South Korea Embarks on a Museum Building Boom, Aiming to Open 186 New Museums by 2023

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism wants to double the proportion of the population that engages with museums.

Visitors look at a site-specific art project called
Visitors look at Do Ho Suh's site-specific work Home Within Home at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea in Seoul. Photo Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images.

Is South Korea angling to become an international cultural hub? The Asian nation has unveiled a five-year plan designed to make its art and artifacts more accessible to the public, with its Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism announcing an ambitious goal of opening an additional 186 museums by 2023.

That represents a 16 percent increase over the current number of cultural institutions, which would rise from 1,124 to 1,310 under the plan, according to the Korean Herald. The proposed expansion includes 46 art museums, adding to the country’s current total of 451 art institutions. Altogether, the increase will mean one museum for every 39,000 people, an improvement on the current ratio of one per 45,000 residents.

One way that the government plans to fund this ambitious new initiative is by introducing a new tax on museum entry fees, scheduled to take effect July 1 of this year.

As a result of the program, the government hopes to nearly double the proportion of the population that engages with museums in the country, both through an increase in brick-and-mortar institutions and through improved and expanded websites and mobile apps. In addition, new virtual reality and augmented reality technology will be increasingly integrated into South Korean institutions, according to the proposal. The ministry will also work to expand its art conservation system from state-run institutions to regional ones.

The facade of the Seoul National University Museum of Art Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The facade of the Seoul National University Museum of Art. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

“The government’s policy efforts will be focused on making museums and art museums more friendly and useful cultural facilities for the people,” said a ministry official, as reported by the Yonhap News Agency. A representative from the culture ministry did not immediately respond to a request from artnet News for further details on the ambitious initiative.

In the capital of Seoul alone, state-run museums include the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the National Palace Museum of Korea, and the National Folk Museum of Korea. The other national art museum, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, is in Gwacheon.


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