Two ways to a creative economy

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Two ways to a creative economy

“Let’s take a picture together before the end of the event. Please come up on stage.” The person next to me, who works for a cosmetics start-up, headed to the stage with bashful smile. I was in a dilemma whether I should go. Lim Jung-min, head of the Google Campus Seoul, took a picture with attendees using a selfie stick.

In May 2015, the Google Campus Seoul opened in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, and is celebrating its first anniversary. It is the third overseas campus after London and Tel Aviv. The first-year anniversary event on Tuesday was fun and liberal. Not just the resident companies but also start-up support center staff, employees and aspiring entrepreneurs got together and shared their experiences.

On Monday, one day earlier, the Gangwon Center for Creative Economy and Innovation held its own first-year anniversary celebration. For the first 30 minutes, Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Choi Yang-hee, Gangwon Gov. Choi Moon-sun, Wonju Mayor Won Chang-mook and Naver CEO Kim Sang-heon made speeches. Center head Han Hong-ho explained the accomplishments to the VIPs at a separate exhibition space.

The Center for Creative Economy and Innovation and Google Campus are similar in supporting and nurturing start-ups. But just as the two anniversary events illustrated, they have completely different atmospheres.

The report cards are just as different. The center proudly claimed that it had discovered 89 start-ups and brought in 3.7 billion won ($3.2 million) in investment. On the other hand, the Google Campus Seoul supported 16 companies with 12.1 billion won in investment in the past year. The creative economy center may have been focused on increasing the number of companies it supports.

The creative economy center is a unique model, where a large corporation assists start-ups and the local economy. Most major Korean companies participate in the project. While it is supposed to be “voluntary participation,” not many believe it.

An executive posted to a creative economy center said, “It is doubtful if the center will continue when the administration changes.” John Howkins, head of the John Howkins Research Centre on the Creative Economy and author of the 2002 book “The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas,” said in a visit last year that the government should help creative economy centers but not attempt to lead them.

“The government should not control the centers,” the Korea Creative Economy Research Network’s director, Lee Min-hwa, who was the founding chairman of the Korea Venture Business Association, said. “Unless the large corporations, small and medium-sized companies and start-ups work together and survive on their own, the project will fizzle out in the next administration.”

The course of creation was not smooth, but the creative economy centers are fulfilling their roles. And the roles should be continued when the administration changes. They can learn from the Google Campus Seoul.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 12, Page 29

*The author is a business news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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