[VIEWPOINT]A shared culture brings closer tiesAfter spending time alternately in the United Kingdom and the United States, I got the feeling that in order to maintain good relationships between countries, there is a need to form not only physical understandings in the economic and military fields, but also metaphysical connections, such as culture.
There are big differences in the traditions and culture of the two Anglo-Saxon brother countries.
The United States has risen up as a strong power by accepting immigrants from all over the world.
The Americans, whose pioneers opened up the waste land, are challenging and creative.
Since many immigrants moved to the new world to get away from social discrimination, American people are not obsessed with origins or affiliation. There is a clear tradition and awareness of the “American dream,” that anyone can rise up if they work hard enough.
British people, by contrast, have always lived in a traditional society and are more conservative. There is a strong tradition of empiricism that emphasizes the truth, facts and experience, but British people also rarely plan things rashly and are extremely cautious, perhaps because of the usual gloomy weather.
British people have a clear awareness of their position and role in their organization or society, and act accordingly.
Despite such differences, if people were asked to pick a country that best understands the United States, they would most likely pick the United Kingdom.
There is something about the United Kingdom that makes one feel that the country is close to the United States.
Watching television in the United Kingdom, one feels that the United Kingdom works harder at introducing and enjoying U.S. culture through its mass media than the United States itself.
In the United Kingdom, which tends to avoid latest trends, musicals that are out-of-date in the United States are especially popular.
On television, musicals such as “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, “Sound of Music,” and “Mary Poppins” are always shown during the Christmas and year-end seasons, as an annual ritual.
And U.S. cities such as New York, Miami and San Francisco are the most popular travel destinations for residents of the United Kingdom.
Not only do 50 or so U.K. universities have an American studies major, but various other subjects, such as politics, social science and literature in other universities, have classes that lecture on comparative studies in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Although the Iraq War caused a sentiment of great abhorrence toward the United States, the familiarity of U.S. culture among the British public probably played the role of a shock-absorber, which supported the relationship between the two countries.
In the United States, it is very popular among well-to-do families to send their children to U.K. universities as exchange students for a year.
The Rhodes Scholarships of Oxford University, which many powerful people in the United States, including former President Bill Clinton, had the opportunity to attend, is one of the older versions of the exchange-student programs.
U.S. universities, especially, are trying to learn from the experiences of the British Empire when they devise world strategies.
And it is shown by the precedent of “importing” two British historians by Yale and Harvard University.
During 1980s, when the theory of the decline of the United States due to excessive military spending made its first appearance, Yale University hired Professor Paul Kennedy, who became a best-selling author for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”
Recently, Harvard University, which has been working hard on a world strategy befitting the United States as the “only superpower,” scouted Professor Niall Ferguson of Oxford University, who became renowned as a result of his study of British Empire.
Not only universities, but many think-tanks in London and Washington, are linked to each other through multi-dimensional exchanges. Various scientific and popular books are also published simultaneously in London and New York.
The special cultural ties between the United States and the United Kingdom have made the countries inseparable, making the cautiousness of France across the Dover Sea fully understandable.
A Korean cultural wave is now enjoying popularity in Asia, even to the point of being called a cultural trend. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom shows us that the common ground of Asian popular culture that originates from Korea can be a foundation for expanding understanding and cooperation in Asia, where there are hostilities and deep misunderstandings.
* The writer is a lecturer in political science and international relations at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Seung-young
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