Cultural arts policy in the pandemic era

1. Jeju and culture

Jeju’s policy aim is to create a culture-friendly environment that supports the creative works of artists and allows residents to fully enjoy a range of cultural arts in their everyday lives. To achieve this goal, Jeju government implements various programs from providing subsidies to artists as well as education on cultural arts for local residents.

The prolonged pandemic, however, has brought about challenges to the cultural arts sector. Similar to other cities, the pandemic brought about significant changes in Jeju as the entire community, including the lives of Jeju people, were hard hit by the pandemic. Concert and exhibition halls shut down, and artists no longer had opportunities to perform on stage or display their artworks.

In response, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province implemented projects to encourage artists to resume their activities and also provided subsidies to those having difficulty making ends meet. Emergency relief funds worth a total of 2000 USD were granted per person in three rounds from December 2020 to March 2022. For artists willing to continue their art activities and for residents suffering from covid fatigue, Jeju conducted small-scale outreaching programs and facilitated online programs (video production, visual content, etc.) to enable artists to meet the audience virtually while complying with social distancing measures. In addition, by utilizing online platforms, Jeju continued virtual exchange with local governments abroad to overcome travel restrictions put in place.

Jeju artists were able to continue their artwork amid the pandemic and residents, in turn, were given opportunities to enjoy cultural arts contributing to the overcoming of corona blue.

2. Project goals and implementation

2.1. Main goal and specific objectives

The general aim of Jeju’s cultural arts policy was to ensure the continuity of cultural arts activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the outbreak brought about a range of social and economic challenges, the impact of the pandemic on the cultural arts sector was relatively overlooked. However, Jeju believed that only culture and arts can cure the emotional wounds and sufferings caused by corona blue and strived to maintain a sustainable cultural arts ecosystem by providing continuous financial and policy support for artists in the island.

2.2. Project development

First, Jeju granted basic subsidies for artists from the local governmental budget. From December 2020 to March 2022, Jeju provided $2,000 per person over three rounds to artists who had submitted a certificate proving their art activities issued by the central government. A net worth of $1,635,189 were granted to 3,746 Jeju-based artists and 266 art organizations. To encourage artists to continue creating, Jeju spent $182,406 on creation grants, giving $1600 per person to 113 arts experiencing difficulty making ends meet. As concert halls and exhibitions closed down during the early stages of the pandemic, Jeju granted subsidies to all artists just for submitting work plans and conducting public art projects to create jobs for artists.

Second, Jeju focused on revitalizing culture and arts programs for the public. By supporting production of video contents, Jeju brought cultural arts online so that residents could enjoy culture and arts virtually. Jeju also conducted outreaching programs targeting a small number of local residents in compliance with national social distancing measures. A total of $2,167,070 was allocated to support such programs.

Third, Jeju strived to continue its international exchange with overseas cities through virtual platforms as direct exchange was impossible due to border restrictions. Jeju forum, one of the largest international events hosted by Jeju, brought together Chinese, Japanese, and Korean artist online and offline to discuss timely topics such as the role of culture and arts amid the pandemic, and literature in the era of the pandemic. Also, from 2020 to 2021, Jeju carried out bilateral exchange with neighbouring cities such as China and Japan across various genres from music, art, dance, and film. In particular, the CJK teenage cultural exchange program provided an opportunity for youths in the northeast region to understand each other’s culture. A total of $252,521 was put into such programs.

Jeju strived to maintain the cultural arts ecosystem, encourage people to engage in cultural arts programs, and further consolidate our relationship with foreign cities.

3. Impacts

3.1. Direct impacts

Jeju provincial government put in our utmost effort across all sectors to sustain the local culture and arts ecosystem by providing financial subsidies and policy support. Based on such efforts, Jeju artists were able to continue their artwork and residents were granted opportunities to enjoy culture and arts amid the pandemic.

To comply with social distancing measures, Jeju transformed its conventional method of providing support and converted offline culture and arts programs including performances and exhibitions to online/virtual concerts and came up with new ways of providing support such as conducting outreaching programs in small scale.

The pandemic indeed brought about challenges to the cultural sector, but it is significant in that Jeju was able
to develop a new policy direction on the local government-level for the sustainability of the cultural arts sector
amid the pandemic.

The persistent outbreak of Covid-19 led to social isolation and dissolution of the community. In such circumstances, culture and arts served as a source of comfort and touched the hearts of those suffering from the pandemic.

3.2. Assessment

With the unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic, Jeju went through many trials and errors in implementing cultural arts policies. Reflecting feedback from within the government, Jeju’s policy direction in cultural arts differed over the course of 2 years. Reflecting policy feedback, Jeju currently implements flexible cultural arts policies in line with changing covid situations.

3.3. Key factors

Subsidies have been granted to help artists meet their basic needs and various programs have been carried out to encourage creative works and create job opportunities. Outreaching programs and video production projects have contributed to Jeju residents enjoying arts during the pandemic. Online exchange in fields of music, art, film has been ongoing with foreign cities.

It is particularly noteworthy that the beneficiaries of Jeju’s support programs were not only the artists that had lost their place on stage due to the pandemic but also residents suffering from covid-fatigue.

3.4. Continuity

In 2020, Jeju government put in $2,096,813 for subsidies, employment, video content production, etc. In 2021, depending on the number of infected cases, Jeju implemented flexible policies that enabled virtual and offline performances and exhibition. A total of $1,910,447 were spent on such programs. Entering 2022, Korea is slowly returning to pre-pandemic norms. Jeju is operating “culture day” to reach out to local residents, and supporting club activities led by the residents.

4. Further information

Jeju was a candidate for the fifth “UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21” International Award (February – June 2022). The jury for the award drew up its final report in September 2022, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Chang A Byun, Assistant Director, Jeju City, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Republic of Korea.

Contact: changa11 (at)


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