Circles and Squares

Insights into Korea's Sudden Rise

“University of Illinois as a World University” (Proposal by Emanuel Pastreich, June, 2000)

15 June, 2000  

“The University of Illinois as a World University” 


The Marriage of High Technology and Liberal Arts in the Field of East Asian Studies


The first steps towards a program for joint instruction between the University of Illinois, the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Peking University using advanced computer-guided video-conferencing technology and internet communications.


Short Term Goal:

Over the next two years a set of critical courses in the humanities at the University of Illinois, University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Peking University will be open to students and faculty of all four participating schools using advanced computer technology provided by the Office of Instructional Resources. Taking advantage of its world-class program in computer engineering and computer science as well as advanced internet capability, the University of Illinois will be the first institution in the world to offer a program whereby courses taught in both English and the languages of Chinese, Japanese and Korean at four separate institutions in different countries are available to our students.

Although the use of such international links will eventually transform the entire university, it will be primarily in the humanities, and specifically in East Asian studies that we will begin this program. After a short pilot program limited to several focused seminars conducted entirely in English, a full program offering a wide variety of courses first to graduate students in East Asian Studies will be set up. Many courses will be offered that would otherwise be unavailable in the United States anywhere.

By dint of the overwhelming advantages that the University of Illinois holds in the computer sciences the humanities program at University of Illinois will be transformed. We will have a program in East Asian studies that will be the envy of schools in the United States and throughout the world. We will be able to promise within Liberal Arts and Sciences a group of scholars second to none because of the participation of those at universities in East Asia and elsewhere and would turn our program in East Asian studies, and other departments soon thereafter, into programs that could compete with any academic program in the country.

Whereas a private university such as Harvard can hire one or two outstanding teachers in any one field of East Asian studies, we would be able to offer access to courses at three major East Asian institutions thereby making ourselves an international center. Eventually our advantages in computer science will make the University of Illinois a vital center for studies in the humanities throughout the world.

Moreover, University of Illinois would not only offer courses in English in conjunction with  University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, Tsinghua University and Peking University, it would take on the role also of a transfer point through which courses shared via video-conferencing between those three universities were routed even in such cases as courses for which there was not great demand at University of Illinois. University of Illinois could promise to act as the hub for video-conferencing and internet instruction and eventually define the world standards for international education.

Long-term goal

The United States has closer economic and political ties with East Asia every day. Already the United States has considerably greater economic ties with East Asia than with Europe. After Mexico and Canada, which are essentially part of the domestic economy, the major trade partners are Japan, China, Germany, United Kingdom and Korea. At the current rate of change, China, Japan and Korea may well be come the top three in the next five years. Moreover, from electronics, to software and daily use items, East Asia has an immense impact on current manufacturing and technology. Our applied sciences are increasingly working in cooperation with East Asian academic institutions and private corporations. We have a large number of graduate students and faculty from East Asia. And yet East Asian Studies has not received the attention it deserves on our campus. A strong East Asian studies program with a reputation as strong as our E.C.E. & Computer Science departments is essential to the well-being of University of Illinois.

This project in international internet instruction will not only make University of Illinois the primary center for East Asian studies, it will make it a presence in East Asia as well.  Subsequently the reputation of University of Illinois within the humanities will increase. An outstanding program in East Asian studies will make all the difference as East Asian culture becomes more mainstream in the United States and the actual command of Chinese, Japanese and Korean more important in high technology fields. Already multi-Asian word processing is becoming an immense field in the computer industry.

No one has any doubt that we will need specialists in the future not only in the humanities, but also in technical fields, who have an outstanding ability in those languages. Access to instruction in the original language at universities in East Asia would make all the difference.

There is an absolute limit to what the University of Illinois can be as an international university unless its program in the humanities has at least as great a reputation as that in the sciences. This program will allow us to use our advantages in computer technology to catapult our program in the humanities to the top. Cooperation will extend into the applied sciences as well allowing for joint laboratories and joint programs in science and technology.

The program in connection with University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Peking University would establish University of Illinois as a major center in East Asian studies. Eventually courses would be shared with universities in countries all over the world so that the student at University of Illinois would be able to access classes that would otherwise be unavailable. Likewise, our faculty could offer courses for a collection of students at different institutions that they would otherwise not be able to find a sufficient audience for.

Benefits to be obtained from this program of study

So much of our computer related research, interaction with high-tech corporations, and future markets for our graduates involve East Asia. Whereas a university like Harvard or Princeton has great advantages in terms of the financial backing for studies in the humanities, they are in fact limited in faculty to a few well-known professors. By setting up a lattice of courses of instruction available to students at University of Illinois, University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Peking University  that is administered by the University of Illinois, we will be able to offer a breadth of courses that cannot be matched by any other university. We will not only level the playing field, we will make our technological advantage the key to our program in the humanities.

There remains considerable sensitivity between China, Japan and Korea at an institutional level even as the three countries are drawn together by economic, technical and cultural ties with the United States and each other. For this reason, the University of Illinois is in the unique position of being able to act as a conduit for intellectual exchange between the three Asian countries which will dominate the economy and culture of the 21st century.

It would be far easier for a student at University of Tokyo to take courses at Peking University through our program than to actually work through the complex bureaucracy surrounding such study in Japan or China.

The University of Illinois program in international video-conferencing and internet instruction could become a major institution within East Asia, and as East Asia increases in importance, so will University of Illinois.

Our program will be extended out into the sciences as well, thereby allowing cooperation on scientific projects between the four institutions at a level of complexity and immediacy previously unimaginable. If the University of Illinois acts quickly it can seize the lead in what will be an inevitable revolution in higher education.

Although initial instruction will focus on East Asia, once the system is in place, courses at universities in France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, or elsewhere will also be handled. Specialized courses that could not be offered before due to low appeal to the overall student body will then be available. Problems concerning visas for students and visiting faculty will cease to be a concern.

The disadvantages of University of Illinois location would be completely offset by this program, and the flexibility of the university as a whole in engaging in this project would soon make it a rival with major Ivy League universities. We might not have the endowments that those universities have, but we would be able to match their offerings, their foreign programs, and their faculty. University of Illinois would become the conduit for this new network of international scholarly exchange–and if we do it quickly, we have the chance to jump to the forefront of the academic world.

Steps involved:

A) A series of focused academic conferences on set topics involving University of Tokyo, SeoulNationalUniversity, TsinghuaUniversity and PekingUniversity. A conference on a subject such as “Modern Chinese history” will include scholars from each participating university and allow us to employ the new medium. Such academic events will make the power of this new approach quite clear to all involved.

B) Discussions with University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Peking University concerning the administration of a trial run of the video-conferencing instruction program. Must make sure that video conferencing facilities were available at the appropriate time at all four campuses, and that their software was mutually compatible. First trial will be entirely courses that are conducted in English, 2000-2001. Either an ISDN or  I.P.  line, or the new Access Grid of Electronic Visualization Lab  will be employed. The times for classes will be China time 8 AM – 11:30 AM; Seoul/Tokyo9 AM – 12:30 PM; Champaign-Urbana  6-9:30 PM

C)  Set up small administration for the trial program.

D)  Arrange for a set of classes at each university to be available via video-conferencing to students at all four of the universities on a regular basis. Set up a unified format for the video-conferencing and internet components of these courses. Set up a system for organizing the courses and allowing courses to be available not only to students from University of Illinois, but also simultaneously to students at the other three campuses. Thus a course on Japanese history at University of Illinois, for example, would be attended by students from Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul.  The first run would be courses carried in English in the humanities in East Asian studies at each institution that would then be available at all four universities for real time participation (available at University of Illinois from 6-9 PM). Other courses would be taped from all four universities and be made available on the web to a limited number of students at all four campuses. On line asynchronous discussions will supplement the occasional video conferences.

At first a pilot program limited to four seminars (one at each campus) conducted entirely in English will be undertaken.

Eventually a specially outfitted room, or series of rooms at each respective campus complete with a life-size transmitter screen, a simultaneous electronic writing board, instantaneous interactive pads for each students, and complete internet e-mail equipment for interaction in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean would be set up at each campus.

D) Set up a program for granting credit for the courses offered by the program between the four universities.

E) Put together database of all faculty at each of the institutions participating that can be readily adjusted at a later date so that scholars covering similar subjects can easily communicate with each other.

F) Run a set of courses for which credit is actually granted between all four universities.

G) Expand that set of courses from one humanities course for each university to include courses in both the humanities and the sciences. Also arrange for video conferencing between the seven universities as part of joint research in the humanities and the sciences.

H) Arrange for the use of such video conferencing to set up joint laboratories in the sciences between Asia, Europe and the University of Illinois. Expand the range of the technology quickly so as to make the University of Illinois a clear world leader in education.

Basic approaches

1)          Lectures from designated classes that are recorded on video and made

available at the other campuses. Students would watch the lectures then compose

e-mail format responses (or postings on a web page) that would be responded to

by teaching assistants at the campus from which the lecture originated. The

video recordings of lectures would be divided into two different categories:

video tapes of lectures that could be kept permanently on file & video tapes of

lectures that could be shown only one time and then have to be destroyed.

2)          E-mail address exchanges between students at each university studying similar subjects. The students would carry out an extended dialog via e-mail, or

postings at a common web page for the course of a semester—perhaps working on

projects together. After a month or so, there would be a video conference

discussion between students on a the topic they had previously investigated.

3)          Extended video conference academic conferencing on set topics for professors and researchers. Scholars working on a similar topic would meet to discuss a topic of common interest via video conference. They would first exchange comments on set topics via postings at a common web page (in whichever language was most appropriate ECJK). As scholars would not have to pay for travel and eventually will be able to carry out such academic conferences from the computers they have at home, the international conference will become far, far easier.

4)          Occasional meetings via video conference for students taking similar courses at all four universities. Faculty members would also be present for these

non-credit intellectual exchanges.

5)          Selected seminars conducted entirely via video conference including students from all four campuses (conducted in language appropriate to the subject). These seminars would be conducted largely via daily posting at common websites with an actual video conference once a week, or perhaps once every two weeks  (alternating with a meeting of students at the local campus). Papers would be  sent via e-mail for grading, but require a special code to identify them as original. The grade received by a student is in all cases at his own institution, so there is no problem with credit for the course attended.

6)          Joint web pages between administrators at each institution that are accessible only by code. These web pages would allow the presidents of each institution, for example, to share valuable information or tips for future cooperation without that information becoming public. It would make it simple for a dean, for example, to figure out who is the person of equivalent rank in the other three institutions.

7)          Joint web pages shared by scholars in similar fields. Thereby professors in Chinese studies, for example could easily go to a web pages on which all scholars working on China at all four institutions are listed. They could then proceed to arrange scholarly exchanges on their own.

8)          50 minute multi-media class modules on a set topic prepared for viewing via internet at each university. The module would consist of A) a spoken lecture by a professor; B) a set of images related to the topic; C) a set of relevant texts illustrating the issues concerned; D) recordings of relevant sounds. So a 50 minute module on Chinese poetry would consist of a selections from a lecture on the topic by a professor, images of Chinese landscape and traditional clothing, selections from Chinese poems in the original language and in translation and a recording of a poet reciting his own composition. After observing the entire module, the student would respond to various topics and engage in an e-mail discussion with students at his campus and the other three campuses. He would also have to respond to the teaching assistant who would grade him on his comments.

9)          Massively parallel research laboratories. Scholars conducting research on a specialized topic, say chip fabrication, would be connected via a dense tissue of video conferencing, sophisticated shared web pages, shared data bases and systematically coordinated planning. Therefore massive parallel research laboratories could be created between the four universities in which faculty and facilities could be massed and complex tasks partitioned and assigned so as to avoid duplication. The result would be a new level of speed and sophistication.

10)        Immigration has become an issue and the governments of Korea, Japan and the United States have made it more difficult for Chinese students to obtain visas recently. Although such policies are often unfair, immigration is a serious issue to take into account. If Chinese students and scholars can participate completely in the universities of Korea, Japan and the United States via internet and video conferencing, however, they can make a full contribution without leaving China. After they have finished their studies, they can work for international companies and make a significant contribution to the world economy while remaining in China and using such internet, shared databases and video conferencing technology.



The asynchronous symposium is an innovative format in Internet communication designed to allow intellectual discourse between individuals with similar fields of expertise who otherwise would never have any contact for reasons of culture. In a nutshell, there are four parallel web pages representing a basic “chat room” on which participants can post their responses to a given topic. In this first experiment, the languages of English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean are suggested, although obviously there is no limit. The responses posted by scholars on each of four parallel web pages are then translated into the other three languages and posted for the other participants to read. The first asynchronous symposium will discuss the broad issue of technology and globalization. Once the web pages have been developed and translators are found, any number of subjects can be brought up.


The Asynchronous Symposium is conducted over four parallel (but linked) web pages. One page is set for English input, one for Chinese, one for Japanese and one for Korean. A set of questions or topics are posted at the top of each web page in the four languages. Scholars (or experts) post their responses to the given subject at the web page set for their own language. Thus a Chinese scholar merely composes in Chinese. Graduate students (or professional translators) are paid to translate the postings into the other three languages from each web page every twelve hours. Therefore a scholar reading the postings in any one of the four languages can have a discussion with others with similar interests but unable to express themselves in a foreign language. A special code is required to log on to a page.

This format allows meaningful dialogs between individuals who would otherwise never communicate. Even if they met, they would most likely feel ill-at-ease or inarticulate. The cost of paying graduate students to do the translation is minimal compared with the costs of putting together an international conference—although the relationships established by these asynchronous exchanges may lead to further projects. Moreover, the results of such an asynchronous symposium would most likely be worthy of publication in a magazine or newspaper.

Major intellectuals or government officials in China, Japan or Korea may well get in the habit of logging on to this informal discussion when they grow tired of their work late at night. We may well get insights otherwise unavailable.


Underlying  Principles for the University


The next generation of the internet will bring far more reliable and user-friendly means of communicating information. As a result a thick binding tissue will develop between institutions involved in the systematic application of internet connections. The implication is that the effectiveness of one’s hierarchy of connections, and its user-friendliness will determine the status of the university more than actual physical installations on campus. The internet and video conference ties to other universities of scale abroad will make the difference to the university. This truth has not been realized, but it will soon be apparent.


When we visualize the university, we should imagine a mirror that has been broken into hundreds of shards and lies spread across the floor. Each splinter shines brightly and the total is most impressive. The important point, I feel, is what can be achieved if each of the fragments of glass is tilted ever so slightly. Each fragment does not have to actually be moved, or transplanted, just propped up in one direction or another. Once this process is achieved, the light reflected from each piece will converge on a single point, a single goal. Then the light reflected by those many fragments will be powerful enough to vaporize the dense stone. Imagine if we could add the light reflected by fragments from other institutions to that beam.


There are figures who made great fortunes in real estate by pursuing the following strategy. They look at maps of the city over a period of twenty or thirty years, figure out where the business and residential centers are, then interpolate as to how the city will expand and transform over the next five to ten years. Once they have mapped out their speculations as to what will happen to the population in the near  future, they buy farmland in those areas that look like they are marked for development. Once the farmland is bought, it can be rented back to farmers, and the proper moment must be awaited. We should plan for the university in precisely this manner.


Video conferencing will make teaching over the net far more legitimate and convincing in the next few years. Internet technology is rapidly moving towards a “just like actually being there” state. It is not there yet, but this is the time to approach the technology systematically. Video conferencing will also become a central part of the internet as well during that period. This moment is the best moment to enter into the field in a systematic manner.


Time zones can be a problem, but asynchronous learning can be as effective, or more effective, than live teaching. Asynchronous discussions punctuated with live video conferencing can achieve all required goals. Written responses can be far better than classroom comments. It is just a matter of refining the technique.


Internet connections can be viewed as connective fiber tying together institutions. Pairing up specialists at different universities as that connective fiber grows thicker can lead to a unique international academic community.

Read more of this post

“Climate change and the future of East Asia” John Feffer and Emanuel Pastreich (October 30, 2014)

AI logo small

“Climate change and the future of East Asia:

First steps towards a new civilization”

John Feffer


Foreign Policy in Focus (Asia Institute senior associate)


Emanuel Pastreich

Associate Professor

Kyung Hee University (Director, the Asia Institute)

lecture on literature

Date: Thursday October 30, 2014

Time 6:30-8:00 PM

Climate change, taking the form of spreading deserts, yellow dust, rising oceans and changing local biospheres, poses a tremendous challenge to Northeast Asia. Two figures central in the debate about the long-term response to this challenge will lead this open discussion in English for members of the Seoul community. The talk will address the fundamental shifts in our habits and culture demanded by this crisis.

The specific issues of climate change and human civilization in East Asia will be at the center of this discussion.


World Culture Open Korea


서울특별시 중구 순화동 2-6 N빌딩 1층 오렌지컨테이너


“Future of the College Entrance Examination” (University Life)

The University Life

Kyung Hee University

“The Future of the College Entrance Examination in Korea”


Emanuel Pastreich

October 1, 2014


The question of how entrance exams in Korea can be reformed is both a simple one and a complex one. As these exams have caused such suffering for youth, and such distortions in the priorities that inform education, it would seem a simple task to just revise the exams so that they reflect the needs of students. However, as long as Korea is dominated by a social values system that judges people on the basis of the schools they attend, and that narrowly defines the social status of people, whatever reforms we make in the tests themselves will be distorted by need to insure a harsh competition that generated by the structure of society itself. Reform will prove illusionary. Read more of this post

Posters around Seoul

What is changing in Seoul? I can tell you. It is above all the visual complexity and sophistication of the posters and signs. I have watched them emerge from a rather square and flat banality to become ambiguous and compelling glyphs and ciphers. One of the great pleasures for me is seeing all this intriguing commercial art.

Advertisement for a show in Seoul. What exactly it is, I am not sure.

Advertisement for a show in Seoul. What exactly it is, I am not sure.

Another fascinating advertisement for some musical or show.

Another fascinating advertisement for some musical or show.

Ad for a fitness club with a rather pensive pig as mascot.

Ad for a fitness club with a rather pensive pig as mascot.

The city of Seoul has been pursuing a policy of encouraging manufacturing within the city itself, specifically of staples and clothing. The shoe manufacture Dadoende opened a store recently in our neighborhood that offers some very attractive shoes manufactured entirely in the city.  The efforts to encourage manufacturing at a micro level has had a significant impact on the city. In fact, the presence of small scale factories in Seoul distinguishes the city from many of peers and contributes to its vitality.


Dadoende Shoe Store in Sindang, Seoul.

Dadoende Shoe Store in Sindang, Seoul.

Variety of excellent shoes made in Seoul.

Variety of excellent shoes made in Seoul.

The Asia Institute T-Shirts

The new Asia Institute T-Shirts will be available from tomorrow (7 PM, Saturday, September 27) TAIK @ WCO. The price is 1,1000 Won which will be discounted to just 10,000 Won for all who come tomorrow. Please be there.


2014-09-26 19.42.122014-09-26 19.42.43

Foreign Policy in Focus

“East Asia: A Farewell to Arms”

With climate change upon us, it’s time to bury the hatchet in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

Emanuel Pastreich & John Feffer

September 25, 2014



East Asia faces an enormous number of challenges. The countries of the region clash over territory, argue over history, compete for diminishing natural resources, and dispute the balance of power along the Pacific Rim.

In response to all these challenges, the United States has offered a one-size-fits-all approach: free trade and more arms. Ratification of the free trade agreement the United States is pushing in the region, known as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), remains a long shot. In the meantime, Washington has fallen back on arms peddling and burden sharing.

The Pacific Pivot of the Obama administration is only the latest version of a militarized U.S. response to regional conflicts. For many years, Washington has been pushing its allies in the region to buy high-priced U.S. weapons systems and spend a larger percentage of their GDP on defense. Tragically, the final denouement of Washington’s military evangelism could be catastrophic conflicts that end American influence in the region.

East Asia’s thriving economy is the envy of the world. But the recent growth in military spending makes analogies to the Europe of 100 years ago no longer seem so far-fetched. The region is home to top military spenders: China is number two in the world, Japan weighs in at number eight, and South Korea has risen to number ten. Russia, the number three in military expenditures, is a significant player in the region by dint of its far east and its expanding relationships with China and North Korea. And number thirteen, Australia, is increasing its presence in the region.

The United States, which spends more on the military than the next eight top spenders combined, is thoroughly enmeshed in the region. Although the Pacific Pivot involves only a modest increase in the U.S. military footprint – primarily in the form of naval power – it has brought with it a more confrontational approach toward China and a push to significantly increase the military spending of U.S. allies.

Hawks inside the Beltway want the United States to be even more confrontational. For example, CSIS’s Michael Green and Victor Cha have argued that the United States should double the number of nuclear attack submarines that are based at Guam, increase amphibious forces in Hawaii, station littoral combat ships in South Korea, permanently base a bomber squadron on Guam, and increase manned and unmanned surveillance throughout the region. The increase in provocative surveillance flights along China’s borders has already done much to raise tensions.

The region desperately needs a plan for responding to serious security threats such as climate change and the widening disparities in wealth. Instead, U.S. engagement is driven by campaigns to convince South Korea to purchase an expensive missile defense program called THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) when Seoul’s official position is that it does not need the program. Similarly, China’s entirely legitimate concerns about the stationing of such equipment at close proximity have been dismissed without even a minimum effort at dialog.

Even more troubling is the emerging nuclear breakout in East Asia. China, which traditionally maintained a modest arsenal, is engaged in a serious modernization effort aimed at enhancing survivability, increasing striking power, and countering missile-defense programs. North Korea is expanding the capacity of its nuclear weapons, though the size and reach remains unknown, and that move is increasing pressure on its immediate neighbors to go nuclear. We now hear voices in Seoul and Tokyo urging a repeal of the prohibitions against nuclear weapons in order to counter the programs of their neighbors – with some analysts in the United States urging them to do so. And the Obama administration, despite its advocacy of nuclear abolition and its negotiations of new ceilings with Russia (whose utility have been drawn into question by recent events), has green-lighted a multi-billion dollar modernization of its own arsenal.

Maybe Washington policymakers believe that a ring of allies will pin down a rising China. But future conflicts are unlikely to follow this game plan. For example, South Korea and Japan have their own disputes over territory and history. Increases in Japanese military spending, even if ostensibly aimed at North Korea, will inevitably be perceived by both South Korea and China as a direct threat. Similarly, beefing up the Vietnamese military will likewise trigger an arms race in Southeast Asia unrelated to China.

The European Example

In the 1970s, arms control negotiations were essential to transforming Europe from the scene of multiple tragic arms races and devastating wars into a unified, peaceful region. Military leaders in both the United States and the Soviet Union realized the dangers of the arms race and entered into serious negotiations that produced concrete nuclear arms control and conventional arms control agreements during the détente period.

During the early 1970s, the two sides of the Cold War divide made a commitment to addressing their various disagreements in three ways: through bilateral nuclear agreements between Moscow and Washington, through political and economic discussions in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and through the reduction of military forces in Europe in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR) negotiations. The MBFR, after some fits and starts, eventually fed into the talks that in 1989 resulted in concrete reductions in NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. After the Cold War ended, the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty provided a platform for negotiating further reductions of forces between NATO and Russia, although neither side fully embraced the plans.

The arms build-up in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s was no less dangerous than the situation in East Asia today. In spite of the relative success of détente, the Cold War mentality flared up again after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resulting demonization of Moscow by the Reagan administration. Nonetheless, the nuclear and conventional arms control negotiations of the 1970s held up through all the political tests, serving as essential building blocks for a new security architecture that assured a stable and peaceful Europe.

Decades of arms control negotiations created an environment in which politicians, policymakers, and military experts dedicated their time to thinking about how to reduce tensions, rather than create tensions so as to expand military budgets. They developed sophisticated systems for confidence-building that in turn institutionalized the agreements beyond mere reductions in the level of armaments. The result was a proliferation of Track 2 and Track 3 discussions that created a wider circle of stakeholders committed to tension reduction, which ensured that arms control and disarmament agreements continued regardless of changes in political leadership.

Asia doesn’t have any comparable history of arms control and disarmament. Japan participated in the Washington Naval Conference, the first arms control meeting in history and the source of the 1922 agreement limiting battleship construction. But it was also Japan that effectively ended the agreement when it pulled out in 1936.

In the post-war era, the only arms control to speak of has been Japan’s adoption of a peace constitution that renounces the sovereign right of military action and calls for an international regime of peace and justice. Despite the promise of that peace constitution, other nations did not adopt such policies–most notably the United States, which imposed the constitution on Japan in the first place. The United States also removed tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 as part of the scaling down of the military after the Cold War, but that symbolic act was not part of an overarching policy concerning armaments.

Beyond Rebalancing

The U.S. strategy for East Asia, currently termed “rebalancing,” demands a complete reformulation.

First and foremost, the basis of foreign policy should be mutual security, not the sales of pricy weapons systems. Over the next five years the United States and its alliance partners–Japan, South Korea, and Australia–together with the major military powers of the region, China and Russia, and the ASEAN member states, should meet to draft a comprehensive plan for the limitation of nuclear and conventional weapons.

That commitment to an arms limitation agreement must go hand and hand with a security policy that recognizes climate change as the primary security threat for the region and demands systemic reforms of all governments.

There is already significant support for such an approach, as evidenced by the declaration of Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III (the leader of the U.S. Pacific Command) that climate change is the most significant security challenge. As Andrew DeWit has noted, the U.S. Pacific Command has committed itself to a concrete engagement with climate issues that opens up new vistas for future collaboration across Asia. Climate change must serve as the transformative issue in security that drives forward an arms control grand deal as part of a fundamental redefinition of the role of the military in society.

Engagement with China is a necessary condition for success. China does not categorically view the United States as an unwelcome presence in the region. Although there are hardliners in Beijing, as there are in Washington, China has consistently expressed a willingness to work with the United States on security issues, including military-to-military cooperation. China has participated in military exercises, such as RIMPAC 2014, organized by the United States.

However, the confrontational displays of military hardware in China’s coastal waters have raised concerns in Beijing that the United States is not so much a regional arbiter as a hegemon trying to subdue a potential threat. The future of the world depends as much on the United States moving away from a Cold War paradigm for diplomacy and security as it does on China accepting the norms of the international community. The decision by the United States to engage with China in a long-term arms control agreement could transform the relationship of the two countries.

The Way Forward

The United States is the world’s biggest spender on military hardware as well as the world’s biggest salesman. Therefore, the first step toward a comprehensive East Asian arms control agreement should begin in Washington. Rather than ratcheting up of the arms race in response to disputes, Washington should show leadership by embracing a commitment to arms reduction and confidence-building measures.

Any arms control agreement should be multilateral, as opposed to bilateral. It is critical to recognize that the current arms buildup in the region involves every single country, and that the underlying causes of tension are complex and do not following alliance lines. The extreme focus on North Korea’s nuclear program has blinded us to larger regional security challenges.

Such an agreement will require some form of institution, even if it is only a regular conference, as the CSCE initially was. Track One and Track Two institutions, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, could be the locus for initial conversations. A mature comprehensive arms control framework will eventually require a new inter-governmental initiative.

The Six Party Talks could serve as an initial platform to enter into serious discussions about arms control. Rather than repeat the litany of demands for North Korea to unconditionally end its nuclear program, the members–the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, and North Korea–could start negotiations about how to eliminate nuclear weapons and vastly reduce conventional weapons in the region. Such negotiations should not be limited to or dependent on Pyongyang’s actions but should rather serve as the basis of a larger security architecture that will be implemented regardless of North Korea’s actions. However, the negotiations should, in and of themselves, provide incentives for North Korea to participate as part of a larger agreement to reduce Chinese, Japanese, and Korean arms, as well as scale down the U.S. military presence.

One obvious incentive for North Korea to participate would be for the United States to offer to negotiate a peace agreement to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Such a peace treaty, for which Pyongyang has been lobbying, could include a provision on creating a regional mechanism to ensure compliance. This mechanism could then become the core of a new regional security structure.

An initial agreement among those players would gain momentum from a declaration of U.S. support for the Limited Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in Northeast Asia proposed by John Endicott in 1995. This proposal has been crafted with the input of military experts from all the members of the Six Party Talks (except North Korea) and can serve as a first step toward to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons in the region. The proposed NWFZ (Nuclear Weapon Free-Zone) is effective in that it builds on the precedents of eight established NWFZs, such as the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and the Southeast Asia NWFZ (1995).

The negotiations on nuclear weapons should be paralleled by series of talks concerning the reduction of armaments in the region based on the precedents of the MBFR talks. Those discussions could develop into an on-going mechanism that generates arms reduction proposals and a roadmap for implementation following a predictable sequence. Specific agreements could be negotiated for naval vessels, tanks and artillery, aircraft and bombers, and missiles and other delivery systems. The agreements should also include active monitoring arrangements to ensure compliance and provide for strict rules concerning military drills and surveillance. A key element of these talks would be the scaling back of major military exercises in the region, with an eye toward an eventual moratorium, and a cessation of provocative surveillance programs in the region.

Moreover, because the rapid rate of technological change is making conventional arms increasingly unconventional, agreements on conventional weapons must evolve to keep up. Emerging technologies such as drones, robots, 3D printing, and cyber warfare should also be addressed directly by the protocols of these arms treaties. The disruptive nature of technological change itself should be explicitly addressed within any arms control treaty to assure its continued relevance.

Theater missile defense should be addressed as a part of a comprehensive arms treaty. Despite the technological questions surrounding the effectiveness of such a missile defense system, the proposal by the United States to extend a system to Korea and Japan has already resulted in reciprocal advances in China’s ballistic missile program that are inherently destabilizing. Moreover, China doesn’t accept the American position that missile defense is a defensive mechanism. As a result, although Americans might argue that missile defense would be the last element to be removed in an arms control agreement, China would argue that it should be the first to go. This issue can only be addressed by serious negotiations.

Finally, it is critical that talks on climate change mitigation and adaptation parallel the talks on nuclear weapons and conventional weapons. Reducing conventional and nuclear armaments will necessitate a transformation of the military’s focus and function. The huge bureaucracies that employ millions of people in the respective militaries must be given a stake in the battle against climate change.

Over the last year, the world has witnessed an uptick in conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, and Gaza that is deeply troubling. In each of these cases, the situation has escalated because of the choice of a military response by all sides. The crises in East Asia, meanwhile, have become muted over the last couple months. This is an ideal moment for Asia to offer a different approach to settling the myriad conflicts that have bedeviled the region for years. If Asia bids farewell to arms as a means of solving conflicts, it can set a powerful example for the rest of the world.


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“Looking ahead 100 years for Seoul” (JoongAng Daily, September 23, 2014)

JoongAng Daily

“Looking ahead 100 years for Seoul”

September 23, 2014

Emanuel Pastreich




When I came to Korea in 2007, I was deeply impressed by the capability of the Korean local government for institutional innovation. For example, while working as an adviser to the governor of South Chungcheong, I learned about the preparations for the move of the capital from Daejeon to Hongseong.

It is a remarkable policy in Korea that declares that once a city has reached a population of one million, it should be designated a “metropolitan city” and have a status equivalent to a province. Daejeon had reached that status, and so the government decided that it would no longer serve as the capital of South Chungcheong – so the capital had to be moved.

This policy is very scientific and practical, but such innovation is impossible in the United States. Major cities like New York or Los Angeles do not have the representation of a state – although they are far larger than many existing states. Moreover, it has been impossible to establish any new states for more than 50 years. Even the obvious cases for federal statehood, such as Puerto Rico, have dragged on so long that some are thinking about independence out of frustration.

But although I was deeply impressed by how quickly Koreans can effectuate change in government, I have also seen weaknesses in local governance that undercut the appeal of the Korean model. We see increasing shortsightedness in urban planning and a lack of credible institutional history. Government officials often know nothing of the precedents for good governance in their own city and do not have the time to come up with innovative new policies because they are rushing around everyday filling out forms.

I was impressed by the broadly educated and thoughtful government officials that I worked with in South Chungcheong, Daejeon and Seoul. However, despite the expertise of Korean public officials, they are increasingly rotated from department to department in government in terms shorter than one year. Sadly, despite their intellectual ability and commitment, they are unable to acquire any expertise in one field. Needless to say, they do not have time to sit down and read books on topics relevant to their work. Read more of this post

“100년을 내다보고 자치제 계획하라” (중앙일보 2014년 9월 20일)


“100년을 내다보고 자치제 계획하라”

2014년 9월 20일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬

2007년 한국에 발을 디뎠을 때 지방정부의 제도개혁 능력에 깊은 감명을 받았다. 충남 도지사 보좌관으로 일하는 동안 도청 소재지를 대전에서 홍성으로 이전하는 데 따른 갖가지 준비사항들에 참여하게 됐다. 한국에선 도시 인구가 100만 명에 이르면 시가 광역시로 바뀌기 때문에 도청 소재지를 홍성으로 옮기면서다.

이런 정책은 매우 과학적이고 실용적이지만 이 같은 혁신은 미국에선 거의 불가능하다. 뉴욕이나 LA 같은 대도시의 인구는 다른 주들보다 훨씬 더 많지만 주정부에 걸맞은 지위를 확보하지 못했다. 게다가 그 필요성에도 불구하고 지난 반세기 동안 새로운 주를 만들어내기도 쉽지 않았다. 푸에르토리코 같은 자치령을 주로 승격시키는 문제도 워낙 오래 끌어 이젠 아예 독립시키자는 논의가 대두될 정도다.

그러나 한국인들이 도청 소재지 이전에서 보인 놀랍고 신속한 혁신에도 불구하고 지방정부의 행태에서 드러나는 약점도 무시하기 어렵다. 도시 설계 시 나타나는 근시안적 태도와 확고한 제도적 틀의 결여를 두고 하는 말이다. 정부 관리들은 자신이 사는 도시의 과거 훌륭한 운영 선례를 모를 뿐만 아니라 제아무리 혁신적인 정책도 사전에 충분히 생각할 시간이 부족한 듯하다. 그저 온갖 양식의 서류를 채우기에 급급하다고 해야 할까. Read more of this post

Robert Kennedy’s “Day of Affirmation” Speech


I am not sure why, but I have always been drawn to Robert Kennedy’s “Day of Affirmation” Speech.

Even as I have learned that Robert Kennedy was a bit more complex than he appears in his speeches and in the related mythology,yet  his words still has that potential to move us, to appeal to our better angels. Even though we see no black Africans in seated behind him, still the words speak to us. There is something very real hidden away in the contradictions and imperfections of that moment.

The speech was delivered in June 6th, 1966, at University of Cape Town, South Africa. And the one passage that I have often quoted is as follows. It suggests, as I try to remind myself sometimes, that even for those deeply involved in the political, there must be an ethical calling that underlies all the very practical arguments for what needs to be done.

“We must recognize the full human equality of all of our people before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this, not because it is economically advantageous, although it is; not because of the laws of God command it, although they do; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.”

original text


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