Publication Details

This paper was originally presented at Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia – An International Conference, hosted by the Asia’s Future Foundation, 17–18 March 2006, at Korea Broadcasting Institute, Seoul, Korea. Then, it was published as Lee, Kwang-Suk (2007), Questioning a neoliberal urban regeneration policy: the rhetoric of “Cities of Culture” and the City of Gwangju, Korea, The international journal of cultural policy, 13(4), 2007, 335–347. Copyright Taylor & Francis 2007.


The present study traces recent trends in cultural policy concerning “cities of culture” in South Korea. The paper is a case study of the city of Gwangju, known as the birthplace of modern democracy in Korea. Currently, public input from below into the urban regeneration project for Gwangju is almost nonexistent, while most urban regeneration policies have been implemented from the top by elites who enjoy exhibiting their performances through constructing massive edifices rather than encouraging the preservation of such intangibles as historical significance through cultural participation from below. The government’s policy of promoting Gwangju as the “city of culture” in order to make it a hub of Asian cultural industry and tourism in the global economy is closely allied to its policy of economic reductionism of culture. The study suggests that Gwangju and its unique heritage would instead benefit from an urban regeneration policy aimed at establishing it as the city of art and culture for human rights and democracy and as part of a collaborative network with the heritage initiatives of international bodies.



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