Circles and Squares

Insights into Korea's Sudden Rise

“Korea’s greatest threat” (JoongAng Daily January 26, 2015)

JoongAng Daily

“Korea’s greatest threat”


January 26, 2015

Emanuel Pastreich


Koreans are scratching their heads, asking themselves why efforts to address Korea’s dwindling birthrate have been so ineffective.

Although the government has implemented over 100 different policies since 2006 and has allocated a budget of 10 trillion won ($9.3 billion) for the last two years, the number of annual births per 1,000 members of the population is stuck at 1.19. That ranks Korea at No. 220 among nations for its birthrate in 2014. No other major country is even close to that rate.

The reason for the complete failure is simple. Koreans have completely failed to recognize the seriousness of the crisis and have not responded with an appropriate level of commitment in terms of policy or, more importantly, a shift in habits.

A birth rate like this could mean Korea itself will disappear as a culture in 100 years. The Korean language could join Manchu as a dead language that people learn about in history books.

It strikes me as bizarre that Koreans talk about the highly unlikely possibility of North Korea shelling Seoul, but they avoid this far more serious danger completely. Such a low birthrate is certainly a far greater threat than a lack of competitiveness in semiconductors or smartphones. Read more of this post

Semiconductors and apartment buildings

I have always wondered whether there is some connection between the Semiconductors

The landscape of a semiconductor chip in all its glory.

The landscape of a semiconductor chip in all its glory.



Apartment building complex in Seoul.

Apartment building complex in Seoul.

Clash of Clans vs. Clash of Plans

The game “Clash of Clans” has swept Korea, becoming one of the preferred games for kids and for that matter commuters on the subway in Seoul. This poster from the Seoul Metro represents well the rather comic battles between the Nordic clans that was released in 2012 by the video game company Supercell located in Finland.


The poster reads “they are swarming forward”

clash of clans koreans

Gaming has become so completely a part of the lives of young Koreans these days that they tend to compare their own lives to that of the characters in the games that they play everyday. That analogy is implied, but this Advertisement from Kyonggi University makes the analogy quite explicit. The poster is titled “2015 recruiting campaign for new students” and it lists its most practical and applied majors:

Hotel Management
Tourism management
restaurant managment
Hotel restauranting



At the bottom there is a take off on “Clash of Clans”

“the real skills faction is  swarming forward”

The implication being that just like in a video game, having real skills before graduate will put you on the winning side.



Kyonggi University "Class of Plans" sign

Kyonggi University “Class of Plans” sign


Professor Marc Shell visits Seoul to discuss “islandology”

Professor Marc Shell of the department of comparative literature at Harvard University visited Seoul (December 16-26, 2014) to deliver a series of lectures and meet with students and experts. Professor Shell’s recent book “Islandology” considers the cultural and rhetorical importance of islands in human history, looking at examples from ancient Greece to contemporary Denmark. The book features a section on Korea and specifically on the islands of Seoul. Read more of this post

China in Seoul

I went to the bathhouse (Jjimjilbang) at B3 of My City across the street from DDP in Seoul. A great bathhouse, but changing at an unbelievably fast rate. The place is full of Chinese, especially Chinese tourists. And as pictured below, they are being forced to put up Chinese signs everywhere. I find this also in the subways were makeshift signs have gone up all over the place in Chinese. Chinese is crowding out Japanese and English in many places. Glad I majored in Chinese myself.




“여성에 대한 이해 부족이 한국의 위기” (중앙일보 2015년 1월 24일)


여성에 대한 이해 부족이 한국의 위기”

2015년 1월 24일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬



끝없이 추락하는 출산율 문제를 해결하려는 국가 차원의 노력이 매번 물거품이 되고 마는 괴로운 현실이다. 이를 어떻게 풀 것인가를 놓고 한국은 고민하고 있다. 정부는 2006년 이래 100가지도 넘는 정책을 추진하고, 지난 2년간 무려 10조원 넘는 예산을 투입했지만 출산율(여성 1명이 평생 동안 낳을 수 있는 평균 자녀수)은 여전히 1.19명에 머물러 있다. 지난해 한국의 출산율은 세계 220위에 그쳤다. 경제협력개발기구(OECD) 가입국 중 최하위 수준이다.

 출산율을 높이려는 정책이 완전한 실패로 돌아간 이유는 간단하다. 한국인들이 위기의 심각성을 몰라 정책적 차원에서 적절한 대응에 실패했기 때문이다. 이 정도 수준의 출산율이 지속된다면 100년 안에 한국이라는 민족 자체가 사라질 수도 있다. 자연히 한국어도 만주어처럼 역사책에서나 볼 수 있는 언어로 전락할지 모른다.

 한국인들이 매우 희박한 북한의 서울 포격 가능성은 거론하면서도 출산율 저하라는 또 다른 심각한 위험에는 완전히 침묵한다. 쉽게 납득이 가지 않는 대목이다. 낮은 출산율은 반도체나 스마트폰의 경쟁력 하락보다 훨씬 더 심각한 위협이다.

Read more of this post

“Society for the Promotion of the standardization of written language”

The “Society for the Promotion of the standardization of written language” (어문정책정상화추진회, 語文政策正常化推進會 took out a 1/4  page add in the JoongAng Ilbo on January 20, 2015 to promote the use of Chinese characters as an essential policy for Korea. The advertisement notes that Korea teaches the smallest number of Chinese characters to its students, incomparison with China, Taiwan, Japan and North Korea and does not even offer Chinese characters to elementary students. I know nothing about the background of this advertisement, but I have heard the opinion expressed with growing frequency that Korea must use Chinese characters to be competitive.


chinese characters

“한국 싱크탱크의 국제적 역할 확대” (세미나)

think thanks

 “한국 싱크탱크의 국제적 역할 확대”





이번 포럼을 통해 국내 싱크탱크의 국제화 모범사례를 발굴하고, 심도 있는 토론을 통해 싱크탱크 발전을 위한 국내기반을 모색해나가고자 합니다.

일시: 2015년 1월 22일(목) 13:30 – 17:15
장소: 서울클럽 한라산룸


※ 참석을 희망하시면 동아시아연구원 서희정 연구원 ( |
02-2277-1683 내선140번)에게 1월 21일(수) 오후 5시까지 회신



이일형 대외경제정책연구원(KIEP) 원장
이숙종 동아시아연구원(EAI) 원장
이희주 한국경제매거진 대표

James McGann TTCSP 소장 영상 메시지 발표

2014 Global Go To Think Tank Report 발표 및 시상
이희주 한국경제매거진 대표

세션 1. “한국 싱크탱크의 국제적 역할 확대 모색” 
김세원 세계경제사회연구원(WERI) 이사장

이일형 대외경제정책연구원(KIEP) 원장
김준경 한국개발연구원(KDI) 원장

신봉길 외교안보연구소(IFANS) 소장
윤금진 한국국제교류재단(KF) 교류협력이사
하태형 현대경제연구원(HRI) 대표이사

15:30-15:50 휴식

세션 2. “싱크탱크 활성화를 위한 국내 기반 조성” 
박인국 한국고등교육재단(KFAS) 사무총장

이숙종 동아시아연구원(EAI) 원장
이원재 희망제작소 소장

강은봉 경제인문사회연구회(NRCS) 사무총장
양재운 포스코 청암재단 상임이사
강원택 서울대 교수



Books at the convenience store

That is right, convenience stores in Korea actually sell books.


books at convencience store

“东亚应借鉴欧洲先例限制武器开发” (SCIENCENET.CN)

2015 110








东亚地区经济的繁荣举世瞩目。但是,近年来东亚地区军费增加的势头,其实和一百年前的欧洲已经不相上下。实际上,东亚地区拥有世界上最大的几个武器消费国:中国的军费支出是世界第二,日本占据了第八,韩国最近也排进了第十。与此同时,从地缘学的角度来看,军费支出占据世界第三位的俄罗斯在远东地区扮演非常重要的角色,其同中国,朝鲜等的合作关系也在逐步强化。澳大利亚位居第13位,它也不断在东亚提升自身影响力。 Read more of this post


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