Call to forge a common East Asian culture

The shared characteristics of East Asian countries, including China, South Korea and Japan, provide a basis for establishing a common cultural community, experts say.

These characteristics include Confucianism, Buddhism, written Chinese characters as a communication tool, treating humans as part of nature, the emphasis on the community over the individual and the realization of harmony from contradictions, according to Professor Jin Ryong Yoo, of South Korea's Eulji University.

He was speaking at the First High-Level Academic Forum for Asian Culture and Art Circles, held last week in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

"The world is heading toward a multi-polar system under which regionalism has become an essential element of globalization. It is time to put our efforts to form a cultural community based on a common emotional background before setting up a political and economic community," Yoo says.

East Asian values, he says, have played an important role in the success of some Western cultural products, such as Hollywood's Mulan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and even in Avatar, which has been seen by some to be based on the Taoist ideas of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.

A cultural community of East Asian countries will help them reap the benefits of scale economies in the world cultural industry, he adds.

Calling the culture industry a "sunrise industry", Professor Qi Yongfeng, of the National Research Center of Cultural Industry, Communication University of China, says: "Promoting regional cooperation and communication in Asian cultural industry will not only help optimize and upgrade the economic structure of Asian countries, but also push forward the course of economic integration."

Besides, it will also help remove historical misunderstandings and increase mutual political trust, he says.

According to statistics quoted by Korea Creative Content Agency, in 2009 China accounted for only 4 percent of the world's contents market, but the share of Asian countries, including China, South Korea and Japan, was 22.9 percent. In contrast, Europe's share was 36.6 percent and North America's, 35.7 percent.

"Independently, South Korea, China and Japan may not find it easy to overcome the United States' absolute superiority. But cooperation among East Asian countries can help in the long run," Yoo says.

He adds that China, South Korea and Japan must build a new common cultural consciousness that is different from that of other regions by confirming their emotional identity while comprehending their differences.

This can be done, he says, through common management of and research into the cultural assets of East Asia, cultural exchanges, and cooperation in setting up a legal system for the culture industry.

According to the Annual Report on Development of China's Cultural Industries (2010) by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China produced 456 feature films in 2009, ranking third in the world, after the US and India, with the year's domestic office box income increasing 42.96 percent over the previous year.

Jia Leilei, a research fellow with Chinese National Academy of Arts and one of the sponsors of the forum, says that while the Chinese cultural industry is developing rapidly, it still lags behind developed countries. "We cannot make a film like Avatar overnight. We need more time to acquire the skills for this," he says.

The forum, initiated by the Chinese National Academy of Arts and Korean-China Culture and Arts Forum, attracted more than 50 participants from various Asian countries.