[Viewpoint]The new global economy

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[Viewpoint]The new global economy

Kia Motors’ Europe Design Center is located in Frankfurt, Germany.

In charge of it is Peter Schreyer, the center’s vice president, who was chief designer for Audi and Volkswagen for a long time. On his desk is a photograph from his childhood, taken when he was seven years old. He and his brother are posed in front of an old BMW. The 55-year-old designer said, “Automobiles are an industry in Korea, but it is a culture in Germany.” His automobile designs are products of that culture.

German automobiles are the best in the world, in terms of both design and technology. It is notable that Germany has world-class carmakers such as Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagen.

However, automobiles are a culture first, then an industry. This gives the Germans their hidden potential and true competitive edge.

The Zollverein Coal Mine of Essen in the Ruhr region of Germany is a gigantic industrial complex with a coking plant facility. Remarkably, it has been made into a museum and art center and has been designated as a World Cultural Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The coal mine has been closed for a while, but the Zollverein Museum is still filled with the smell of coal. The odor reminds us that all culture and art are products of life. The Germans turned a coal mine that once seemed completely unrelated to culture or art into a museum displaying their cultural heritage, creating something of value that cannot be explained simply in monetary terms.

In Dusseldorf, Germany, you can find a flea market that only handles goods based on good designs. The market is not cheap. Many products were priced over 100 euros, and I even found a price tag of 3,000 euros on a mobile that hangs from the ceiling. That is over 5 million won. Of course, everything sold at the flea market is secondhand.

Then why are they so expensive? The prices of goods based on design (designer-goods) rise notably the older they get. Bauhaus designer goods in particular have become contemporary antiques. Market sales are brisk. Design might be a strange, abstract value to many Koreans, but to Germans it is a part of daily life. The flea market is a living gallery of modern art, and its existence is proof that design is alive and well.

Moreover, design can revive domestic consumption. The German case is quite different from Korea, where domestic consumption immediately freezes when the economy withers a bit. In order to thaw the frozen economy, we need culture, art and design.

The global economy is changing from a visible to an invisible one. The visible economy is the economy that can be measured in money. The invisible economy is one that cannot immediately be measured in those terms. The world is shifting from a countable economy to an uncountable one. The center of the countable economy is finance, yet at the core of the uncountable economy are culture, art and design.

Today, culture is money, art is trends, and design is value. The new growth engine cannot be found in existing industries. Culture, art and design are the main axis and core of the world’s new growth engine. And we need to pay attention to the greater flow of change. We need to be able to see the rapid shift from the finance-oriented “countable” economy to the culture, art and design-oriented “uncountable” one at the vortex of the crisis.

A country, a company or an individual has to contemplate not just how to overcome the immediate crisis but also how to make a living and make future breakthroughs. The solution can be found in culture, art and design.


*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong

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