"I strongly believe that creative economy is the innovative paradigm by which all nations can grow together through mutual opening and cooperation," President Park Geun-hye said in the keynote address of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) session. Introduced as a major theme of Park’s Administration, the creative economy has become a definite trend. Yet, this term is still unfamiliar to many people.
▲ 1 The creative economy is a new paradigm for next economic growth and development.Provided by ornaross.com
Even though the term creative economy is supported by the government and used on cable channels as a promotion term, many people are confused with it, or are unaware of it. "I have never really heard about creative economy. I wondered whether this is about suggesting somewhat creative solutions to the economy or something different," said Oh Eun Ju (’13, Political Science and Economics). Yet, creative economy is not a completely new concept of which people have never heard. Rather, it is a term that collects the already existing, but scattered concepts into one. Words like innovation, challenge, creativity, idea, and execution can represent the concept of creative economy.
▲ 2 Director of the Division of Creative Korea Supporting, Choi Hee Yoon.Photographed by Kang Hyun Ji
Creation and Cultivation
Then, a question may arise. Why did people start to combine these already existing terms and name it "creative economy"? This term first appeared in John Howkins’s book, The Creative Economy, published in 2001. It has been more than ten years since the first edition, but this term has begun to gain attention after the economic crisis in the late 2000s. Skepticism toward the current economic structure naturally gained power after worldwide recession. Economists have been looking for the next model of capitalism.
In such economic situation, creative economy emerged as one strategy. In his book, Howkins defined the term as an economy that vitalized the industries of manufacture, service, distribution, and entertainment through new ideas or creativity. Therefore, by supporting such creative ideas, small but strong start-ups become the source of economic power.
Korean government is also focusing on the creative economy. At the beginning of Park’s Administration, she recommended creative economy as a core economic model that would invigorate the Korean economy. Specifically, the government planned to achieve three visions through the creative economy. It hopes to create jobs, consolidate its state in the global market, and generate a society which embraces creativity and failures of young CEOs.
Specifically, the government suggests six strategies for the realization of a creative economy. By supporting entrepreneurship and the patent system, it's first plan is to facilitate the foundation of new companies. Also, the creative economy of Park’s Administration is aimed at venture companies. It promised that the government will first purchase the prospective product and promote the cooperation between major firms and ventures. The science technology and information and communications technology (ICT) are areas in which the government is concentrating its energy. Their plan includes supporting the development of new industries, fostering creative people, and building culture in which all nation members participate. To reach these visions, the government opened the Internet portal site called Creative Korea on September 30.
"Creative Korea is the cooperative system that various economic agents gather," said Choi Hee Yoon, the director of the Division of Creative Korea Supporting at Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI). Choi continued, "In this system, a failure does not exist."
Unlike many idea contests of corporations, Creative Korea does not leave considerably impossible ideas out in the cold. Rather, through the mentoring system, it helps idea owners to develop ideas.
"There are still hardships, especially considering the fact that Creative Korea is only at the beginning stage," Choi commented. By working out a way to motivate the active participation of mentors and setting the standard of an idea market, this site appears to be an online ecosystem in which ideas are animated and developed through the communication among idea holders, buyers, and mentors.
In such ecosystem of creative economy, people who have the talent of manufacturing economic capital and products with novel ideas are called "Homo Creators." Homo Creators have one of the most valuable currencies today, which is intellectual property. Yet, they are not hard to find. Homo Creators are all around us.
Case Study 1 – INSIDers
INSIDers, a Ko-Yon Alliance Academic Seminar, was founded two years ago under the clear vision of creating actual start-up businesses while building strong networks between the two competing universities. It has successfully differentiated itself from other various seminars by conducting multiple activities that are more empirical rather than theoretical, such as guest lectures, pub day, and "5 Entrepreneurs." "5 Entrepreneurs," which offers student members of INSIDers actual opportunities to experience and explore the real world of business start-up from organization, management, achievement, and evaluation, surely demonstrates the importance that is put upon the practical aspect of entrepreneurship.
INSIDers has also shown fruitful performance amongst other college-based clubs and seminars as it successfully organized the "Real Business Start-up Competition" in 2012. "It was especially meaningful in that it was the very first conference that was arranged by college students," said Park Tae Jun (’08, Business), the vice president of INSIDers. He also added that, "Another memorable experience was the one when we participated in the Chung Ju Yung Business Start-up Competition as a joint host member. It was one of the most rewarding moments when our team won the second grand prize, as we were initially considered weak and bleak."
When asked about some realistic difficulties that INSIDers is currently facing, Park mentioned both financial and human resource aspects. First and foremost, it is encountering hardships in sourcing finance since it is common for college level seminars to almost entirely depend upon fund-raising and donations from external entities. Secondly, Park also emphasized the scarcity of human resources who could take charge as a developer, specializing in technology and engineering, which has now become a quintessential role in the current smartphone society.
▲ 7 Clean Cubes. Provided by Ecube Labs
Case Study 2 – Ecube Labs
▲ 3 Cyber Expo introduces the successful cases of creative economy.Screenshot of expo.creativekorea.or.kr
4 The team "Hwaboonhana (Gardening Kit)" is awarded second grand prize from theChung Ju Yung Business Start-up Competition. Provided by INSIDers.
5 Park Tae Jun, the vice president of INSIDers. Photographed by Chang Hae Sun
Walking across the campus, KU students may have seen red and white-colored trash cans. Having quite a different design from ordinary bins, these bins also have unique features. When the bins become full, the compaction module is automatically triggered and makes more space to accept four times as much as a normal trash can does by using solar energy. Further, the network system notifies the managers to empty the bin when it is full. This bin, Clean Cube, is one example of creative economy. Introduced as a successful case by Creative Korea, the story of Clean Cube would help KU students who are willing to start up their own companies.
"Clean Cube came from very trivial incidents," said Kwon Sun Beom, the CEO of Ecube Labs. One night, while he walked down Sinchon Street, he found that trash cans were always full. "If it were a trash can in one’s home, people would compress trash by foot but this was not for the bins in the street since those bins belong to everyone and, at the same time, belong to no one. The thought came up in my mind. It may be possible to make a trash can that automatically compacts trash," Kwon explained.
Yet, the way to actualize the idea and commercialize the product was not as easy as he had thought. "My co-founder and I overlooked the technical issues," Kwon said. "We thought it would be easy since we were all engineering majors." However, not having any manufacture base, he had no choice but to outsource every process of manufacture. This outsourcing process also made it hard to control production.
Experiencing this kind of hardship, he pointed out the importance of networks that introduce mentors or list of related companies in each field. "I hope that people who have ideas but are not familiar with the specific field do not face the difficulty that we went through," Kwon commented, "If there are such lists or programs, those people would not have to wander all over the city as we did."
Not having enough personnel is another difficulty that start-up companies face. "Especially for our company, our business is related to manufacture so it is hard to find a person who knows such things well," Kwon commented. Also, the young age range of his coworkers and himself made the work harder. "I do not expect a young person who can work cheerfully would choose such a small company like ours."
As Kwon mentioned the difficulties that his company has, he also revealed his hope regarding government support. "In the governmental supply area, there are barriers too high to surmount," Kwon said. He said it is a contradiction that the government strives to save small and medium sized businesses but at the same time seems to just consider the security of their own investments. Still, he warned those who just started their own business, "they should not expect the government's help with the process. After all, it is one’s responsibility not others."
For the university students who are interested in start-ups, Kwon gives valuable advice saying, "It is really important to seriously think about whether they really want to do it or whether they are just carried along by a whim," Kwon advised. "Also, they need to verify the marketability of their idea from objective perspectives."
▲ 6 C.E.O of Ecube Labs. Photographed by Kang Hyun Ji.
Postulation and Plans Ahead
Although the sheer intent of the concept "creative economy" itself and talented people in this business bear a number of positive implications, there obviously exist multiple limitations when the concept encounters reality. As it is true that creative economy is a potent and plausible model for the next level of economic growth and development, there is a need for closely examining those limitations and the following tasks that should be tackled.
First and foremost, one of the most frequently criticized aspects of the creative economy of the current administration is that the concept itself is highly ambiguous and equivocal. While it is true that this ambiguity is partially due to the fact that it has not yet reached a point where there is a settled agreement regarding the concept, it is still unclear what exactly a creative economy is or looks like. As this theoretical and conceptual vagueness could possibly lead to misunderstanding and mistakes in actual implement, it should soon be corrected.
Thus, more discussions and debate should be carried out in the public arena, such as portals on the Internet, in order to arrive at a general concurrence amongst each and every individual agent of the economy.
Secondly, in a socio-cultural respect, a general attitude to generously tolerate failure rather than to solely venerate success has not yet been widely established throughout society. As it is a postulation that has to be preempted before asking economic entities to boldly attempt new yet risky business opportunities, realizing creative ideas in actuality has been tough and rough. This realistic barrier in promoting creative economy can be attributed to the nation’s rather excessive meritocratic standards as it too largely emphasizes performance and achievement.
▲ 8 Elements that compose a brain for creativity. Provided by mimeta.squarespace.com.
As a result, it is a rather urgent calling for society to come to a different cultural understanding in which a "successful failure" from which we can learn and grow is condoned and even celebrated. In this way, individuals will no longer be confined by social pressure and restrictions but now will be able to bravely experiment with their ideas to nourish their creativity. As entrepreneurship itself is deeply related to an attitude and tendency to jump into an adventure which is filled with uncertainty that leads to a road of either success or failure, society must do its best to offer an optimal setting for every would-be entrepreneur to take his chance.
Lastly, there should be a simultaneous effort in terms of institutional devices in order to build a stronger social safety net that offers second chances for those who have already failed once to leap once again. If there is no adequate social policy and institution that guarantee a minimum level of livelihood, such as education or medical services, no individual will be free from an immense pressure that would prevent them from throwing themselves into a high risk high return situation.
In this sense, the social security system should be strengthened in order to attain the initial aim of the entire creative economy, which is to make a better economic environment for economic entities to feed their creativity and contribute to the economy. More specifically, a series of social security programs, such as a customized welfare fare system or the community-based medical service of Israel, should be actively yet selectively adopted in order to contribute to a greater social integration. As Dani Rodrik, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School once said, "Creativity necessitates social equality," achieving an admirable level of social equity is a crucial factor in further promoting creative economy.
▲ 9 The official logo of the London Design Festival. Provided by londondesignfestival.com
In order to effectively and wisely deal with the limitations that are embedded within the concept of creative economy, we should refer to successful models in foreign countries, including the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Germany, Israel, and Hong Kong. However, before referencing these nations as examples and role models, both leaders and administrations of the nations should have a strong will for policy while promising an enthusiastic support in various aspects.
Let us suppose that a policymaker has to look up foreign case studies of the successful realization of creative economy. Then, most certainly, UK will the first one to consider. As UK had first proclaimed promoting creative industry in 2008 under the slogan, "Creative Britain," UK has been successful in transforming itself into a creative and innovative nation with a new economic framework. As evidence, UK’s creative industries, which incorporate the exciting economic scenes of music, television, fashion, and film, have grown twice as fast as the rest of the industries, which now account for more than seven percent of GDP.
In the milestone report, "Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy," which basically ignited the initial onward shift towards a creative economy, the necessity, significance, and procedures of creative economy were distinctly clarified. "If they are to continue to grow in size and significance, we must work hard to maintain the most favorable conditions to stimulate British innovation and dynamism," is what it said. There also was a common understanding on the issue how a single creative idea can ultimately permeate the cultural and creative industries and eventually the economy as a whole. It was in this sense that creative industries should better be relocated to the mainstream and not the margins of economic settings and context.
Then, the next step that will help creativity and ideas flow within the economy would be to establish and promote a kind of "platform." As shown in the basic principle of supply and demand, what is needed should be located where it is needed in order for a market or economy to properly function. Thus, setting up a platform, either physical or virtual, will hugely contribute to the active interaction and transaction of creative ideas. Meanwhile, removing all sorts of systemic barriers that trap and stagnate society is highly necessary in order for a creative economy to effectively circulate.
One of the preconditions that has to be attained beforehand is to open up the possibility of access to creative economy to all classes. This essentially means that social equality should first be realized in order to guarantee a participative creative economy in which people from all backgrounds can join the process of a creative economy.
To mention few of the noticeable points that was argued in the report in order to selectively yet properly choose some desirable aspects to follow as precedents, closely examining the process of blooming creative economy would be suitable.
Above all, educational and vocational systems both within the family and schools play crucial roles in building individual creativity as it initially discovers and develops talents at an early age. For example, UK is currently implementing a program "Find Your Talent" as for a creative education by investing 25 million pounds, which is approximately 51 billion won.
March to the Road Not Taken
New economic paradigms of creative economy have presented both promising comparative advantage and major challenges. On one side, it has become even more crucial to take initiative in the changing economic settings of creative economies as countries are competing ever more vigorously, trying to capture opportunities. However, as it was clarified earlier, there are several tasks and dilemmas that should be first tackled.