Where does creativity come from?When it comes to a leader advocating a “creative economy,” Great Britain was the original. In 1997, the Labor Party’s Tony Blair became prime minister and came up with a grand plan to promote “Cool Britannia.” There was no confusion on what it meant. He proposed a clear direction that the culture of the United Kingdom would be its economic growth engine. Some derided that the U.K. had given up on traditional manufacturing, but the British people were hopeful that creative resources such as modern art, films, popular music, performing arts and industrial design would be commercialized. Blair started a section in charge of creative industries under the Department for Culture, Media and Sports, or DCMS, and appointed a parliamentary under-secretary to oversee the operation.
Unlike Great Britain’s focus on culture, Korea’s creative economy has been integrated with previously the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and is now handled by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. The grand title encapsulates the administration’s ambition to graft digital and information technology onto creative industries as one powerhouse package.
However, both Korea and the U.K. chose a wrong partner for their “creativity.” Britain’s creative industries did not thrive, not because of a shortage of cultural assets but because of a missing digital and IT foundation. A few days ago, Britain’s innovative policy development think-tank Nesta published a 128-page Manifesto for the Creative Economy, which well defines the concept of a creative economy, which is still in dispute in Korea. Nesta pointed out the creative industries are stumbling because technologies and educational levels were not keeping up. Addressing this issue, the conservative government that came into power three years ago reshuffled the organization to have the parliamentary under secretary of state for the Department for Culture, Media and Sports in charge of creative industries to serve as parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as well. But that has not shown much in the way of results.
In the U.K., there still are areas where 3G signals are beyond reach, much less 4G or LTE (long-term evolution). Not many Brits have access to Internet connections fast enough to enjoy advanced online games. When communication services providers refused to install a network in a town near Oxford, the residents had to live without online connections all along and have recently chipped in to bring in high-speed Internet. That’s pretty pathetic.
Compared to Britain, Korea’s problem is not technology but content. We don’t have abundant creative assets to promote through our technology. So I wanted to believe that not only the Ministry of Science, ITC and Future Planning but also all government ministries were working together to focus on “creativity” - until the president mentioned “friendly textbooks.”
Once the new textbooks are in use, students are expected to memorize entire textbooks. Since midterms, finals and college entrance exams are to be taken only from the “friendly” textbooks, many students will get perfect scores, and even a slight mistake would propel students into different schools. The Ministry of Education, which always claims that education should not be about memorizing textbooks but about nurturing creative talents, remains quiet. In the U.S. and the U.K., many classes are given without textbooks at all. Does the government want to argue that the students can explore creativity since they wouldn’t have to go to private cram schools? The creative education plan is far from being creative.
*The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-eon