Circles and Squares

Insights into Korea's Sudden Rise

“Law in Contemporary Korea and Prospects for the Future” Lecture at Judicial Research Training Institute

“Law in Contemporary Korea and Prospects for the Future”

A visit to the Judicial Research Training Institute


Emanuel Pastreich


It was a pleasant walk from the subway stop to the Judicial Research Training Institute on a sunny autumn morning and I felt oddly inspired by this rare opportunity I had been granted to speak before a group of senior judges and engage them in a frank and open about the challenges that face Korea, and the world, today.

Although I did not think deeply about the significance of speaking before judges when I started drafting my short remarks, I could not help thinking about my aunt Jeanne Rouff, who passed away last year, as I struggled to articulate my perspective concerning the future of law in Korea.

Jeanne Rouff, my mother’s older sister, spent her entire career in Luxembourg, and was not as talented in English as my mother who went off to study in the United States and never returned. Aunt Jeanne served as the first women lawyer, the first woman judge and the first women member of the supreme court of Luxembourg. Read more of this post

“우리가 모르는 한국” @ 겸재정선미술관


2016 명사‧석학 미술인문학 강좌 

“전통과 현대의 융합 – 안과 밖 문화예술 바라보기”


“우리가 모르는 한국”


이만열 (임마누엘 페스트라이쉬) 

2016년 5월 27일  (금) 

10 AM – 12 PM



“Virtue is not solitary” (Emanuel’s lecture to public officials)

“Virtue is not solitary”

My search for Korea’s future in its ancient tradition of ethical government

Emanuel Pastreich


I was rushing to a meeting around 11 AM on August 4th when a rather odd message from a friend showed up on my smart phone: “The President talked about your book!” I had no idea what the note referred to, or why President Park Geun-hye (I assumed that President Obama was unlikely to have read any of my books in Korean) would have mentioned me. It would be another two hours before I learned that President Park not only referred to my book “Another Korea That Only Koreans Don’t About” at her first cabinet meeting after her summer vacation, but that she made it the centerpiece of an argument for the next phase of her “creative economy” project, stating,

“Depending on what we do now, Korea can or cannot take the leap and become a No. 1 nation, create value in the international community and lead not only in the global economy but also in the arts and society.”

It was an honor for me to be recognized at such a high level in the Korean government and I was deeply impressed that Korea takes someone like me, a scholar of classical literature and Confucian philosophy, that seriously in the field of policy. I have always dreamed of a world in which an intellectual trained in literature could play a major role the policy debate as was the case in traditional Korea and China. Although the United States has many tremendous qualities that we still do not find in Korea, I can say definitively that it would be absolutely impossible for a scholar of classical literature to play such a role in my country.

But the most exciting result of that brief comment by President Park at the cabinet meeting was an invitation from the Minister Lee Geunmyeon, Director of the Agency of Personnel Management, to deliver a series of four lectures for high-ranking civil servants at the Central Officials Training Institute (중앙공무원교육원) starting the following week. I had delivered talks at Central Officials Training Institute, but this time was different. I was directed to talk with them about the value of Korea’s past for helping us chart a path for the future, about the deep truths to be found in the writings of scholars from past dynasties. Read more of this post

“서울 프로세스: 한•중•일 간의 외교적인 협력을 위한 혁신적인 제언” (셰계시민 2015년 11월 1일)


서울 프로세스: 간의 외교적인 협력을 위한 혁신적인 제언

2015 11 1


임마누엘 페스트라이쉬


한·중·일 정상회의가 앞으로 계속 열리고, 거기서 어떤 역할을 펴느냐에 따라 한국은 전 세계에서 선도적인 외교 강국으로 자리 매김할 수 있는 결정적인 기회를 맞을 수도 있다. 이를 위해 한국은 외교 분야에서 혁신적인 주도권을 장악해야 한다.

현재 외교분야는예전에 비해 의식적인 절차와 수사로 말미암아 점차 생명력을 상실하고 있다. 이를 극복하고 적극적인 참여를 선도하기 위해서 ‘서울 프로세스(The Seoul Process)’라고 부를 수 있는 외교의 새로운 접근법을 나는 제안하고자 한다.

서울 프로세스는 미래에 전 세계적 차원의 문제들을 해결하는 데 필요한 모델의 역할을 할 수 있을 것이다. 한·중·일 정상회의에서 강력한 인상을 남길 수 있다면 서울은 외교와 국제관계의 중심으로 입지를 확고히 할 수 있을 것이다. 지난 50여년 동안 제네바가 수행해온 역할에 상응하는 입지를 맡는 것이다.

서울 프로세스에 영감을 주는 모델은 1975년의 헬싱키 협정을 낳은 역사적인 헬싱키 프로세스다. 헬싱키 협정은 공산 국가들과 자본주의 국가들 간의 긴장을 완화시켰으며, 유럽 통합에 기여했다. 만일 서울 프로세스가 성공적으로 정립된다면 국제관계의 난제들을 해결하는 효과적인 수단으로 활용되고, 기능할 것이다. 다양한 분야의 전문가들이 참여해 창의적인 해결을 고무하는 일련의 다차원적인 참여(engagement)를 통해서다. Read more of this post

“美军有一群危险的好战派” (环球日报 2015年 11月 24日)



2015年  11月  24






中国在南海扩建岛礁成为各方关注的焦点。尽管中国的确寻求提升在东南亚地区的影响力,但鉴于中国从未试图干涉航运,美国采取目前这种咄咄逼人的姿态似乎有着并未言明的重要意义。引人关注的是,美国批评中国违反联合国海洋法公约,但美国从未加入该条约。另外,貌似中国扩建人工岛礁问题引起最多的关注,但实际上该地区其他国家也在开展类似建设。 Read more of this post

“韓国産業のマンネリズム危機” (中央日報 2015年 11月 23日)



2015年 11月 23日


パストリッチ エマニュエル





江戸時代の日本の儒教学者荻生徂徠はこのように話した。「碁を打つ方法には2種類がある。ひとつは囲碁の規則を熟知し本能的に失敗なく置くことができる人で、もうひとつは囲碁の規則自体を作る人だ」。 Read more of this post

“韩国产业的矫饰主义危机” (中央日报 2015年 11月 23日)



2015年 11月 23日




但另一方面,笔者也禁不住感到担忧,那就是韩国产业中阻碍新产业开拓的根深蒂固的矫饰主义作风( 矫饰主义:按照固有方式墨守成规的态度,丧失了独创性和新鲜感。)。如果继续置之不理,这种作风很可能会对韩国此前实现的惊人技术发展造成严重阻碍。



比如说,市场上出现了液晶画面可以扭曲或者附加光学传感器、可以响应用户手部和眼部动作的智能手机,汽车领域也通过NVS(噪音、震动、坚固性)分析技术提高了驾驶员乘车体验、提高了引擎效率、减少了汽车底盘碰撞时受到的冲击。 Read more of this post

“The Mannerism Threat ” (Emanuel Pastreich November 23,2015)

JoongAng Daily

“The Mannerism Threat ”

Nov 23,2015


Emanuel Pastreich


I am deeply impressed with the level of the scientific research in Korea and by the quality of the products Korea produces. I have witnessed first-hand just how hard Koreans work to design and fabricate increasingly sophisticated products with global appeal.

At the same time, however, I fear that a mannerism is creeping into the thinking of Koreans when it comes to the development of new industries that will seriously undermine all of their hard work in the most profound manner.

When I use the word mannerism, I am not referring to art of the high renaissance, but rather to an obsession with the virtuoso command of style within a set genre, a tendency to value minute details over the grand vision that results in myopia and a profound cultural stasis. Specifically, mannerism refers here to an obsession with the details of a certain product and a turning away from the social and economic significance of the product itself.

The field of smartphones is typical of the new mannerism in industrial design. These days we find engineers working around the clock to add new functions to smartphones that are of minor functional significance and do not represent the development of a new field or concept.  Read more of this post

TAI Seminar: “Endless war, climate change and the refugee crisis”

TAI Seminar

“Endless war, climate change and the refugee crisis”

November 22, 2015


The Asia Institute held a seminar today (November 22, 2015) on the topic of “Endless war, climate change and the refugee crisis” at WCO. The seminar was attended by about fifteen people and was one of the most thoughtful discussions of contemporary issues I have attended recently. The larger implications of the massive immigration to Europe we considered in depth and the seriousness of this situation for Korea was also explored.


Dr. Lakhvinder Singh, a long term friend of the Asia Institute spoke of just how serious the problem of refugees and the endless wars going on has become and the relative ignorance that we find in Korea of the danger of losing the current economic situation that the country enjoys. He called on Korea to move beyond its indifference and promote a culture of peace aimed at the world saying that “Korea’s time has come.” Dr. Singh proposed that we start a peace movement here, and I asked him to organize regular seminars for us.


Yoojin Jung of the Asia Institute strived to maintain objectivity, asking that we be careful in our use of terms and avoid conflating the refugee crisis with the problem of climate change without more substantial research. Professor Choi Mulim of Seoul National University spoke at length about problems with Korean detachment from international issues and spoke forcefully about the need to move forward.


Dr. Seo Sangdae spoke about the serious risks for Europe of having such large numbers of people form an entirely different culture suddenly in their midst.


We were joined also by Pang Eunmi of the Asia Institute, Leslie Song, a political strategist from the United States, Sonja Glaeser, Professor Kim Hyungrul, chairman of the Asia Institute, and about six students from Sookmyung University who have been working on the issue of refugees with Professor Kim.


A Visit to Gabriel House

A Visit to Gabriel House 

November 22, 2015

Emanuel Pastreich 

I had the chance to volunteer with my daughter Rachel today at the Gabriel House (가브리엘의집) near Namsan for about three hours. We did not know anything about Gabriel House before we arrived and simply assumed it was an orphanage (the Korean term for a foster home as many of the children in so-called “orphanages” have parents who simply cannot, or will not care for them). But Gabriel House is a Christian home dedicated to caring for children with severe mental disabilities such as autism and retardation. Some of the children were capable of speech, but no small number of them sat alone, some banging their heads against the walls.

It was hard work and a bit of a shock for my daughter who had not had such an experience previously. But it was extremely valuable and I hope to go back again soon. I know from my previous experience that if you do not go back repeatedly, you cannot make much of a difference to children in such a situation.

I volunteered with autistic children for years back in graduate school, both in the United States and in Korea, but it had been some twenty years since I had done so (although I have volunteered with foster children in Korea more recently). I realized that I have become much more stand-offish and full of myself over the years. I have not had to work with people who require real attention and who you must feed and clean and care for. So it was extremely difficult to start that work up again after that many years.

I was also profoundly aware of how alone these children are. Not only that their disabilities cut them off from the world, but that they do not have a family around them to give them attention, negative and positive, day in and day out. I found that just sitting next to the children was the best that I could do.

The first boy I worked with was extremely difficult and I eventually left him because I could not make any progress at all. But I found a few other young children with whom eye contact was possible and even occasional smiles. Perhaps I should have just stayed with the first boy, but there were some fifteen children and not that many volunteers.

I also was forced to think about just how little I understand about the world. I thought to myself first about how little these children understand about the world we live in, from climate change, to economics to geopolitics. But after contemplating this angle for a few minutes, I was led to the conclusion that in fact in the larger scale of things I am much closer to these kids than I imagine as there is so much in the universe, in my own society that I simply do not understand.


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