It’s the culture, stupid!

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It’s the culture, stupid!

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The candidates in the presidential primaries of both the ruling and opposition parties seem to be missing something. Even when I assume they all have great policy proposals, they are certainly lacking. First of all, they are making promises to do things for the people but make no demands for the people to do anything for the country. The voters have grown tired of fancy rhetoric and rosy promises after a series of presidential elections since democratization. Do the politicians simply presume that voters are not ready to buy bitter yet good medicine? Another thing that’s missing is a sense of humor. The candidates may be tense from their rivalries, but the viewers feel comfortable when they are confident enough to show some smiles.

In the televised debates, the candidates have to exchange harsh words. And they may be treated like fools by making a bad joke. But even in their statements, they remain so serious and aggressive. It may be too much to expect some humor, but the statements hardly mention “culture,” which may be the basis of humor. Park Geun-hye’s statement of candidacy mentions culture once when she pledged to “promote future-oriented industries that produce jobs such as cultural and software industries.” She was not talking about culture itself, but culture as an industry. Kim Mun-soo’s statement does not discuss culture at all. Moon Jae-in made a few mentions when he promised to “enhance creativity of all citizens through cultural innovation,” and “drastically add new jobs by promoting new industries such as cultural and content industries.” Sohn Hak-gyu said he would support “another leap of the Korean cultural industry.” Since Kim Doo-gwan’s only mention of culture was found in the phrase “ending the political culture similar to a civil war,” he effectively skipped the discussion of culture itself.

Not mentioning culture may not be proof that the person is against culture. However, it is clear that culture has not been given a high priority. When they think about culture, they seem to consider it as a dependent variable in their industrial policies.

But the presidential runners need to review the “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts” drafted by Americans for the Arts, a civilian group advocating expansion of government assistance in arts and culture. Arts are an industry, the cornerstone of tourism and an expert industry. Arts are good for local merchants and are the engine of creative industries. Arts build the 21st century workforce and improve academic performance. Arts benefit health and make stronger communities. Arts promote the true prosperity of humanity.

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

by Noh Jae-hyun

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