[Outlook]Culture is key to next presidency

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[Outlook]Culture is key to next presidency

With the presidential election coming in six months, candidates are presenting a variety of pledges in bids to get support from voters.
They plan to create jobs, reducing unemployment, and cut taxes to improve the quality of living.
Some say they will enhance inter-Korean ties so that peace will settle on the Korean Peninsula and the foundation for reunification will be prepared.
Some say they will create a good business environment and stabilize relations between management and workers. All pledges are related to politics, economics and society.
These pledges illustrate what issues concern our society and Koreans most.
However, I feel something is missing before we can be sure about leaving the people and the country to one of these people.
That is probably because we cannot find a vision for the future in their promises.
Of course, a vision for the future can be found in economic promises, such as achieving a $40,000 per capita national income, or political promises, such as planning to achieve reunification in the near future.
Promises for society, like planning to improve business environments, and promises to improve education, such as making a plan to resolve problems in university entrance exams to normalize the public education sector, also contain a vision.
But what’s more important is to present concrete methods to make these promises reality.
To improve quality of life by satisfying individuals’ diverse needs for happiness is more important than achieving wealth, power or status. The importance of culture arises from this perspective.
Many say the 21st century is the century of culture.
A film can make more money than the total sum of car exports. An episode of a TV series moves thousands of people, sometimes. A novel can make millions of readers realize the meaning of their lives.
Through culture, people can become more educated and enjoy a more refined life.
The 21st century is an era where the cultural industry becomes an economic growth engine.
Culture not only improves and refines people’s inner lives, but cultural products and the culture industry also make a huge contribution to economic growth.
Today, almost all existing information is offered around the world on the Net, so the world is becoming more open, making conventional borders less meaningful.
The presidential hopefuls who cannot present a new vision on culture policy when the whole paradigm of the world has been changed merit suspicion that they are still living in an analog world.
In an information-driven society, these types of leaders are soon to be left behind. Thus, we need a president of culture.
We need to elect a president who has a deep understanding of culture, and can make good cultural policy and carry it out.
A leader who has no plans for cultural policy cannot become the president in the 21st century.
A president in the 21st century must have an understanding of art and a concrete plan for sponsorship.
Our national sciences have reached the world-class level, but we have not produced a Nobel Prize winner in science because we do not have a good educational foundation for basic science subjects.
Similarly, if we do not offer good training for the arts, our culture will remain at the level of underdeveloped countries, and our quality of living will not improve.
We need a cultural president who will make Korea a country of advanced culture.
It would be a good idea for the presidential hopefuls to have a TV debate on their policies on culture and art.
The Korean Culture and Arts Foundation has been transformed into a private organization named the Arts Council Korea, and the budget for the body has been cut by 10 percent every year.
This policy goes against the grain in the century of culture.
The presidential hopefuls must try hard to reverse this flow and to bring culture to full bloom in the future.
Our leaders’ qualifications and visions for arts and culture will decide whether our country advances further or not.
Now we voters need to probe into the qualifications and visions of the presidential aspirants.

*The writer is a literary critic. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Chie-sou
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