Published : 2013-02-27 20:21
Updated : 2013-02-27 20:21
One keyword in President Park Geun-hye’s inaugural address on Monday was “cultural renaissance.” She presented “a flourishing culture” as one of the three goals she would pursue during her five-year term. The other two were economic rejuvenation and increasing people’s happiness.
Park devoted a considerable part of her speech to culture, a topic that her predecessors had almost ignored in their inaugural addresses. Together with “economy” and “happiness,” “culture” was one of the most frequently used words in her 20-minute speech.
Of course, Park offered pledges related to cultural promotion during the campaign period. But eclipsed by such burning issues as economic democracy, welfare expansion and relations with North Korea, they drew little attention from the media or the electorate.
Park’s focus on culture was refreshing and well received. In light of her resolve to enhance people’s happiness, it makes sense that she puts culture high on her agenda. She envisions “a nation that becomes happier through culture, where culture becomes part of the fabric of daily life.”
Furthermore, as she points out, culture is power in the 21st century. In recent years, no nation has shown this better than Korea. Riding on the Korean Wave, Korean culture has spread to Asian countries and beyond, upgrading Korea’s image and bolstering its soft power.
Promoting culture also makes good business sense. Cultural industries are a better job creator than manufacturing industries. And they do not pollute. Moreover, creative industries, unlike traditional ones, run on a low-cost, high-return business model.
A vivid example is Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video. The rapper did not invest much money to produce and promote the video; he simply posted it on the Internet. But it went viral on YouTube, bringing him global fame and fortune.
In recent years, many countries, including China, have been keen to nurture culture as a strategic industry. They seek to use culture to polish their national image, prop up their soft power and build prosperous creative industries.
One motivation behind Park’s emphasis on culture is her vision for Korea’s economic prosperity. She plans to revitalize the Korean economy by building a “creative economy,” which she defines as “the convergence of science and technology with industry, the fusion of culture with industry, and the blossoming of creativity.”
So Park said she would support creative activities across wide-ranging genres and nurture content industries, such as music, film, animation, games and musicals, which merge culture with advanced technologies. These creative industries are supposed to ignite the engine of a creative economy.
Fostering cultural industries would also help keep the Korean Wave spreading around the world and ensure that the popularity of Korean culture is sustained among foreign citizens.
Another motivation is Park’s vision of Korea as a cultural nation. She feels that it is time for Korea to respect people’s right to culture, which has thus far been neglected in the nation’s rush toward economic development. So she stresses in her speech the need to ensure that “all of our citizens enjoy life enriched with culture.”
To realize the president’s vision, the presidential transition team has unveiled a set of action plans. They include expanding the government’s spending on culture from the current 1.4 percent of its budget to 2 percent by 2017.
The plans also call for the enactment of a framework law on culture to define the government’s obligations to guarantee people’s right to enjoy culture and to bridge widening cultural divides in Korea, which tend to fuel social conflicts.
Another notable project to be promoted by the new administration aims to upgrade cultural education for children. It proposes to assign a teacher specializing in culture and arts education to every school across the nation.
These plans are all well advised. To foster a new cultural renaissance, the government should first expand the nation’s cultural infrastructure and create an environment where people can easily access culture and the arts.
In particular, it should focus on expanding underprivileged people’s access to culture and bolstering the social safety net for artists so that they can concentrate on their creative activities.
At the same time, it is important to promote cultural exchanges with foreign countries. Cultural exchanges should be a two-way street. While seeking to spread Korean culture to every corner of the world, Korea also needs to ensure that a variety of content comes in from foreign countries. This will accelerate the development of Korean culture.