The Cultural Infrastructure Epidemic


“Video games are one step before a whole other virtual universe.” Vin Diesel, actor

“Welcome to the future era” is the future era-entering quote of Civilization V, a popular turn-based 4X computer strategy and simulation game developed by Firaxis and Sid Meier, its creator.

The latest game in a wide selection of Civilization series, culture was highlighted as the primary game engine to achieve upgrade and victory conditions in research, economic development, government, technology, expansion and diplomacy.

The game situates culture as foundational to social progress. It is culture, the game suggest, that make social policies work (whatever that is – authoritarianism, democracy, socialism, commercialism, tradition, patronage, etc.).

Cultures and its diverse expressions like arts, food, music, theatre, language and writing systems, mathematics and mythology, etc. could, in multicultural ways, transform a country’s governance and economic agenda.

Culture as the Next Wave of the Future

Today, culture is an emerging ethic and approach to governance and economic growth. It is, to paraphrase Jim Dator and Yongseok So, the next wave of the future. Incidentally, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and of course South Korea are leading Asia, if not the world, in the culture-governance-infrastructure category.

At the systems and worldview levels, we have seen how Singaporeans transformed systems thinking and democracy outlook by introducing governance concepts embedded with Confucian and Malay ways of knowing. Singapore is a good model to the system that I call “hybrid (high tech and global) and high breed (culture-local-values oriented) socio-political and economic systems.”

Taiwan, with its transmodern-transcultural approach to development, also devised a five branch co-equal government structure to counter the exigencies of a society founded on family driven values. It established the audit and civil service departments as separate and co-equal branches of government to counter the culture of nepotism, gift giving and other traditions and practices ingrained in Chinese cultural societies.

In addition to the classical three branches of government developed by Montesquieu, Sun Yat Sen, the brains behind the Taiwanese version of Republican democracy , would add two more and envisioned the emergence of an eastern version of republican democracy in Asia. Sun Yat Sen and its successors were able to develop a democracy system based on Chinese culture to address the flaws of Western democracy when applied in an Asian setting. He was quoted by a political scientist saying “democracy may find its full evolution (blossoming) in the East.”

And of course, China with Mao Tse Tung and Deng Xiaoping at the helm reinterpreted communism and capitalism in the 21st century. They would change the context and values of these ideologies (from individualism to collectivism) to create a system they called “socialism” or perhaps “capitalism” with Chinese characteristics.

The system of governance they built with cultural narratives in mind have evolved and so far (culture) remains integral to these countries socio, political and economic narrative.

The emerging thread of cultural governance was evident in PR Sarkar’s concept of culture when it said that culture is the backbone of any society. The renowned Indian scholar argued that culture is imperative to long-term social, political and economic progress.


Cultural Infrastructure and the K-Pop Experience

But let me feature one of the latest miracle strokes that are happening in Asia recently.

The growing reliance of Asian countries notably South Korea, China and India (or if you combine the power of the three emerging global super-cultural economies Ko-Chi-ndia) on cultural infrastructure to create wealth to sustain their booming economies must be one on the radar. This article, however, would like to explore the connection of culture, good governance and economic growth in South Korea.

According to Jim Dator, the reliance of cultural images and the power of cultural aesthetics are changing the context of global governance and economic growth. Recently, there are number of reports and literature especially in Asia, (the literature, the narrative is slowly populating the web), indicating how culture and economic growth strongly interact. South Korea has been expanding faster economically when they begun investing more on cultural infrastructure.

Just this month, the South Korean government reported that the economy is set to rebound in the last quarter of the year. The positive projection was attributed to the government and business sectors cultural infrastructure investments. The government noted a significant link between the construction industry market and cultural infrastructure investment. The government remains optimistic that cultural infrastructure will spur growth in the commercial infrastructure market. Their cultural infrastructure investments has also been spurring growths in information technology, food, robotics, entertainment, and other export-oriented industries.

World Awash with K-Pop

The world is awash with K-pop culture. Yes. The Gangnam style dance craze that gained 1 billion Youtube views and more than a billion hits on Google is just the tip of the iceberg. At the myth level, the K pop epidemic is transforming Korea as the twenty first century epicenter of global pop culture.

This successes, however, were gains when in 2004 then South Korean President Roh urged the Federation of Korean Industries and Commerce to engage more in culture-related enterprises.They forecasted in that year the of information technology industry and the emergence of cultural infrastructure as a factor to revitalize the industry. The forecast was right and President Roh and his administration would drive Korea as the world’s economically strong nation powered (or empowered) by culture. Roh’s administration saw the enormous future potential of cultural infrastructure to social progress and economic growth in 2004, yes 2004.

At present, Korea continues to invest more to ensure the much-needed cultural infrastructure to sustain South Korea’s continued economic and hyper creativity growth. The Korean Ministry of Tourism and Culture plans to put up more Korean Cultural Centers and King Sejong Institutes around the world. China is also heavily investing to promote the Mandarin language and Chinese culture. It established more than 300 Confucius Institutes in over 90 locations worldwide.

In 1947 a great Korean leader named Baekbeom Kim Gu dreamed of a strong Korea empowered by culture. He wished, in his book “My Desire”, for culture and cultural narratives to become drivers of future economies and societies. He writes “I do not wish my country to be a military or a political power, but rather wish it were a cultural power … I wish our country not to be one that imitates others, but rather the source, goal and model of new and advanced culture” Today, the wish of Beakbeom Kim Gu has been fulfilled by a generation empowered and transformed by culture.

Going back to the the latest game expansion pack Civ 5, the game had me wanting to study the future more. It expanded my knowledge base and made me appreciate the complexity, the dynamics, the application and impact of culture on governance, creativity, alternative futures.


Jim Dator and Yongseok So (2004). Korea as the Wave of the Future. The Emerging Dream Society of Icons and Aesthetic Experience. Journal of Futures Studies. August 2004, 9 (1): 31 – 44

Sohail Inayatullah (1988). The Futures of Culture: Present Images, Past Vision and Future Hopes. Presented at the World Futures Studies Federation Conference, Beijing, China. September.

Government Investment in Cultural Infrastructure expected to spur growth in the South Korean Commercial Construction Market. Retrieved October 31, 2012 at

Riding the Korean Wave. Retrieved October 31, 2012 at

Civilization 5 simulation game retrieved October 31 from www.

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