[VIEWPOINT]No shortcuts to a culture industrySome time ago I received a letter inviting me to be registered as a "man of culture." The letter said that if I filled out an application form and enclosed my photograph I would be issued a "certificate of a cultured man." I could not suppress a wry smile and then threw the letter into the garbage. Indeed, it was a time when the term "culture" was understood to belong to only a select few.
These days, no one thinks that culture belongs to only certain people. Debates on the differences between elite culture and popular culture are meaningless, too. The barrier between different cultural genres is collapsing. The advent of new media formats that contain new contents has changed the way we express ourselves. Diverse people produce and consume diverse cultures.
The culture industry now ranks with information technology, biotechnology, the environment, aerospace studies and nanotechnology in terms of importance. Indeed, culture is an industry that can decide the future of a country, for national competitiveness depends on a country's culture. One example: The movie "Jurassic Park" generated more profit than Korea made exporting 1.5 million automobiles. Culture not only promotes the value of our lives, but it creates a great amount of added value.
The Korean government has begun to invest in the culture industry, establishing a five-year plan. In particular, the government secured a reasonable budget for the development of human resources and facilities in the movie industry. Government officials already are subsidizing culture-related venture enterprises and are asking universities to set up a department that trains professionals who can produce cultural projects. This kind of financial investment is expected to produce visible results that cultivate the foundation of the culture industry in a relatively short time.
The culture industry is something that cannot be promoted in a short time, however. Cultural products greatly differ from industrial products that can be produced by a short-term financial investment. The culture industry is the same as other industries in that it needs capital, technology and personnel. The culture industry, though, requires a high quality of human resources. The culture industry basically needs people who have creativity and imagination.
The problem here is that short-term investment and education cannot produce those who have creativity and imagination. Even if universities set up film departments, that does not automatically lead to the production of high quality human resources since few qualified faculty members exist who can teach in such departments. Only technicians, not innovators, will be produced under the current situation.
What kinds of measures should we then take? "Creative America," a report that discusses 21st century U.S. educational policies, was presented to former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The main point of the report is that the 21st century will be a century of culture. The report argues that if the United States wants to maintain its dominance in the culture market, it must strengthen the education process that develops creativity and imagination among the next generation. To do so, the report suggests a reinforced education in the humanities, literature and art forms －－ starting in primary school years.
Culturally advanced nations have long encouraged their youth to engage in the humanities and in the arts. Young citizens of advanced nations have responded by faithfully studying art and literature, visiting museums, reading poetry and novels, and writing creative prose.
Creativity and imagination cannot be developed in Korea under the current system that has students cramming information to prepare only to get into certain universities.
Education reform does not refer to patching up some parts of the college entrance exam system. To strengthen the humanities education in any schools curriculum is a true reform of education, and a shortcut to the promotion of the culture industry.
The writer is the vice president of Hallym University.
by Yu Jae-cheon