Thursday, May 9, 2019

Poverty of the Artist's Life

A professor in the art department of a university tells the readers in the Catholic Peace Weekly's Current Event column the difficulties of Korean artists. He taught a course with the title: Art and Bread to nurture the spirit of artists dreaming of a career in the art world. The aim was to help establish their own artistic view by looking at artists who overcame trials and adversities to create the Korean art world.

Students attended the classes with seriousness because they thought that such trials and adversities would also be their lot. Students asked: "Why should an artist always live and die in poverty and sickness?"  He wasn't able to give a clear answer. This is probably the fate of the artist.  Students have to endure the high entrance competition to walk the artist's path. Competition rate is over 30 to 1 on average. A music vocal major is close to 400 to 1.  The employment rate of students who graduated with such competition is low.

According to a recent report on career information in Korea, the highest salaried job rankings were in national legislators, plastic surgeons, senior corporate executives, dermatologists, university presidents, and deans. The annual salary is more than 85,000 thousand dollars. The lowest rankings were poets, lyricists, after-school teachers, stand-ins, novelists and fast-food clerks. It is  about 10,000 dollars  well  below the minimum wage of  about 14,000 dollars

Artists are making less money than fast food clerks. This is also evident in the results of the "Survey on the Status of Artists" released by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. 72% of the total number of artists are earning an annual income of fewer than one thousand dollars a month. Nearly 30% of the artists have no income from artistic activities.

In 2011, the Arts Welfare Act was created. The law aims to protect the professional status and rights of artists by law and to promote artists' creative activities and contribute to the development of the arts through the support of artists. The law contains a fascinating story of the death of a poor artist.

The artist was found dead in a rented house a few days before the year 2011. He was suffering from thyroid and pancreatitis problems, wasn't eating and not properly treated and died. A note on his neighbor's door said: "Thank you so much for your help. I am embarrassed to say this but I haven't  eaten for a few days so if you have some rice and kimchi please knock on my door." These words give one a picture of this artist's situation. The story of his death evoked in the professor great sadness and regret.

He remembers the picture of Van Gogh's pair of shoes.They seem to symbolize Van Gogh's difficult passage through life. The owner of the shoe is invisible. Poor and sincere life is full of shoes.

'All artists have the right to perform artistic activities in an environment that guarantees human dignity and physical and mental stability.' Article 3 of the Act on the Welfare of the Artist. Does Korea protect the rights and human dignity of artists?

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