[Journalism Internship] China’s cultural project encompasses Korea in Beijing Olympics
Why is this angering the Korean public?
Many of the Korean public viewed this as China using the Olympics as a way to conduct its so-called cultural project – absorbing the culture of neighboring countries into their own culture.
Korean historians say that China's cultural project is a kind of cultural imperialism in a broad sense.
“It refers to trying to make it seem like various cultures around the world originated in China,” said Prof. Choi Lyon, a professor at the Korea Military Academy’s department of political sociology. “As Korea, which has grown into a military and cultural powerhouse, spreads through the media, China feels threatened by the system and uses the cultural project to stabilize itself.”
Choi considered the country’s low fertility rate and accompanying economic decline as a reason for regarding the growing power of Korean culture as a threat.
“As democracy permeated into Korean culture, it flowed through the media. China recognized the culture of Korea, a cultural powerhouse, as a threat and used the cultural project to protect the stability of its system,” he added.
Prof. Lee Sang-hoon of the Korea Military Academy’s department of military history suggested a historical characteristic of China at the base of this phenomenon.
"Since China has not been a single nation since ancient times, it has maintained its size by continuously merging with the immigrants around the Han Chinese," he said, adding that featuring Korean traditional cultures during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games is an apparent example of China’s cultural project.
Choi considered this recent cultural project in China a significant security threat.
“We feel unnerved because China's cultural project is directly related to Korea's ethnic security. This is because the process denies Korea's ethnic identity and consequently neutralizes it. In other words, it reduces Korea down to only a country that mimics part of China's culture," he said. “The threat to China's security is not guns but ethnic division, but Korea’s soft power achieved through democracy. It comes as a threat to the Communist Party.”
Lee, however, emphasized that Koreans should not feel threatened because no one can take away Korean culture as it is “who we are.”
He pointed out that the Chinese do not actually eat kimchi or wear hanbok on holidays, saying that distortion of history is more important than the cultural project in terms of security.
"The distortion of history could now be a justification for China to intervene in the event of the collapse of the North Korean regime later. We should focus on how China recognizes, expresses, and describes the history of our country,” he said.
Choi also mentioned things that Koreans should be wary about in the cultural project.
“We need to respond actively. At this time, the problem is China's capital power. China distorts certain cultures different from the truth and as they wish, which can be enforced through the capital of the Chinese authorities,” Choi said.
Choi stressed the importance of foreigners in promoting our culture. "Korea is generally favorable. It is important for foreigners to like Korea and promote Korea on behalf of us because they like Korean culture so much,” he said.
BY KIM WON-JUN, KIM DONG-IL, AHN TE-HONG [email@example.com]