Up until the early 2000s, issues related to international trade and business were mostly dominated by the manufacturing sector: steel, textiles, electronics, automobiles. Over the last two decades though, services have become increasingly important. Yet beyond a few services, such as financial and transport services, efforts to develop a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the services sector have not matched its significant economic weight (70 percent of the GDP in most industrial countries) nor its crucial role in international economic relations.
In particular, “cultural industries,” which include films, music, and broadcasting, have played a very important yet underappreciated role in the world economy. Over the years they were a major contentious issue in international trade relations that almost aborted the Uruguay Round in 1995, added tensions to the Doha Round negotiations in the mid-2000s, and been at the heart of many bilateral trade agreements. All the cultural industries have witnessed an unprecedented change in technologies and business strategies, as best illustrated by iconic producers of electronic goods which have heavily invested in cultural industries—from Samsung which entered the film industry in the mid-1990s to Sony’s very recent decision to make entertainment assets a priority. Last but not least, cultural industries have contributed toward reshaping the balance of power among countries. Blessed by ancient and vibrant cultures, Asia’s manufacturing powerhouses are fast becoming cultural engines as well. Today, no Asian country better illustrates these ongoing changes than Korea—a country that was never expected to become a cultural hub three decades ago. Today it is sending “Korean Waves” across the world through its films, music, and TV dramas.
This website is dedicated to highlighting these crucial changes in cultural industries by exploring pertinent questions, providing adequate information, and proposing new analyses. So far, many in Europe have only focused on the United States. This unfortunately means they have ignored what has been happening in the East. While they may notice the success of some Korean and Asian cultural products, these are usually seen as exceptions in a world largely dominated by Western cultural industries, not as signs of a systemic change in the balance of power. Given these perceptions, it is crucial to learn more about the experiences of Korea and other Asian countries. Such examples will help European countries to discover ways to promote their own culture—a step forward toward true “cultural diversity” in the world. Conversely, assessing European experiences could be also useful for Korea and other countries in the Asia region.
Alongside these topics, it is important to pay close attention to “culture” per se. This term is too often used as an excuse for protecting vested interests. While cultural industries and policies can promote culture, stringent and short-term focused policies will more often than not suffocate it. Assessing which ones play a positive role for culture, and which ones have a negative effect will be a meaningful task.
That said, this website will also devote attention to the current developments in international trade relations related to goods. It will do so by learning from the examples of the past. Most of the trade conflicts in recent years are a mirror image of those from the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, understanding past conflicts and their outcomes offer a good chance to predict the path of the current trade conflicts.
This website is run by a core team of five economists, business economists, and media specialists from Europe and Asia.
Patrick Messerlin, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Sciences Po Paris.
Hwy-Chang Moon, Professor Emeritus of International Business and Strategy, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University and Chair Professor, Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies.
Kyuchang Kim, Ph.D., Korea Culture and Tourism Institute.
Nissim Otzmagin, PhD., Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Jerusalem.
Jimmyn Parc, Ph.D., Visiting Lecturer, Sciences Po Paris and Research Associate, EU Center, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University.