[KS] Tokto

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Fri Oct 12 16:35:40 EDT 2012

Yes, neomercantilism--that sure makes sense as a partial explanation of 
this phenomenon.
QUOTE from a 2012 UCLA dissertation abstract:

"By adopting a new trade policy of FTAs, the Korean state appeared to 
shift from protectionism to liberalization, as expected by 
international society in the post-1997 crisis period. However, the 
adoption of the FTA policy did not signify a genuine neoliberal 
transformation but the introduction of a new mechanism to continue the 
practices of the old developmental state, or strategic intervention of 
the state in the economy, if not as absolutely as in the past."

The issue as I see it is much larger through, or much more complex, if 
you want. Although saying that some issue is "complex" mostly just 
points to an inability to properly explain it. But you point to a very 
important direction there: saying that things are not as they appear to 
be--that neoliberalism in Korea is in fact not really neoliberalism but 
rather the old developmental state that Park once created, dressed up 
in a neoliberal costume. Now, what makes all this so fascinating for 
someone following up on "culture" is that these issues seemingly about 
economy or history again connect to the redefinition of all the 
essential terms, such as "culture" and cultural production itself. I 
would suggest to possibly revise all the definitions of the main 
elements involved: nation-state, globalization, culture, nationalism. 
"Culture," for example, is in a globalized, post-political world with 
hyper-communication tools and practices in trade globalized countries 
*not* anymore a "cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, 
values, (…) shared by a relatively large group of people," e.g. by the 
inhabitants of a country or region, but it is a commercial *product* 
that can be ordered, produced, and delivered to your door steps or your 
computer or cell phone hard drives. I'll be happy to take your orders 
for any culture package, and those come with a free add-on package of 
5,000 facebook followers on top of that--and you tell me what you want 
exactly, which and how much nationalism and/or local identity. Missing 
an actual historical growth (or development) process, a grouping 
process, local identity? No problem, this is not needed anymore. Just 
search, point, and click to order. When I was 17 an American GI I was 
hitchhiking with from Frankfurt to Heidelberg told me in his car that 
he believes all those old houses and castles in and around Heidelberg 
were from plastic, just as in Disneyland. I then thought that this guy 
must be a little dumb to say so. Years later I understood it was a very 
witty remark. Now I see that it was just the simple factual truth. Even 
the Silla tombs are just from plastic, designed by the Samsung Museum 
of Art Corporation. Trust me, I have a degree in art history. ($100 and 
I tell you where to order one.) 

So, what about the other key elements?
  culture = commercial product (completely globalized, resulting 
products independent from location of producer)
  nationalism (resp. national sentiment) = ?
I see no quick and easy answer to this. But we for sure might want to 
have an eye on how the general context is changing. If the context AND 
purpose (!) of e.g. our communication, consumption, and production is 
changing as dramatically as it is, then "nationalism," even if we 
define the term as we always defined it, cannot be the same anymore as 
it was e.g. in the 1980s. It could well have become something 
essentially different--it would not be the first time in history that 
the general awareness of such major paradigm shifts lacks decades 
behind. That is, we still have not realized, have no appropriate 
terminology yet for what is already taking place. People still think 
they are actually looking at Silla tombs or walk through Venice 
palaces, or that some rocky island might have something to do with 
actual history or national interests, while none of those places might 
even exist anymore other than as silicon replacements or digitized 
images that Google and I are happy to sell you. 


On Fri, 12 Oct 2012 06:51:41 -0700 (PDT), J.Scott Burgeson wrote:
> --- On Fri, 10/12/12, Frank Hoffmann <hoffmann at koreaweb.ws> wrote:
> I then start  to wonder if maybe what (especially in South Korea) is 
> seen as a national support system for its corporations (e.g. culture 
> as support system *for* corporations, see again the "nation branding" 
> campaign) is actually not what it is, if maybe it is in fact the 
> nation-states and their political institutions in Asia that are the 
> actual movers and shakers. I can't imagine that Samsung or Kia would 
> get any profit from the kind of campaigns you now see in Korea. Maybe 
> the economists on the list have some input?
> Naive musings of a non-economist: This sounds rather like 
> mercantilism or neomercantilism to me, which is certainly strong to 
> varying degrees in Japan, South Korea and China. And if protectionism 
> is a key feature of mercantilism, "protection" of territorial 
> boundaries would mesh quite easily with such economic nationalism, 
> would it not? Indeed, the struggle for control of resources and 
> shipping routes seems to be the driving force for most of the island 
> disputes in this part of the world. And at a somewhat deeper level, 
> for instance, one wonders if China's current snubbing of the IMF 
> meeting in Tokyo, ostensibly because of the spat over the Diaoyus, 
> might in fact be a way for it to subvert or undermine the influence 
> of the IMF, an institution of "globalization" par excellence, in 
> favor of its own long-game national interests? Which is to say, 
> playing the "nationalist crazy" card in the most rational manner?
> --Scott Bug 

Frank Hoffmann

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