AFP - South Korea has unveiled a 91-million-dollar plan to bolster its music industry, which has been badly hit by illegal online downloads.
The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry said it would create a Korean version of the US Billboard Charts and a K-pop award evoking the Grammys in a bid to "globalise" the country's pop music.
Ministers hope the five-year plan will double the country's annual sales, online and in shops, to 1.7 trillion won (1.2 billion dollars) by 2013, they said in a statement.
Under the plan, the ministry will open in December this year two concert halls in Seoul, which will specialise in pop music and offer some 4,000 seats in total.
It will also build a K-pop culture centre in Goyang City, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Seoul, by 2013, which will include a 3,000-seat pop concert hall, a hall of honour for local pop artists and an exhibition hall.
The ministry will also support 35,000 noraebangs -- karaoke bars without alcohol -- across the country by providing karaoke equipment.
The Korean pop music industry has been suffering from plummeting sales since 2000, mainly due to the spread of illegal downloads on the Internet.
South Korea introduced a new law in December 2006 and began cracking down on such practices in earnest last year.
"It's crucial to protect song writers from online piracy in order to globalize K-pop music," an official of the ministry told AFP.
"It's difficult to expect a song writer to produce good contents when his products are being easily stolen," he said.