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[Random Thoughts] Cultural image

Posted February. 06, 2001 15:50,   


Guy Sorman, a French critic of civilization, visited Korea some years ago. In a speech, he stressed that a cultural image is more important than anything else for the development of the Korean economy.

¡°The weakest point of the Korean economy is that it has no image,¡± he said. ¡°The quality and price of goods are not important as much now in the world market. The United States, Germany and Japan have already built their strong images and are selling goods. But we cannot find something with the Korean goods. Now, Korea should map out strategies to show its culture.¡±

Recently, exports of our cultural goods have drastically increased amid an expectation that our cultural image might be upgraded as much. In case of movies, the export amount reached US$7 million last year. ¡°Joint Security Area (JSA)¡± was exported to Japan for US$2 million, ¡°Swiri¡± to Japan for US$1.2 million, and ¡°Gingko Bed¡± and ¡°Tell Me Something¡± earned US$700,000 and US$660,000 respectively.

Exports of songs also were active, creating a boom of Korean songs by new-generation singers such as H.O.T in China. TV dramas such as ¡°Star in My Heart¡± also were sold to China, Vietnam and Malaysia, exploiting the foreign broadcasting markets.

More good news: The non-verbal musical ¡°NANTA¡± will be exported to the United States for US$4 million, the largest amount in the history of our cultural goods exports. According to the contract, the musical can earn up to US$10 million depending on the number of spectators.

At the same, director Im Kwon-Taek¡¯s ¡°Chunhyang¡± has been listed one of best foreign-language movies in the coming Academy Awards. There might be more good news from abroad. Experts point out that most works that enjoyed popularity in overseas markets showed our unique experiences and sentiments, which became the very elements for their success.

But overall, our culture exports have a long way to go. In particular, the exports in the fields of arts, literature, music, dancing and animation have been poor. In case of arts and literature, we are seeking to advance abroad through the participation in art fairs and translation projects, respectively, but are still in a preparatory phase.

What is needed is the minute and scientific choices of subjects and marketing, finding and cultivation of talented persons, overseas publicity and government substantial aids. The cultural image is the power of Korea.

Song Young-Eon youngeon@donga.com