When an Economy Becomes Creative

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The World Forum for Peace, organised by the Journalists Association of Korea in April 2016, was a great entry point to South Korea. In a roller-coaster schedule across the country, we visited several provinces and were hosted by governors and mayors in each province, some being potential Presidential candidates. The journey was a phenomenal peep into the life, culture and economy of South Korea.

It is so difficult to decide whether to write about the intricate royal stories or about the ‘creative’ economy. I choose the latter only because the very word ‘creative’ with economy is in itself evocative of modern South Korea. The phrase ‘creative economy’ was first used by President Park Geun-hye while running for her candidature in 2012.

In 2013, during her inaugural address, Park Geun-Hye stated, “A creative economy is defined by the convergence of science and technology with industry, the fusion of culture with industry, and the blossoming of creativity in the very borders that were once permeated by barriers. It is about going beyond the rudimentary expansion of existing markets, and creating new markets and new jobs by building on the bedrock of convergence.”

By 2016, the thrust of the government was on supporting businesses, especially innovative start-ups in high-tech fields. This is clearly the key to the future.

The concept in the brief introduction at Gyeonggi Centre for Creative Economy and Innovation (CCEI) was fascinating. Huge corporates, whether they like it or not, are at threat of becoming white elephants. Over time, they become prisoners of their own calibrated systems that directly impacts future dynamic growth. Communication stiffens up within the hierarchy, working patterns are hard and demanding. This ultimately impacts the quality of products, the people behind them and the choices consumers make.

The CCEIs are targeted to address this issue at the core, by supporting SMEs and start-ups. They provide a platform that enables entrepreneurs to research and test their models in a private, hi-tech and supportive environment. The Centres monitor and aid the process and mould it along to suit market demands and requirements.

In the ultimate, they create linkages between a start-up and a giant. This is a dual fillip to the economy. It encourages entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in a demanding ever-changing technological world. It also provides wailing corporate giants an opening to adopt and absorb an already available innovation – without spending on R&D. That too, innovations that have been keenly and professionally nurtured to match the market and the consumer.

Soon after, we visited the Samsung Innovation Museum. It was not long after that, there were interesting reports about how Samsung intends to meet the needs of the future. One of the bottom line statements was that they will work like a start-up! Clearly, the vision of Creative Economy has sunk into the South Korean system in less than three years.

Other Asian economies can learn huge lessons from this concept. Including my own country, India, that hopes to be the fastest growing economy with catch phrases of Make & Made in India. The point is to reach the lowest rung of the ladder. Walking through local markets in South Korea, it is overwhelming to hear a resounding sentence for the smallest good, like a hair-pin or a pair of socks. “No, No, not China, made in KOREA”, says the South Korean street-side vendor. A Creative Economy can be successful only when every citizen belongs to and feels this sense of pride in it.

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