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Returning minister Yu In-chon vows to further strengthen IP rightsBy Park Ga-young
Published : Oct. 16, 2023 - 16:06
SEJONG-- Yu In-chon's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will continue the legacy of strengthening copyrights he started in his first tenure as culture minister during the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Yu, 72, made the remarks at his first address to hundreds of ministry employees during his inauguration ceremony that took place at Government Complex Sejong on Monday.
“With the continually evolving landscape, there is a need to amend the copyright law related to adapting to new industries such as artificial intelligence and addressing issues like illegal reproductions. I will continue to explore this issue with great interest,” said Yu.
"When I assumed the role of the minister in 2008, my initial priority was addressing copyright issues. It’s not like I predicted K-culture’s popularity to be this enormous -- it was even before 'Gangnam Style' took the world by storm -- but because I experienced those issues firsthand while there was a need to amend copyright laws for the sake of complying with the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement," said Yu, a former actor who served as culture minister from July 2008 to January 2011, setting a record as the longest serving culture minister.
There was significant concern and opposition in the National Assembly and the industry regarding the extension of the copyright protection period from 50 years to 70 years, Yu recalled.
"We pursued this amendment because we believed that we couldn't rely solely on foreign content forever and, in hindsight, the amendment to the copyright law has not only protected creators but also served as a catalyst for the growth of the content industry,” Yu said.
He shared a personal experience that led him to pivot to copyright issues. In the late 1990s, he bought the Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty that came in two compact discs, priced at a whopping 6 million won ($4,430). Describing the attempt at that time as an innovation, he paid 4 million won after a discount.
“However, one month later, a knock-off version became available for 50,000 won. I discovered later that the company CEO went bankrupt. I can't forget about this,” Yu said.
The Amendment of the Copyright Act and other measures went into effect in September 2008 and starting in 2009 Korea was removed from the list of Copyright Watch List countries published annually by the US trade representative. He recalled receiving a phone call from the US ambassador who shared the positive news.
Going completely off script, a rare occurrence, Yu stood among the audience instead of standing at the podium in the front of the room.
“The reason for a high podium is to make small people look bigger. It's about controlling people's thoughts through the environment,” Yu told the room packed with at least 300 employees.
"As members of the Culture Ministry, I expect you to be flexible and open to embracing failure. In the world of content creation, it's often the case that out of every 10 investments, only one becomes a success. That's the nature of the content industry," he added.
"In particular, I hope you are not intimidated in any way by allegations of any 'blacklist' in doing your work," Yu said, adding that he felt heartache when officials were punished due to the so-called "blacklist incident."
He was referring to a National Intelligence Service investigation in 2017 that found a blacklist of figures in the culture and entertainment circles who were deemed critical of the government during the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. Many Culture Ministry employees, including Cho Yoon-sun, a culture minister during the Park administration, were given jail terms over the secret list.
Yu, who has repeatedly denied the existence of a blacklist during his term, also indirectly implied that that was no blacklist, saying that "records will show."
Born on March 20, 1951, Yu earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Chung-Ang University. After debuting as an actor in 1973, he went on to appear in several popular TV drama series including "Years of Ambition" that ran from 1990 to 1991. In it, he portrayed the role of a businessman that was inspired by Lee Myung-bak, which reportedly led to their acquaintance.
Yu began his political career in 2004, serving as the CEO of Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, a key organization under the Seoul Metropolitan Government responsible for shaping the city's cultural policies, during Lee's tenure as Seoul mayor.
During his time as Lee's first culture minister, he oversaw the opening of the Seoul Branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the construction of the National Museum of Korean History, as well as the restructuring of the system for supporting culture and the arts.
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