U.K. and Korea’s cultural ties

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U.K. and Korea’s cultural ties

It’s 130 years since William George Aston arrived in Seoul as the first European diplomat to be posted to Korea. Since then a succession of British representatives have followed in his footsteps, but in 2014 we also have a different kind of ambassador alongside Her Majesty’s Ambassador Scott Wightman.

Turn on your TV and, whether it’s Sherlock, Downton Abbey or Dr. Who, you can’t escape our cultural envoys. If, like me, you’ve got children, you’ll probably be very familiar with One Direction, so it won’t surprise you to hear that, in six of the past seven years, the biggest-selling album worldwide has been by a British artist. And whether it’s James Bond, Paddington Bear or Star Wars, it’s hard to go to the cinema these days without seeing a film that’s made in Britain.

This international cultural flow isn’t a one-way affair. Hallyu - the Korean Wave - has seen Psy addressing the Oxford Union and Super Junior headlining at Wembley Arena. Of course, it’s not just about pop music. In the past few months alone, 16-year-old Jun Joon-hyuk became the first Korean student to be accepted by the Royal Ballet School, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra wowed audiences at the Proms, and Theatre Haddangse played to packed houses at the Edinburgh Festival.

Creativity is big business. In the United Kingdom alone, the creative industries are worth more than 120 trillion won ($109 billion) and provide jobs for 1.71 million people. And this international exchange of cultures and ideas also has an impact on the wider geopolitical landscape. The recent growth in Korea’s cultural exports has been accompanied by a rise in its “soft power” ranking - the more the world sees of a country, the more influential it is likely to become.

The creative industries have never been more important, or more globalized. That’s why I’m in Korea this week, meeting with leading figures from government and business to find new ways of helping the creative industries - in both our countries - to thrive. The highlight will be the first annual UK-Korea Creative Industries Forum, a unique opportunity for our nations to share ideas and expertise, and to foster cooperation between our countries.

Our countries may be separated by thousands of miles, but we share a universal language of culture and creativity. And that’s something that should be celebrated and supported.

by Sajid Javid, U.K. secretary of state for culture, media and sport

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