Meanwhile, the MSS promotes cultural growth by supporting local creators[1] by providing business development grants (up to KRW 40 million each) to help them utilize local resources for setting up businesses and spurring their growth. The program has proved highly popular, attracting applicants 18 times more than the planned number of beneficiaries in 2023.

This March event, which is the first policy talk show of its kind, was organized by the two ministries, opened with greetings from the first Vice Minister JEON Byung-geuk (MCST) and Director General LEE Dae-hee (MSS). The opening remarks were followed by speeches from Professor MO Jong-ryn at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies and Professor YIM Hak-soon at the Department of Media Technology and Media Contents of the Catholic University of Korea. After the speeches, representatives from 24 cultural city centers and local creators leading the growth of local markets and brands shared their business experiences.


In his speech entitled “A Successful Town Makes People Want to Stay,” Professor MO proposed a city development model to create new urban cultures based on sustainable “local creator” programs. COVID-19 shrunk the living spheres of most consumers, driving the demand for local products and services and the significance of regional competitiveness. According to the professor, to achieve success in these circumstances, local spaces, commercial areas, and towns need to focus on making people want to stay there.


Professor YIM spoke about “Cities of Culture: People and Contents,” expounding how the Cultural City program helped locals, places, and content come together as platforms connecting local cultures. In particular, the professor emphasized the broadening of local content in cultural cities, including (1) “local culture and art contents” supported by local cultures, arts, crafts, and cultural heritages; (2) “contents based on cultural places and spaces,” including local festivals, centers of cultural enjoyment, and local maps; (3) “cultural digital media contents,” including digital videos, media contents, publications, computer games, and merchandises; and (4) cultural tourism products, designs for agricultural products, and contents featuring local lifestyles.


In the section that followed, which was moderated by Director KO Yoon-jung and RTBP CEO KIM Chul-woo[2], six speakers shared their stories about their growth as local creators in cultural cities, future directions for policy cooperation, as well as difficulties and challenges that they face. The six speakers are as follows.


(1) Chairperson KANG Sang-min of Performing Arts Staff Cooperative ALL is based in Chuncheon and won a city of culture designation in the second round of program. He has organized numerous local festivals, including the Chuncheon International Mime Festival, the Chuncheon International Theater Festival, and the Puppet Festival Chuncheon. His experience in the local cultural scene helped him understand the crucial need for practice-oriented training for locals pursuing careers as performing arts staff but lacking concrete ideas about what those jobs entail. As such, he currently focuses on training performing arts staff needed by local culture and art spaces through Academy “Mak,” a training center developed as part of Chuncheon’s city of culture program.


(2) PARK Soo-jung runs a local coffeehouse called Jung’s Dabang in Cheongju, a cultural city designated in the second round of the program. The coffeehouse also serves as a “Neighborhood Archive” that features one of the region’s unique cultural assets, Jikji. Cheongju has been setting up Neighborhood Archives as part of its city of culture program and as cultural spaces to preserve the memories of locals living in the neighborhood. A total of 17 archives are currently in operation. Jung’s Dabang is the Neighborhood Archive for the Geumcheon-dong area. PARK redesigned her 40-year-old house into a coffeehouse to provide locals with a place to enjoy the culture.


(3) LEE Dae-won runs Oneuldo Gonghyuil (Yet Another Holiday), a metal handicraft workshop in Iksan, a city of culture, designated in the third round of the program. At the workshop located in the local precious metal and jewelry industry complex, he makes handicraft items while running training and activity programs focused on precious metal handicrafts. LEE launched his business with a vision of creating a space that blends handicrafts, relaxation, and daily living where every day feels like a holiday as visitors create their own unique jewelry items. He also lends his hands to the Iksan Jewelry Festival, which the city organizes as part of its city of culture program, to propel the renaissance of the local jewelry industry.


(4) KIM A-ram is the head of Lucky Bakery, which specializes in bread made with organic flour and natural yeast. The neighborhood bakery contributes to promoting a healthy lifestyle in the area by providing natural yeast bread that is light on the stomach. As one of the leading bakeries in Busan, Lucky Bakery seeks to become one of the anchor stores to boost the local economy.


 (5) PARK Myeong-ho runs Gongjanggongjang (Factory Factory) and the makers’ space project Gwaenchana Maeul (It’s Okay Village) in Mokpo. It’s Okay Village is a social community platform for young adults interested in redesigning their life. Moved by the hardships affecting young people today and to address the increase in neglected spaces in the region, PARK renovates empty houses into workshops.


(6) LEE Chang-gil leads the Gaehangro Project, aimed at developing local brands for the Gaeheang-ro area in the old downtown of Incheon, by connecting local content with microbusinesses forming a part of the area’s long history and immense values. In addition to renovating old and dilapidated stores in Gaehang-ro, he is also engaged in various efforts to boost local commerce. For example, his Gaehangmyeon project makes and sells noodle dishes with jjolmyeon noodles supplied by Gwangsin Jemyeonso, the inventor of the Korean noodle famous for its chewy texture.


Vice Minister JEON commented, “True regional growth is promoted by culture. The MCST and the MSS implement the city of culture and the local creator projects to help local cultural assets play central roles in regional growth. Starting with the policy talk show, the ministries will create a framework for cooperation to help local creators grow together in cities with cultural charming elements” He added, cities of culture serve as a foundation for urban development by providing comprehensive support for setting up strategic positions for cultural development, discovering local contents, and training cultural professionals. I hope to see local creators become leading members of such cities and contribute to building cities that make people want to stay.”


Director LEE said, “Many of the recently emerging local commercial areas feature ‘local creators,’ who create and run businesses based on local cultures and creativity. They are at the forefront of regional prosperity. The MSS helps them grow, connect with each other, and work together to promote local business ecosystems.” He added, “I hope that this event will help facilitate local creators’ activities in cities of culture as they lead local economic growth.”


Moving forward, the MCST and the MSS plan to actively communicate with people in the field, continue their inter-ministerial collaboration, and integrate various projects to boost regional revitalization.

[1] Start-up entrepreneurs who combine the natural and cultural features of their regions and fresh ideas to create new economic values

[2] [Return to Busan Port (RTBP)], a local creator based in Yeongdo-gu