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2005 Gahrfs Papers

2005 Gahrfs Papers

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2005 Gahrfs Papers
2005 Gahrfs Papers

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Published by: The May 18 Memorial Foundation on Nov 07, 2008
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The Cultural Conflicts and IntegrationHong Seokjun (Faculty of History and Culture, Mokpo University)(Translated by Lee Hyeon-ock)I.IntroductionThis is an introductory article to promote an understanding of the general problems of cultural conflicts and integration in a certain socio-cultural context. Thisarticle will first consider general arguments on culture, investigate the relation betweenarguments on culture and cultural conflicts, and discuss the relation between culturalconflicts and cultural integration. In its conclusion this article will instead propose aquestion: how could cultural integration 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 a unique and original life style that reflects thedynamics and complexity of a community in the region. A specific culture, however, isformed through the specific historical experiences and the unique cultural context of acommunity, whether formed spontaneously or formed by pressure from 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 one focuses on the life style of a people in a specificregion, many ruptures and differences can be seen to exist in their specific culture. Aculture, here, is an entity that has diverse and complex characteristics, shares certaincommon elements with other cultures and changes itself in a flexible manner accordingto the time and context.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 promoted intellectual effortsare made 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 tocome to a perspective with which we can understand the cultural peculiarities andmeanings embedded in the daily life of a cultural community, as well as to be equippedwith the theoretical and practical tools.
II.A Critical Investigation of Cultural Theory and the Issue of the CulturalConflict.Various arguments have been made concerning culture in general. It seemsnow quite difficult or almost impossible to deal with culture itself as a general, fixedentity, as it has been widely recognized that a culture always changes in relation withcomplicated events and situations. Furthermore, there are certain qualitative differences between normative, ethical messages and a strategic utterance at the practical level. If one views culture as a fixed entity, or simplifies the cultural dynamics as “culture movesfrom the center to the marginal,” through a dichotomy that puts one’s own culture at thecenter and the other’s in the marginal, the clashes and tensions between cultures and thedynamic interactions between cultures, such as cultural conflicts, can be easilyoverlooked.Examples can be seen in social situations of the moment in China, Japan, andKorea. In the case of China, the Sinocentrism and the Han-Barbarians structure has been set forth for the cultural integration in the process of its modernization, mainlythrough economic development. Many Chinese films have been produced anddistributed with the subtle intention of strengthening the pride in the Chinese people of their Chinese identity and culture. “Eat, Drink, Man and Woman 2” is a good exampleof this kind of movie, where can be observed a symbolizing process of the nationalistmessage, advocating that Hong Kong and Taiwan should be unified with China, despitetheir geographical and cultural differences, through Chinese food. In this film isimplied the strong feeling of pride of Sinocentrism and that Chinese people, wherever they live around the world, should not forget their cultural identity and that Chinashould be the center of the world.Japan has been showing a consistent, passive attitude in that it has builtmutually cooperative relations with other countries following its strategy and goal of modernization, “out of Asia, into Europe (
).” Japan’s tepidness toward theestablishment of an economic cooperative system among 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 withother Asian countries.Korea is also suspicious of its own nationalist inclination and a tendency thatemphasizes an exclusive competitive spirit for its national development, not a spirit of 
cultural hybridity. Korea, indeed, is well-known as a country that puts its own interest before everything in establishing cooperative relations with other countries. In thiscontext, serious consideration should be paid to a remark that says, “Korea is soconcerned and obsessed with its own problems, it does not show any interest in the problems of the neighboring countries and cannot play a role in solving them” (KimSangwoo, May 9, 2002).We are now required to reflect on our own conduct, whether we have beenrather passive in understanding and respecting others’ cultures, and, at the same time,have put forth an effort to apply directly-imported experiences to solve culturalconflicts. We should also ask ourselves whether we are confronting a cultural realitythat stipulates that everyone is devoted to building and maintaining a strong wall to protect each culture.The existing perceptions and arguments on culture, in most cases, tended to be based on ethnocentric linguistic dogmatism without a deep introspection into theinternal view of the specific historical experience and cultural environment of a specificculture (Kim Gwangeok 1998; Han Kyeonggu 1997). These arguments divided theworld, according to a dichotomy, into the center and the marginal, the dominant and thesubordinate, the high and the low, or the superior and the inferior; categorized allcultural elements through a 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, and thus led to unscientific andillogical arguments on cultural values and worldviews, wanting the concrete contents of a culture (refer to Kim Gwangeok 1998).It is very dangerous to follow the simplified logic that divides the worldaccording to a binary structure. In 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 of the following matters: courtesy to human beings, theimportance of family, respect for honor, the mixture of the normal and abnormal, thedefinition and standard for being human, the world order, the movement of the universe,and the destiny of human beings. What is required now is 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 lackingconcreteness, as the substance of culture is ambiguous. A culture of a specific region is

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