Seoul: The Grand Stage
By Andy St. Louis
Barely a week into 2023, Youn Bum-mo, the director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), South Korea’s premier public art institution, found himself in hot water after a special audit conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism found numerous instances of “illegal and inappropriate actions” in the museum’s management. The revelations came as a surprise to most members of the Korean art world who broadly considered Youn an effective, if somewhat uninspiring, museum leader. Following the presidential victory of conservative candidate Yoon Suk Yeol in 2022, however, Youn was increasingly perceived as a holdover from the previous liberal administration of Moon Jae-in, and it would only be a matter of time before he was ousted. He stepped down from his post at the MMCA in April 2023 to conclude what would eventually be seen as a politically motivated coup.