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[Opinion] President and Cultural Competitiveness

Posted August. 28, 2003 17:58,   


President of a country serves as a barometer of cultural competitiveness, showing how advanced the country is culturally. A president who can appreciate culture and art values is not only a pride of the country but also an effective tool for national cultural competitiveness. Artist-turned presidents like Jan Paderevski of Poland, Bachlav Havel of Chez and Sanana Gusmao of East Timor, who were pianist, playwright and poet respectively, were all loved and supported by people across the world. The White House often invites artists and Hollywood stars at parties to buoy up the mood and draw media spotlight.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is well known for his love for classic music, made a theme trip during his visit to European countries. In Germany he attended the Bayreuth Wagner Festival and stayed for five hours to see the opera Tanhouser. He visited a suburban church outside Warsaw to see the tomb of Chopin`s heart while staying in Poland. In Czech, he laid the wreath on the tombs of two great composers Devorjak and Smetana. At a dinner meeting with the Czech prime minister, he accompanied talking robot `Asimo` and let it shake hands and clink glasses with the prime minister. It is a sophisticated diplomatic move – It was Czech writer Carel Chapech who used the word `Robota` in his 1921 work, referring to `simple but hard work`.

Former French President Francois Mitterand visited Seoul as the French TGV emerged as a strong candidate for the national railway project in 1993. He was accompanied by such high-profile cultural figures as actress Sophie Marsaw, sculptor Sejar Batachi, architect Jean Jacque Pernie and publisher and writer Wiber Nissen, who translated Lee Mun-yeol`s novel into French. It was a savvy move of cultural marketing for the French president during his visit to return one of the two ancient Korean books looted by French force at the time of French invasion into Ganghwa Island in 1866.

And it is time for President Roh to appear at such cultural events as performances, movies, exhibitions and fashion shows as he marks his half a year in power. He has only been in a theater to watch a play directed by one of his supporters, and in a TV ad to promote book reading. In fact, the book recommended by the president soon became a best-selling item selling more than 40,000 copies. And a book the president read during his summer vacation also sold well. These are a testament that the president can be a major engine of the country`s cultural activities. Movie director-turned Culture Minister Lee and presidential aides must work harder in this respect. President must be the nation`s No. 1 culture brand and sales representative.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com