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New ministry established to foster culture

2012/05/20 15:46:13

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of Culture was officially established Sunday, following the reorganization of the Cabinet, to fulfill President Ma Ying-jeou's 2008 campaign promise to place cultural affairs as a top priority in his administration.

Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, who will head the new ministry, described the establishment of the Ministry of Culture as a "large-scale project of a century" and a "dream come true" for the cultural sector.

A former essayist and cultural critic, Lung was appointed to head the Council for Cultural Affairs on Jan. 31 when Ma announced his new Cabinet lineup.

The Ministry of Culture, upgraded from the council, will include elements of the Ministry of Education, the Government Information Office and the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, along with a staff of some 2,000 employees.

Its seven departments will be dedicated to general policy planning, the fostering of international cultural exchanges and the development of the arts, the publishing industry, the cultural and creative industry, cultural resources and film, television and popular music.

A ceremony will be held Monday to officially inaugurate the ministry.

During the months of preparation, Lung had compared the reorganization of the ministry to kitchen work, saying it was a challenging task to locate where the "eggs" and "flours" are to be found in each of the four ministries and commission.

She said everything, from staffing, revising regulations, to reorganizing files and planning new offices, have not been an easy task.

In an article Lung published in local newspaper United Daily News on May 18 to outline her goals for the new ministry, Lung said cultural resources should be available to not only the rich and the middle class, but every citizen, including night market vendors, prisoners, foreign spouses, children on farms and residents of fishing villages.

She also said she has been thinking about how cultural policies could better reflect changes in the social structure, such as how to turn the large population who are in retirement into human resources for the promotion of culture.

In addition, Lung expressed hope that the cultural exchanges between Taiwan and China could be free of the "political wrestling" between the two sides and be viewed from a broader, more international standpoint.

"I was thinking, can we be calmer, more open-minded, more confident?" asked Lung.

Lung has attracted much attention from the Chinese media since assuming office in February, with reporters from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau appearing at many of her events over the past months, and asking about the future of cultural exchanges between Taiwan and China.

Lung, whose writings have a large readership in both Taiwan and China, has said that an increase in cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait would be an important goal for her ministry.

Since assuming office, Lung has drawn wide expectations from the art and culture sector, with many hoping that her years of experience abroad and her strong persona would breathe fresh air into Taiwan's cultural policies.

Yet despite high expectations, the cultural sector continued, over the past months, to call for increased transparency within the ministry after a controversial budget for the musical "Dreamer" led to the resignation of Emile Sheng, former head of the Council for Cultural Affairs.

Sheng was accused of spending an extravagant sum on the musical, produced and presented for two nights in October at a cost of over NT$215 million (US$7.3 million), as part of the Republic of China centennial celebrations.

Opposition lawmakers have accused Sheng of fixing the tender for the production to favor people close to the president, charges Sheng has vigorously denied.

In response to the case, Lung had said it should be left for the judicial system to decide.

(By Christie Chen)