“Real reason Korea should fear China” ( The Korea Times July 25, 2017 )

The Korea Times

“Real reason Korea should fear China”

July 25, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


The news that China will phase out all fossil fuel taxis in the near future in Beijing, and has approved plans for the massive implementation of electric cars, has been buried under articles about North Korean nuclear weapons and FTA (free trade agreement) renegotiation.

I remember the single pathetic electric car parked for years in front of the administrative offices of KAIST University. No steps were taken to actually start using electric automobiles on a large scale.

But while Koreans worried about whether Trump would be nice to President Moon Jae-in, China has committed $360 billion through 2020 to the development of renewable power and is on its way to being the dominant power in the development and production of solar and wind power.  Read more of this post





Circles and Squares

2017年 7月 24日






但《巴黎气候变化协定》并未引起革命性的改变,只是一个努力给人们带来心理安慰的权宜之计。 Read more of this post

Korea’s True Security Challenges (Essay)

Korea’s True Security Challenges

 July 20, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


Decay of the media and of the decision-making process

The Korean peninsula faces a daunting array of security problems that will require tremendous efforts over the long term to overcome.  But the most serious security risk of all is the complete inability of the Korean people to understand what the real threats are that they face. The media, the entertainment industry and a vast culture of denial has combined forces to distract and misdirect the Korean people away from the real dangers of this age.

Koreans are told over and over by their newspapers and TV news that the greatest risk is of a nuclear missile being launched from North Korea which will destroy Seoul. In fact, North Korea’s military posture is entirely defensive and there is no chance that they would launch a missile at South Korea except as a response to an attack.

By contrast, Koreans are all but unaware of the collapse of the ecosystem in Northeast Asia, the death of the seas (and the fish that they depend on for food) as a result of warming waters, the spread of deserts and shortage of water which threaten to engulf the Korean Peninsula in an enormous desert stretching into central Asia. They have not even started planning for the rising oceans, a massive infrastructure project that will leave Korea with no budget to pay for fighter planes, tanks or other outdated military equipment.

 As opposed to the highly unlikely attacks from North Korea that are hyped in the privatized media, the threats to the environment are essentially 100% guaranteed.  So any consideration of the issue of security on the Korean Peninsula should start out by noting that most people in South Korea are fed a diet of fictions that makes it far more difficult for them to grasp what the dangers are. They are often convinced that North Korea is about to rain down nuclear weapons on them even though that it almost impossibility.

Nor is the death of the ecosystem the only threat that the Korean Peninsula faces.

The rising inequality in Korean, and East Asian, society is tearing the fabric of society apart and will lead to serious conflicts domestically and internationally in the next fifteen years. The media covers North Korea in a less objective manner because it is controlled by concentrated capital that makes tremendous profits from military defense systems. Sources for unbiased information about how the world works like newspapers and universities are so deeply linked to the stock market and the secret world of capital investments that they are incapable of articulating an alternative viewpoint.

Although Koreans are aware that the concentration of wealth, and the death of a public sector in Korean society over the last thirty years has led to greater inequality, they do not understand exactly how and they are not encouraged to think deeply about this crisis. Even extremely liberal groups do not offer opinions on the profound contradictions of a decadent industrialized society. They do not advocate that banks or telecommunications companies should be highly regulated public monopolies. But that assumption was common sense to liberals and conservatives in the 1950s.

The death of sources of information independent from the stock market and foreign investment banks, the death of local community groups that gave meaning to the lives of ordinary people through regular meetings, cooperative efforts and mutual aid has left many Koreans exposed and profoundly lonely. We can see this fact evident in the high suicide rate for both youth and the elderly.

Life has been taken over by a ruthless consumption- driven culture that holds up as the definition of “happiness” the immediate satisfaction of the individual through the eating, drinking or watching of things that give a short-term thrill. Even politics has been reduced to a popularity show with little interest in the details of policy, or long-term developments and overwhelming fascination with the latest statement on the social media.

Such an environment makes it impossible for citizens to even comprehend what “security” is about and the politicians have become babysitters who tell citizens what they want to hear. As the old saying goes, “the people do not want leaders, they want magicians.”

The careful analysis of social, environmental and economic factors that are destabilizing Northeast Asia has been replaced by sensationalism. The rise of the video game culture has played a role in this grotesque transformation of the public sphere. Many Koreans (and Japanese), including adults, spend their time playing video games that glorify ruthless military conflict and make it appear as if shooting guns and blowing people up is not only good fun, but solves all problems. This gaming culture makes so effort to explain how security has become a more complex problem, nor to draw attention to social inequity or the collapse of the ecosystem.  Video games suggest that it is split-second response that is critical for security. That myth is critical to the military industrial complex.

So the best business is pumping up the stock value of military contractors through articles that suggest that a new nuclear submarine, or THAAD anti-missile system will protect Korea even though there is no evidence that this is the case. The profits from building submarines or anti-missile systems are staggering  but there is no scientific evidence that they do anything but increase the risk of conflict. Sadly, Korea is being pulled in the direction of the United States economic system, a criminal state  in which a large percentage of wealth is siphoned off in the interests of “defense” to pay for useless weapons systems that make the rich richer. The media is happy to play its profitable role. IN fact, because the media in general offers so little of any use to ordinary citizens, this spinning of fantasies may be their only profitable role.

  Read more of this post

Why Korea cannot put forth a Korean perspective?

Why Korea cannot put forth a Korean perspective?

July 22, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


One of the great mysteries about Korea is why it is that although Seoul is full of many extremely educated and capable people with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, people who are extremely knowledgeable about topics from mechanical engineering to public policy and diplomacy, Korea is virtually incapable of advancing a Korean vision or perspective on current affairs. Extremely well-educated Koreans struggle with all their might to absorb and interpret the writings about North Korea and East Asia put out by American experts like Michael Green at CSIS or John Ikenberry at Princeton even though they have far greater understanding of the issues than those experts do.

The problem is much more serious today than ever before for the simple reason that Washington D.C. is incapable of making policy anymore. Paralyzed between a cabal of billionaires and their loyal minions who see the office of the presidency as a means to make large amounts of money and a professional class of bureaucrats and politicians who work for investment banks rather than for the national interest, Washington D.C. cannot formulate any long-term plans for itself, let alone respond meaningfully to recent developments in Japan, China or North Korea. Currently, the tendency in the United States is to paper over the increasing authoritarianism of the Abe administration, to present a caricature of Kim Jung Eun taken from a B movie and to make dark insinuations about a rising China threat at every opportunity. All this effort is linked to a deep level of denial about institutional decay in the United States itself.

South Korea has a more legitimate president than just about any other country and it has the expertise and the know-how to formulate its own policy and to make proposals for the future of East Asia. But if it relies on the United States and Japan to give it guidance, it will find itself increasingly at sea.

Why is it that Koreans have become so dependent on Western, particularly American, perspectives on economics, governance, security and diplomacy when Korea is far better positioned to put forth new approaches and launch initiatives, than the United States is? If we look at the question of engagement with China, there are far more Koreans who speak Chinese, who understand Chinese politics and economics in depth and who have a high level of education. And now with an isolationist and radically anti-intellectual Trump administration installed in Washington D.C., it should be the Koreans who are giving advice to Washington D.C., not the other way around. Read more of this post

THAAD as a totem

Watching recent reporting about the planned US missile-defense system THAAD being deployed in South Korea,  the debate is completely absent any attempt to consider what exactly the function of THAAD is and what its role is in the true security of South Korea. In fact, there is almost no discussion about whether a missile attack from North Korea is likely at all, or what other security threats might be out there. It seems rather that THAAD has become a totem (bad or good) before which one prays in the hope that it will bestow magical powers.





The Proletariat of Facebook (hammer and paintbrush)

I must confess that when I saw this “hammer and paintbrush” logo on the Facebook page today, I wondered to myself whether Facebook has developed an organized proletariat. After all, the Bolsheviks became famous for their “hammer and sickle” mark. The hammer represented the workers and the sickle, the farmers who had been drawn into the struggle in that case.

hammer and paintbrush

In the case of Facebook, the symbol features the hammer and the paintbrush. Perhaps the hammer refers to programmers and the paintbrush to designers and the creators of content. As a creator of content myself, I would certainly be a paintbrush in the Facebook community. See my talk about Facebook.


How about yourself?


“数字排序下的社会现实” (赵京的博客 Science Net 2017年 7月 9日)

京的博客 Science Net


2017年 7月 9日





    社会似乎每时每刻都在遵循这样的逻辑,那就是:事物的价值只有用数字进行排序后才会得到认可,这似乎成了一条不能违背的法则。人也不得不遵循这样的逻辑,每个人所做的一切都被转化成数字,以确定他们在某种人为的排序下的位置。但是,这种排序具有一种远离我们日常经验的客观标准吗?  事实上,任何一组所谓客观的数据,都只是对事物的某个方面的一种反映,并不是对事物整体的反映。

生活在这种数字治理下,对人们做出判断时考虑的不是他们与周边的人有何种关系、他们的日常活动对我们的文化和组织有何贡献,而是用数字来确定人的价值。比如,我们经常会问“卖了几台IT设备”、 “发表了几篇社会科学引文索引(SSCI)论文?”、“检修了几辆汽车”等等。

   这样一来,数字成了确定价值的最终决定者。不管你有什么样的贡献,只要不能加以量化就不会得到认可。在这样的价值判断系统里,我认为学生们完全有理由感到困惑,因为他们并不知晓社会内在竞争的残酷性。极其复杂的人类经验、家庭成员或共同体、自然界与“我”这一个体之间发生的本质上非常微妙而又多层次的互动,不断地被以排序的方式表示出来。这种单一的数字被用来表示个体、组织甚至整个国家的价值。 Read more of this post




“韩中 红学家的对话”


2017年 6月 24日 (星期六)


(首尔市 钟路区 祠稷路 8-23-1

“韩中应联手发挥“亚洲智慧” 召开“首尔气候变化会议” (亚洲经济新闻 2017年 6月 28日)


“韩中应联手发挥“亚洲智慧” 召开“首尔气候变化会议”

2017年 6月 28日







若韩国能够果断地应对美国退出《巴黎气候协定》一事,特朗普的这一决定可谓是为韩国在应对气候变化问题上,实现跳跃式发展提供了历史性的机会。不仅如此,韩国还可在不损害韩美同盟的情况下,在重要性越来越大的环境安全保障(environmental security)领域,加强与中国的合作。 Read more of this post

“数学治国的韩国” (中央日报 2017年 6月 26日)



2017年 6月 26日





生活在靠数字治理的韩国的我们,对人们做出判断时考虑的不是他们与周边的人有何种关系、他们的日常活动对我们的文化和组织有何贡献,而是用数字上的方程式来确定人的价值。比如,我们经常会问“卖了几台IT设备”、“发表了几篇社会科学引文索引(SSCI)论文?”、“检修了几辆汽车”等等。 Read more of this post