As the Consul of Culture and Public Relations, Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Hong Kong, Yu Byungchae (俞炳采) sees promotion of Korean culture in the city as a top priority.
Yu had once served as a vice minister at Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), where he worked on long-term development of the nation’s arts and culture amid the so-called C-Korea 2010 blueprint.
The envoy recalls vividly the mission from his early days in the office in 2000.
“There was a saying at that time, which described the 21st century as the ‘century of culture’. Since then the South Korean government has put strong emphasis on culture industry. Many individuals and enterprises began to work on that front. That’s the time when Korean TV dramas and music have started to gain popularity,” he says.
To Yu, the value of arts and culture is not confined to the artistic aspect. It is multifaceted and something that everyone can participate in. The industry offers huge economic and social benefits to South Korea, he says.
“I see culture as the driving power behind all development. Our prime mission is to promote creativity nationwide among the public as well as enterprises.”
In the early years, the government started off with promotion of Korean movies, believing that the cultural export could boost Korean brands and businesses involved in technology gadgets, fashion and tourism.
The industry was offered incentives, including guaranteed screenings for individual film productions.
After the efforts proved successful, a wider base of culture-related industries — such as music, electronic games, publications and television dramas — were targeted for promotion.
The success of the nation’s cultural exports, which has been described by observers overseas as a “Korean Wave”, came as a result of collaborative efforts between the government and public and private enterprises.
“There are many subsidy schemes provided by the government to support the livelihood as well as overseas exchange trips for talents in the creative industry,” Yu says.
According to the envoy, private enterprises are keen on investing in the culture industry as it is agreed that such initiatives will promote betterment of the nation as a whole.
Having been involved in the field for years, Yu says he enjoys taking up his work overseas. Thus, when an opportunity came to work in the Korean Consulate General in Hong Kong in 2014, he seized the chance.
The assignment keeps him busy always. For instance, the Festive Korea 2015 cultural festival last month had so many events and programs lined up one after the other that Yu had to juggle various duties.
Nevertheless, it’s been a rewarding experience, says Yu, expressing satisfaction that many Hong Kong people have become quite familiar with Korean pop culture.
He is optimistic that people will discover more and become interested in many other aspects of South Korea.
The envoy says he and his family have developed a fondness for Hong Kong and that they appreciate several facets of the life here.
He says he finds Hong Kong people very polite and obedient, and that he loves having Cantonese dim sum dishes.
The musical and cultural scene in the city is also unique, Yu adds.
“There are Hongkongers and foreigners performing together in the orchestras and dance groups. It’s something very new to me.”
The envoy says his wife gives high ratings to Hong Kong’s shopping attractions.
The only thing the Yu family is yet to get used to is the absence of indoor heating systems in the city.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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