[Outlook]Globalized cool

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[Outlook]Globalized cool

The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel selected Europe’s coolest cities and ran the article as a cover story. Those cities include Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Dublin in Ireland, Copenhagen in Denmark, Tallinn in Estonia and Barcelona in Spain. These cities are relatively small and less well-known than major European cities such as London, Paris, Rome and Berlin. But these so-called second-rung cities, not the usual contenders to represent Europe, were considered cool. The reason is not only their beautiful scenery. The classification means these cities are rising as centers of economy and culture in Europe in the era of globalization. They are opening their doors and carrying out reforms.
The German magazine mentioned characteristics these cities have in common. They are known as the 3 T’s ― talent, technology and tolerance.
Talent means the proportion of people who live there considered to be in the “creative class,” comprised of designers, computer programmers, engineers, scientists, artists and people working in the arts.
Technology means research and development of high technologies, such as information technology and biotechnology.
Tolerance means that the society is open and a variety of ethnic groups, cultures and lifestyles coexist inside the city.
According to Der Spiegel, in Amsterdam, for instance, people working in fields that require professional knowledge and creativity account for 46 percent of the city’s population. Around half of the population are not native Dutch but expatriates.
Dublin operates 110 multinational companies, such as Intel, Microsoft, IBM and Dell. Over the past 10 years, 250,000 new jobs have been created.
In Copenhagen, 80 percent of residents can communicate in English. In terms of the number of patents, the city is one of the best in Europe. Recently, a research complex for biotechnology was established in the middle of the city.
Tallinn in Estonia, which is dubbed as the Hong Kong of the Baltic region, is one of the seven most intelligent cities in the world. Some 90 percent of banking transactions are done on the Internet and the mobile phones outnumbers city dwellers.
The coolest cities in Europe succeeded with talent, technology and tolerance in an era in which the barriers for transfering human and other resources have disappeared and knowledge and technology have become the main factors to create value. These cities have open economies and developed cultures and attract workers and researchers who can easily travel and work abroad. With these experts’ ideas, they create investment, employment and wealth. Through this, the cities are becoming even more dynamic.
The case of Europe’s coolest cities sends a message to Korea for its blueprint for the future. In the era of globalization and of transition into a knowledge-based society, knowledge, creativity, openness and reform are keys to a bright future. However, within Korean society, quite a few have negative views of globalization.
Of course, people who criticize and reject globalization do exist in other countries as well. Even in Europe, where the coolest cities in the globalized era are located, many criticize the side effects of globalization, such as poverty in neglected sectors or regions, inequality of incomes, unstable employment and damage to the environment.
Despite the obstacles and drawbacks, globalization is inevitable for us. It is not a matter of if but when. We have experienced paying a harsh price because we ignored worldwide trends. The question is not the trend of globalization itself but how to respond to it. Globalization causes pain because it introduces fierce competition on the global stage. But at the same time, it offers opportunities to become “cool” cities.
Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe just one generation ago. But now it has become the continent’s second-richest country in terms of national per capita income. This shows that a small country can become a strong one in the age of globalization when it is equipped with knowledge, creativity and openness.

*The writer is a professor of Western history at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Ahn Byung-jik
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