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The Cultural Conflicts and Integration

The Cultural Conflicts and Integration

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Published by: The May 18 Memorial Foundation on Nov 07, 2008
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Gwanju Human Rights Folk School 2004
The Cultural Conflicts and Integration
 Presented by Hong Seokjun(Faculty of History and Culture, Mokpo University)
I.IntroductionThis is an introductory article to help the understanding of the general problemsof the cultural conflicts and integration in a certain socio-cultural context. The articlewill first consider the general arguments on culture, and investigate the relation betweenthe arguments on culture and the cultural conflicts, and the relation between the culturalconflicts and the cultural integration. For its conclusion, this article will propose aquestion, instead, how the cultural integration would be made possible.When interpreted in a broad sense, both academic and practical, culture has been traditionally understood as a sort of life style. According to this view, a culture of a specific region can be defined as the unique and original life style that reflects thedynamics and complexity of the community in the region. A specific culture, however,is formed through the specific historical experiences and the unique cultural context of acommunity, whether formed spontaneously or formed by pressure from its outside. Is itthen possible to combine the society and the culture of a region into one concept or category? In order to answer this question, the differences and the similarities of cultures should be considered first.Different cultures around the world have characteristics that are both differentfrom and similar to each other. If to focus on the life style of the people in a specificregion, many ruptures and differences do exist in their specific culture. A culture, here,is an entity that has diverse and complex characteristics, shares certain commonelements with other cultures and changes itself flexibly according to the time andcontext.Under the current rapidly changing political and economic situation, thecultures around the world are expected to accelerate their globalization and localization.Accordingly, there will be formed an environment where are promoted intellectualefforts to explain how the culture of a region is formed, transformed and interpreted based on the actual daily, specific reality. In this context, it can be said that we need toattain a view through which we can understand the cultural peculiarities and meaningsembedded in the daily life of a cultural community, as well as to be equipped with thetheoretical and practical tools.
 
Gwanju Human Rights Folk School 2004
II.A Critical Investigation of the Cultural Theory and the Issue of the CulturalConflict.Various arguments have been made on culture, in general. It seems now quitedifficult or almost impossible to deal with culture itself as a general, fixed entity, as ithas been widely recognized that a culture always changes in relation with complicateevents and situations. Besides, there are certain qualitative differences betweennormative, ethical messages and a strategic utterance in the practical level. If one viewsculture as a fixed entity, or simplifies the cultural dynamics as “culture moves from thecenter to the marginal,” through a dichotomy that puts one’s own culture at the center and the other’s in the marginal, the clashes and tensions between cultures, the dynamicinteractions between cultures such as cultural conflicts can be overlooked.Examples can be taken from the social situations of the moment in China,Japan, and Korea. In the case of China, the Sinocentrism and the Han-Barbariansstructure has been set forth for the cultural integration in the process of itsmodernization through, mainly, economic development. Many of the Chinese filmshave been produced and distributed with the subtle intention to uplift the pride in theChinese people of their Chinese identity and culture. “Eat, Drink, Man and Woman 2”is a good example of this kind of movies, where can be observed a symbolizing processof the nationalist message, which advocates that Hong Kong and Taiwan should beunified with China despite their geographical and cultural differences, through theChinese food. In this film is implied the strong pride of the Sinocentrism that theChinese people, wherever they live around the world, should not forget their culturalidentity and China should be the center of the world.Japan has been showing a consistent, passive attitude in that it has built mutualcooperative relations with other countries following the strategy and goal of itsmodernization, “out of Asia, into Europe (
脫亞入歐
).” Japans tepidness toward theestablishment of the economic cooperative system among the East Asian countries alsodemonstrates that Japan holds a very one-directional and exclusive view on the matter,concerned only with its own interest, but not with equal cooperative relations with other Asian countries.Korea is also suspicious of its nationalist inclination and the tendency thatemphasizes the exclusive competitive spirit for its national development, not thecultural hybridity. Korea, indeed, is well-known as a country that puts its interest before
 
Gwanju Human Rights Folk School 2004
everything in establishing a cooperative relation with other countries. In this context, aserious consideration should be paid to a remark that says, “Korea is so concerned andobsessed with its own problems, it does not show any interest in the problems of theneighboring countries and cannot play its role in solving them” (Kim Sangwoo, May 9,2002).We are now required to reflect on our own conducts, whether we have beenrather passive in understanding and respecting others’ cultures, and, at the same time,have put forth our efforts to apply the directly imported experiences to solve the culturalconflicts. We should also ask ourselves whether we are confronting a cultural realitythat everybody is devoted to building and maintaining a strong wall to protect eachculture.The existing perceptions and argements on culture, in most cases, tended to be based on the ethnocentric linguistic dogmatism without a deep introspection into theinternal view on the specific historical experience and cultural environment of a specificculture (Kim Gwangeok 1998; Han Kyeonggu 1997). These arguments divided theworld according to the dichotomy into the center and the marginal, the dominant and thesubordinate, the high and the low, or the superior and the inferior; categorized all thecultural elements through the binary equivalence; and, consequently, fossilized cultureitself, ignoring the internal diversity of a culture and its flexibility and variableness.Moreover, many arguments were based on rather subjective interpretations andassumptions without enough empirical verification, thus led an unscientific and illogicalarguments on cultural values and world views, wanting the concrete contents of aculture (refer to Kim Gwangeok 1998).It is very dangerous to follow the simplified logic that divides the worldaccording to the binary structure. In the numerous societies around the world, variouscultures are being practiced in either similar or different forms. Some of the similar features that can be found in common in different nations and societies across the worldare the notions and practices on the following matters: the courtesy to human beings, theimportance of family, the respect for honor, the mixture of the normality andabnormality, the definition and standard for being human, the world order, themovement of the universe, and the destiny of human being. What is required now is awork to identify the concrete patterns and meanings of those notions and practices, or how those matters are perceived and practiced in a specific social and cultural context.In one word, the existing theories on culture can be evaluated as lacking theconcreteness, as the substance of culture is ambiguous. A culture of a specific region isa cultural entity that holds the concrete notions on and practices of life, rather than a

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