“I will endeavor to create legal, institutional measures to improve the income, livelihood of our artists”
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“I will endeavor to create legal, institutional measures to improve the income, livelihood of our artists”
  • Cultural Editor Sion Khan (vice chairman)
  • 승인 2021.04.26 18:25
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States Chairman Lee Bum-heon of the Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organizations of Korea
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon poses for the camera at his office in Seoul.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon poses for the camera at his office in Seoul.

Chairman Lee Beom-heon of the Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organizations (FACO) of Korea in Seoul said, "We will do our best to provide legal and institutional support to our artists so that they can maintain basic livelihood through their creative activities."

 In a recent interview with the Korea Post media, Chairman Lee said, “We will try to create and operate a cooperative of the artists so that they can focus on their creative activities with pride.”

 He also said, “We plan to further expand the people's cultural enjoyment so that all citizens can get closer to, enjoy and experience art and culture more directly.”

 Chairman Lee who was elected to the post on April 14 last year then said, “I feel profound joy and a great sense of responsibility elected as the chairman of the FACO.

 The FACO has a total of 1.8 million members in 10 affiliated organizations leading Korean art and culture and 156 associations and branches nationwide.

 While serving as the chairman of the organization, Chairman Lee said, “I will do my best to protect the rights and interests of over 1.8 million members of the organization to realize the welfare and wellbeing.”

 The following are excerpts from an interview with Chairman Lee conducted by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language publications since 1985:

FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (left) meets with Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to discuss ways to strengthen cultural and artistic activities between Korea and China on Aug. 7, 2020.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (left) meets with Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to discuss ways to strengthen cultural and artistic activities between Korea and China on Aug. 7, 2020.

Question: Please introduce your organization in detail.

Answer: The FACO was established in January 1961 with an aim of contributing to the development of Korean art and culture, international exchanges, and artistic and cultural developments, advocating of the rights and interests of the members and and contributing to the mutual promotion of creative activities. FACT thus mars the 60th anniversary of its founding next year.

 Member organizations of FACO include the Korea Institute of Architects, the Korean Traditional Music Association, the Korean Dance Association, the Korean Literature Association, the Korean Art Association, the Korean Photographers Association, the Korean Theater Association, the Korean Entertainment Artists Association, the Korean Filmmakers Association, and the Korean Music Association,

 It consists of a total of 139 branches, including 17 metropolitan and provincial associations, city and county branches, and overseas branches.

 The Korean Art Festival is a program for mutual development in various fields of art, rights advocacy projects for improving the social status of artists and cultural persons, data collection and survey statistics on domestic and foreign arts and cultural activities, overseas expansion and exchange projects of Korean art culture, and arts culture It is carrying out active projects such as publishing and disseminating various materials such as comprehensive art magazines for information promotion and data management, and operating social and cultural education centers and lifelong education centers for art promotion.

FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (center in the back) meets with Kim In-soo (Lee’s left), chairman of SGI Korea, and working-level officials to discuss policies to promote culture and arts on June 30, 2020.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (center in the back) meets with Kim In-soo (Lee’s left), chairman of SGI Korea, and working-level officials to discuss policies to promote culture and arts on June 30, 2020.

Q: Please introduce and explain the slogans of FACO.

A: The slogan of ‘Strong FACO, new hope, and management of trust,’ which I have announced, is designed to introduce new energy into our organization. FACO was established in 1961 and now celebrates its 60th anniversary next year. Due to the difference of opinion among some members of the organization, we have been subjected to a demand among the people for improvement and renovation.

 I will do my level best to meet the wishes and requirements of all the members of our organization to the best of my ability.

 Accordingly, re-raising the standard of the organization and transforming it into a young and new shape and form, I will try to do my level best to regain the trust of all the members through transparent and fair performance of my activities, promoting the rights and interests of artists and those engaged in cultural activities, and expanding their welfare so that they can regain their hopes and focus on their creative activities.

 Also, because I wanted to create a proud FACO that is loved and admired by the people, I created a slogan reading, “Strong FACO, new hopes, management of trust.”

FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon delivers a speech at the "3rd Korea Arts Festival Awards Ceremony" held at the Korea Artists Center in Mok-dong, Seoul, on Nov. 13, 2020.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon delivers a speech at the "3rd Korea Arts Festival Awards Ceremony" held at the Korea Artists Center in Mok-dong, Seoul, on Nov. 13, 2020.

Q: What are the main pending issues at FACO, if any?

A: As for the issues of the organization, above all, it is the order of all the members that we try to focus on enhancing the rights and interests of all the artists and those engaged in culture and also expansion of their welfare.

 Today, our artists are far from enjoying the welfare benefits of the country.

 Our artists are also excluded from various government support and benefits, and in this year almost all performances and exhibitions have been suspended or canceled due to the spread of COVID-19 in Korea and around the world.

 I will try to meet with the leaders of the local governments and as well as the leaders of the Ministry of Culture, the Sports & Tourism and other such organizations of the National Assembly and the leaders of the local governments and am appealing to them difficulties of the current arts and culture community and to appeal for active and prompt support and execution.

FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon said he will make efforts to promote artists' rights and welfare.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon said he will make efforts to promote artists' rights and welfare.

 In the future, I try to make every effort to further increase the rights and interests of all the members of our organization.

 In addition, through the stable maintenance and development of the Artist Center in Mok-dong, we plan to continuously improve the foundation for self-reliance, reform the lease agreement, realize appropriate revenue, and expand the convenience of use for member associations and regional art galleries.

 In addition, we will try to change the leadership of FACO from a single-person-managed system to a collective guidance pattern, and expedite the establishment of a “smart FACO operation system” to strengthen communication among the associations of the FACO as well as among all their members.

Q: Please introduce your book entitled, “From the Welfare of the Artists and Cultural People to an Upgraded Life”

A: In the book, which was published last year, I recorded my experiences and problems, and paid particular attention to the importance of constitutional right of the people to enjoy the culture.

 Enjoyment of culture is a fundamental right that leads people to a happy life and improves the quality of their life.

 And such cultural enjoyment is possible through support for basic artists and other professional people.

 It is said that high-quality work can come in an environment that is fit for such a creation, and the quality of life of the people is enhanced while they enjoy doing their work, and through the enjoyment of art and culture, a rich life can be promoted.

FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (left) attends a mask donation ceremony held at the Chinese Cultural Center in Korea and promised to promote friendship between Korea and China on April 29, 2020.
FACO Chairman Lee Bum-heon (left) attends a mask donation ceremony held at the Chinese Cultural Center in Korea and promised to promote friendship between Korea and China on April 29, 2020.

I hope this book will be read by many people engaged in cultural and artistic activities.

 In addition, I hope that the general public, who are not professional artists, will find the book easily accessible.

 It not only deals with various art and cultural issues but also reflects on how we can enrich our lives through enjoying the art and culture.

Q: What is your view of the right to enjoy the culture?

A: Even writers and artists working out in the actual field of their activities for a long time may not be fully aware of the people's right to enjoy art and culture that is guaranteed by the Constitution as their basic right.

 However, while contemplating why art and culture are needed and the role of our artists is important, I realized that our Constitution Law has relevant grounds, and I looked in various laws and enforcement ordinances that had such provisions.

 In addition, Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates that guaranteeing the right to enjoy the arts and culture as the state's obligation with the provision that the state must strive for the succession and development of traditional culture and the promotion of national culture.

Lee Bum-heon, chairman of the Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organizations of Korea (FACO), speaks at an interview with The Korea Post media.
Lee Bum-heon, chairman of the Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organizations of Korea (FACO), speaks at an interview with The Korea Post media.

 In one word, the Constitution stipulates that the state should allow and support all the people to enjoy art and culture as a basic right and that the state should try to provide the necessary support and assistance for the people.

 If the state guarantees the people's right to enjoy the culture, the specific role of the Korean artists and cultural people should be properly carried out.

 Since it is impossible to enjoy the cultural enjoyment of the people in relation to the guarantee of the artist's life, the welfare of the artists is the welfare of the people.

 The reason for the existence of the Korean art gallery is not simply to protect the rights and interests of artists, but as an organization that protects and guarantees the people's right to enjoy culture, I think that it can be respected and loved by the people.

 And in order for the people to enjoy a high standard of culture and arts, it is impossible if the lives of the cultural and artistic producers are not guaranteed, and policies that guarantee the people's right to enjoy culture can solve the problems of the lives and livelihoods of artists at the same time.

Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance 65×50cm_Mixed media_2021
Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance 65×50cm_Mixed media_2021

Q: Please tell us about your important projects in the future.

A: I want to establish an artist cooperative and create an artist union. Due to the government's policy to expand the social safety net, the number of employment insurance subscribers increased by 510,000 last year from a year ago.

 In the case of an increase in the minimum wage, irregular workers, or short-term employment, it is mandatory to subscribe to the four major insurances, and the Durunuri support project for businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and the job stabilization fund that provides 4 premiums for businesses with less than 30 employees. The number of subscribers has rapidly increased through the program, and only 9 trillion won was paid in the job search allowance last year. But artists did not receive the government’s supports enough.

 In addition, the FACO will directly support the creation of artists' associations by genre and region, centering on artists at a regional level, and allows all members who want to sign up for this, and through this, the 4 major insurance and unemployment benefits for artists centering on the artist association. We will secure realistic equal rights for welfare, such as payment.

 In addition, through the artists' cooperative, we will create an “autonomous local culture and arts promotion structure” that can directly create and participate in the execution of arts promotion policies of local governments.

Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance 65x50cm_Mixed media_2021
Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance 65x50cm_Mixed media_2021

 In order to materialize this, the Institute for Policy will help establish a regional art promotion plan that has been commissioned by the region. In particular, the newly created organization will provide a channel for young artists to participate as a separate organization from the existing FACO.

Q: Please tell us about the artist support project.

A: In the groundbreaking plan of 'Activating the Distribution of Art Works through Specialized Shopping Malls', the artist support project did not have a substantial effect despite the increase in the budget. In addition, if the government's support is discontinued, the related project is also terminated.

 There was a limit to creating a sustainable creative environment through this.

 It reflects that despite the need for one-off and extinguishing support, it is insufficient to create a self-sufficient ecosystem of artists themselves.

Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance No. 50, Mixed media 2016
Lee Bum-heon’s Flower Dance No. 50, Mixed media 2016

 The phenomenon of artists with a poor level of life is continuing (2018 Artist Survey), and they have received direct and indirect benefits from government-supported policies. Such artists account for only 19% of all artists. (2015 Artist Survey).

 Accordingly, FACO will establish and operate a ``public art distribution center'' to revitalize the distribution of works for young and new artists, and operate a shopping mall specializing in online and offline arts to support the revitalization of the distribution of works by young and new artists.

 It will operate a flag shop specializing in arts to create spaces and conditions at Seoul Station, airports, art galleries, and performance halls, etc., so that art works can be actively traded.

 By operating the art shopping mall (Artsharp.co.kr), sales fees for young and new artists will be free, and sales channels will be expanded using overseas Korean cultural centers and embassies. We will also promote the rental business of artists' works.

 He emphasized that the power of organization is possible through direct participation of members and decentralization of authority. Until now, the FACO is a huge organization with 1.8 million people, and its power is not too small, but it was not able to demonstrate its power because it did not gather.

 Therefore, I will greatly diversify the authority given to the chairman and distribute the authority to the branch organization so that all members can participate, decide, and execute a powerful organization.

The book titled 'From Artists’ Welfare to Enjoyment of Life' introducing Chairman Lee Bum-heon’s thought to enjoy art and culture./ Courtesy of Book Publisher Mim
The book titled 'From Artists’ Welfare to Enjoyment of Life' introducing Chairman Lee Bum-heon’s thought to enjoy art and culture./ Courtesy of Book Publisher Mim

 As a concrete plan, the structure that the chairman arbitrarily decides will be fundamentally reorganized, and the chairmen of member organizations will gather together to make a joint decision and change it into a horizontal organization. We will make FACO a powerful organization with practical executive power and organizational power through a discussion and decision structure that reflects regional representation so that the chairmen can gather together to discuss.

 In addition, branches will not become a simple structure that follows the upper part’s decision, and branches of the city, county, and districts can participate in the decision-making structure of the FACO, and make decisions on all important matters. FACO will be newly established so that the will of all members can be gathered and the executives can share roles.

 To this end, preparations for concrete discussions and a structure for exercising voting rights are currently being promoted, such as dispatching representatives from the affiliated associations.

The interior of the Korean Artist Center
The interior of the Korean Artist Center

Q: What else do you want to say?

A: Finally, there is the serious impact of COVID-19 on the culture and arts community. More than 2,500 events have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the amount of damage is estimated to be 52.3 billion won.

 We are well aware that arts and culture people are suffering from COVID- 19 and are desperately complaining about the difficulties of the FACO, which canceled 637 events worth 7.5 billion won.

 The percentage of members whose income has decreased so far this year compared to last year reached 88.7%, and it is expected that it will take a long time for such cultural and artistic events to normalize even after COVID-19 pandemic is over.

 In addition, government subsidies are given to other small and medium-sized businesses or self-employed people. However, most of the cultural artists who work on their own do not have legal grounds or documents to request such support.

 We will request the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the National Assembly and the Seoul Metropolitan Government to extend active and prompt supports to artists. In the wake of the ZCOVID-19 case, we will actively seek and promote policies that can guarantee the income of cultural artists on a regular basis.

Whole view of the Korean Artist Center
Whole view of the Korean Artist Center

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