Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Beyond Culture vs. Commerce Decentralizing Cultural Protection to Promote Diversity Through Trade
ExpressO (2010)
  • Sean Pager, Michigan State University College of Law

ABSTRACT: Beyond Culture vs. Commerce: Decentralizing Cultural Protection to Promote Diversity Through Trade Do culture and commerce conflict? The assumption that trade is incompatible with cultural diversity has disrupted economic liberalization, distorted world trade law, and damaged Europe’s film industry. A new wave of cultural protectionism now threatens to engulf e-commerce. Yet, as American appeals for market liberalization continue to fall on deaf ears, the real question is not whether to protect culture, but how. European protectionism has failed. South Korea shows there is a better way. Eschewing Europe’s top-down patronage model, Korean policy-makers have pursued a decentralized approach to develop their audiovisual industries. Deploying indirect subsidies ranging from tax incentives to infrastructural investment along with a reinvigorated screen quota set in motion the remarkable flowering of audiovisual expression known as the “Korean Wave.” Korea captured crucial economies of scale through exports by harnessing global demand for diverse content. South Korea’s experience is bolstered by case studies from film industries in India, Hong Kong, and Nigeria, which provide further evidence that, by tapping into global markets, commercial success can drive cultural vitality. These audiovisual success stories, combined with the promise of digital technologies, argue strongly for a reconceptualization of cultural protection. This Article describes the essential components of a new paradigm: decentralized cultural protection that realizes diversity through trade. To facilitate this policy shift, the Article proposes an innovative “diversity quota” regime that would expand global markets for diverse filmmaking.

Publication Date
March 22, 2010
Citation Information
Sean Pager. "Beyond Culture vs. Commerce Decentralizing Cultural Protection to Promote Diversity Through Trade" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: