Korea Times, 22 November 2006
S. Korea to Launch Project to Define Indigenous Culture

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said yesterday it would launch a 10-year project to identify "cultural elements" that shape the lives of Korean people. The project is part of an effort to protect its indigenous culture and support related industries amid the wave of globalization.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism initiative came from a consensus that the country has neglected to foster its cultural assets while striving for industrialization over the past several decades, ministry officials and scholars involved in the project said.

Traditional five-day markets and thatched houses, for example, have almost disappeared over the course of modernization, and Koreans are now left with little of the roots of their culture, they said.

"Being in the arts community over the past 30 years, I've seen artists take much pains to express indigenous things in their work, but their individual efforts produced few accomplishments. It's late, but still it's meaningful that the government has started this project to understand our cultural identity," Culture and Tourism Minister Kim Myung-gon, a former actor and writer, said in a press conference.

For the project, a group of the ministry officials, historians, anthropologists and artists have suggested 13 criteria that have shaped Korean culture, including "vibrancy," which led to the high-energy performances of shamans, and "mastery," which required persistence and intricacy from artists.

"Korean cultural products are widely popular in Asia, but Koreans find themselves incapable of explaining the phenomenon because there have been few efforts to define their cultural roots and how they affect contemporary culture," said Lim Jae-hae, a Korean studies professor at Andong National University who is leading the project.

"Rural villages, for example, are disappearing like snow melts away in the spring. This project may not be visibly influential at this moment, but it will be a precious asset for future generations to understand where we came from," he said.