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The Covid-19 crisis and ‘critical juncture’ in cultural policy: a comparative analysis of cultural policy responses in South Korea, Japan and China

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Bibliographical note

Funding Information: For this research, we have consulted the following resources: Covid-19 related press releases and policy documents published by key organisations such as the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korean Film Council, the Seoul Foundation of Arts and Culture and the Korea Artist Welfare Foundation (South Korea); the Cabinet Office, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Japan); and the State Council, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the National Radio and Television Administration, the China Film Administration and the China Federation of Literary and Arts Circle (China). In addition, we referred to national newspapers: Chosun and Hangyoreh (South Korea); Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan); and People’s Daily and Guangming Daily (China). As cultural policy discussion is lively in Bijutsu Techo magazine in Japan, we also looked at relevant comments there. In addition, we attended or viewed a recording of the following online forums: ‘Covid-19 Arts Forum’ organised by the Korean cultural ministry and its agencies (South Korea, 12 December 2020); ‘Art Platform Japan Webinar Series’ organised by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Japan, August to December 2020) and ‘Post-Covid-19 Arts and Arts Management Development Forum’ organised by Shanghai Theatre Academy (China, 23 May 2020). Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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This paper reflects on how cultural policies in South Korea, Japan and China respond to the Covid-19 crisis. It conceptualises the current period as a historically significant moment by exploring the notion of ‘critical juncture’. Then, it presents an empirical analysis of what has actually happened in cultural policies in the three countries by investigating key events, debates, actors and decisions made in 2020. In Korea, the pandemic functions as a force of ‘policy acceleration’ by legitimising and furthering the existing development in cultural policy. In Japan, it triggered ‘policy movement’, where artists emerged as institutional entrepreneurs who fundamentally contest Japan’s non-interventionist cultural policy and ask for policy reform. In China, cultural policy is ‘locked-in’ as the party-state appropriated the crisis in its ideological terms. Despite the lack of visible transformative changes (yet), the consequences of the pandemic are critical enough to determine the future direction of cultural policy.

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