[Outlook]Clueing in on culture
High expectations were placed on capitalism-based globalization, but the U.S.-sparked financial crisis put the world’s capitalist system in crisis. Our country is no exception; Koreans, too, are in deep trouble.
The market cannot solve every problem on its own. State intervention is necessary.
For us, overcoming the crisis as soon as possible has become a vital task, along with redesigning the foundation and structure of our economy in order to attain sustainable growth.
However, humans can’t be happy only with the basics; we also need culture. Culture is a pivotal part of all sectors of society, and we spend much of our time discussing it. Although it is integrated into the fabric of our world, it is also its own, distinct entity, and is often studied and researched as such.
Of course, creative thoughts and activities are necessary in the production of culture, and policies are needed to encourage such inspiration to take place.
Preserving and developing our cultural heritage is also important. The cultural products of a nation belong both to humankind as a whole and to the people of the country of origin. Therefore, on both the small and large scale, we see movements aimed at nurturing both the items that we already possess, and the ones that have yet to be created.
Preserving and making good use of a nation’s cultural legacy is the duty of the country and the privilege of the people. This is stipulated in the Constitution.
Our government was not well aware of the value of our cultural heritage, and it did little more than take care of the everyday upkeep of our priceless assets.
As awareness increased, the government established the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea. But it is easier to say you will take good care of the country’s cultural heritage than to actually do it.
Much greater awareness is still needed. More than that, we also must establish related laws along with human and material resources.
In Korea, heritage is still approached from an archeological perspective.
Laws related to the wealth of cultural properties that our country teems with are not good enough. Further, the resources set aside to deal with our cultural assets are insufficient.
Tens of millions of tourists visit Paris, Vienna and Istanbul, even during the cold winter months, and spend tremendous amounts of money. Thanks to their rich heritage, these cities make a fortune. But it is not only about money - these famous cities also have international reputations. People from those countries are regarded as being highly cultured.
In Korea, we are still at the level where we approach our cultural heritage as an industry from which to make a profit. But even that approach needs resources.
To make our people enjoy and appreciate the historical assets of their country, resources are necessary. But instead of seeking resources, we neglect old traditional houses across the country, including those in the 1,000-year-old city of Gyeongju.
Our government is caught up promoting the fact that we have 5,000 years of history. This is will do nothing with regards to actually attending to and promoting the fruits of that history.
The incumbent government is focusing on restoring the economy.
But in order to become a more cultured country, our mentality needs to change drastically, and the country must carry out specific policies far more actively.
Lack of financial resources usually becomes a critical hindrance.
The amount of money that nurturing our cultural heritage will require is hard to predict in advance. The project can’t be done with a certain budget over a pre-designated period.
As the United Kingdom, France, the United States and Japan do, we must constantly raise funds with which to take care of this sector.
The state, which has a greater duty to address this issue than the general public, must be first to contribute funds. The people can then voluntarily make donations.
The task has been left to the Cultural Heritage Administration, which has an insufficient budget. It is natural that the job hasn’t been dealt with efficiently so far.
Although belated, a bill to create a fund for preserving and developing our cultural heritage was submitted to the National Assembly recently.
If the lawmakers truly represent the people, they must pass the bill, instead of disappointing people with political fights for their own interests. Even though we have pathetic politicians, we still want to live in a country with a rich culture.
The writer is a professor of Constitution studies at Seoul National University.
by Chung Jong-sup