Digitalising Korea - transformations and tensions : the case of audiovisual service trade and intellectual property rights
2013-11-21T09:14:56Z (GMT) by
Since the 1990s, South Korea has enthusiastically developed and applied digital technologies to every sector of economic and social life, and constructed the most intensively connected society in the world. This thesis explores the impact of Digital Korea on the country s cultural industries, focussing particularly on the main audio-visual industries of broadcasting and film. While the push to digitalise Korea has been enthusiastically pursued by successive national governments with the aim of ensuring that Korea maintains its status as a key world economy as the leading edge of capitalism shifts from an industrial to an information base, to fully understand the forms it has taken and its impacts national initiatives have to be placed in the wider context of shifts in the global trading system. With the rise of neo-liberalism across the globe and the perceived ineffectiveness of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in extending multi-lateral trade, both emerging and developed economies have increasingly embraced Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). In line with this trend, South Korea has signed FTAs with the USA, the European Union (EU) and The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This thesis explores the interplay between national initiatives and global trade through a detailed case study of the US-led FTA with South Korea (KORUS-FTA) focusing particularly on its implications for the Audiovisual Sector and the accompanying, and pivotal, debates around Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). The KORUS FTA simultaneously opened the Korean market to American audiovisual content and strengthened existing national IPR laws to match the provisions prevailing within the US. Both these moves were opposed within Korea on the grounds that they operated unequally, to the advantage of the US and the detriment of national production that had, in recent years, enjoyed considerable success in export markets, creating what came to be known as the Korean Wave . In addition utilising the extensive corpus of available public documentation the analysis presented here draws on two original research exercises: in depth interviews with experts in international trade and intellectual property rights, conducted in South Korea, the UK and Switzerland (in Geneva, at the WTO Forum 2008), and a web-based survey of a cross section of professionals working in the Korean broadcasting industry. The results obtained show that while Korean economists followed the government in arguing that signing the FTA with the US was essential if Korea was to remain a major player in the global economy, a majority of those working in the audiovisual sector believed that the terms of the agreement, particularly the imposition of US-style IPR laws, disproportionately favoured US interests and would weaken the strong position the sector had achieved in recent years and impede its future growth.