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Soft Power

Posted June. 24, 2010 12:52,   


The theme park Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened Friday at Universal Orlando in Florida. Covering 81,000 square meters, the park features major venues and sets from the Harry Potter series, such as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry which the main character attends, Hogwarts Express, the streets of Hogsmeade village, and other wizardry tools. This demonstrates that great cultural content is marketable and appealing to the masses through platforms such as books, movies, games, and most recently a theme park.

J.K. Rowling has become a billionaire with her hit book series. More than 400 million copies of the author`s books have been sold, ranking second only to the Bible in global sales. The income she has earned through royalties from her books, copyrights for movies and videogames, and character sales is an estimated one billion dollars. The rags-to-riches story of the poor divorcee is a reminder of the importance of “soft power.”

Soft power, a concept invented by Harvard University professor Joseph Nye, is the opposite of “hard power,” or military or economic power. Soft power refers to influence, good feelings and reputation based on culture and art. Nye predicted that unlike in the 20th century, when the goals were national prosperity and military power, the 21st century will be the era of soft power. In a survey of 29,977 people from 28 countries on the soft power of 17 countries, the BBC found that Germany ranked first. The world’s two superpowers, the U.S. and China, ranked seventh and eighth, respectively. Korea, which was included in the survey for the first time this year due to its hosting of the November G20 summit, was ranked 12th.

Cha Mun-jung, a senior researcher at the Korea Development Institute, told a forum on the country’s growth potential and enhancing national competitiveness, “We should increase our soft power to significantly enhance the country’s growth potential.” Cha correctly pointed out that as the economy grows more advanced, the goal should be to raise human resources and productivity rather than physical resources and labor, and that Korea should have comparative advantages in knowledge-intensive industries led by innovation and creativity. Kang Seok-hun, an economics professor at Sungshin Women`s University in Seoul, said, “To appeal to the people, services and goods should be equipped with impressive stories. In doing so, the nurturing of creative human resources, in other words, education to nurture creative minds, is important.”

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)