Circles and Squares

Insights into Korea's Sudden Rise

Korea’s media leaves out climate change

This article in the Korea Herald talks about the profitability of coal-fired power plants because of the heat wave but does not mention a word about climate change, the cause of the heatwave, or about the profoundly negative impact of coal power plants on the climate. There are lots of things to be unhappy with, but this irresponsible behavior is a matter of life and death. The focus is place on the billing for electricity, and not on the profound challenge of climate change–for which Korean industry and government has no plan at all.

 

(thanks to Malcolm Wrest for this reference)

 

 

The Korea Herald

“Heat wave boosts profits of coal-fired power plants”

 2016-08-22

Five Korean coal-fired power plants operated by a state-run company have seen a

sharp rise in their profitability amid the weeks-long heatwave, data showed Monday.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service and power industry sources, the five coal-powered plants run by

Korea Electronic Power Corp. recorded profit rates – operating profit as a proportion of total sales

of about 15 percent to 22.5 percent from January to June this year.


Korea East-West Power saw the highest increase to 22.5 percent, which is 9 percentage points higher than last year.

Korea South-East Power and Korea Western Power saw their profit rates rise to 20 percent.

Korea Southern Power and Korea Midland Power, whose profit rates

had been around 5 percent, saw a surge to 16.5 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively.

KEPCO, which purchases the power from those five companies and sells it to customers, also saw a 46 percent rise in its

operating profit to 6.4 trillion won ($5.7 billion). This is equivalent to earning 34.7 billion won a day in the first half of this year.

KEPCO hit the record high operating profit last year of over 11 trillion won.

The state-run company is projected to break the record again this year,

thanks to plummeting wholesale prices of power and rising demand.

The wholesale price of the power hit a record low of 65.31 won per kilowatt-hour in June, the lowest point in seven years.

The sweltering heat that started early, in May also contributed to the demand increase.

Seoul City saw temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius on Monday, the highest in 22 years. The Korea Meteorological

Administration forecasted that the heat wave would continue until the end of this month.

Amid the heat wave and rising profitability of power companies, public voices have

grown over reforming the current power bill system that only charges cumulative bills to households.

The industry sector and self-employed businessmen are exempt from the cumulative charge system despite the high demand.

As the public demand escalated earlier this month, the government and ruling

Saenuri Party set up a task force to draw measures of revising the electricity bill system.

“한국이 독자적인 안보정책을 표방할 때가 왔다” (중앙일보 2016년 8월 20일)

중앙일보

“한국이 독자적인 안보정책을 표방할 때가 왔다”

2016년 8월 20일

 

 

임마누엪 페스트라이쉬

 

한국은 지금 갈림길에 섰다. 한국은 지난 60년 동안 미국이 주도하는 안보 구도를 추종한 덕분에 성공했다. 하지만 미국 자체가 점차 양극화됨에 따라 그러한 접근법을 따르는 게 더 어렵게 될 것이다. 현재 안보에 대한 민주당과 공화당의 관점은 간격이 너무 벌어졌기 때문에 무엇이 미국 정책인지 확인하는 게 불가능하다. 도널드 트럼프와 힐러리 클린턴이 표방하는 외교정책에 대한 의견은 타협점을 허용하지 않는다.

대다수 미국인은 워싱턴의 정책 결정 과정이 여론을 전혀 반영하지 않으며 가장 능력 있는 인사들이 배제됐다고 느낀다.

미국의 중동•아프리카•유럽•동아시아 정책은 미국과 국제사회에서 점점 더 많은 논란을 부르고 있다. 예를 들면 랜드(RAND)연구소가 발표한 보고서인 ‘중국과의 전쟁: 생각할 수 없는 일에 대한 생각 ’은 너무나 적대적이고 도발적이기 때문에 한국에는 공개적으로 이 보고서를 비난하고, 미국 내에서 미•중 협력을 무시하며 위험한 도발을 모색하는 사람들을 비판하는 것 외에 다른 선택이 없다.

한국은 즉각적으로 국가안보와 지역안보를 위한 비전을 분명히 제시하기 시작해야 한다. 한국의 비전은 점점 더 부패의 정도가 심각해지고 있는 워싱턴의 싱크탱크에서 나올 수 없다. 동시에 한국은 장기적인 안보 정책 합의에 도달하기 위해 아시아의 핵심 국가들과 대화에 착수해야 한다.

 

한국의 안보 정책 제안은 예지력이 있고 영감을 주는 것이어야 한다. 유엔 헌장의 원칙에 기반해야 하며 기후변화와 드론•사이버 공격 같은 새로운 기술이 제기하는 점증하는 위협에 집중해야 한다.

한국이 그런 과감한 주장을 펼치면 비판을 받게 될 것이다. 하지만 현시점에서 비판을 회피하려는 시도는 한국의 국익과 어긋날 것이다. 오히려 한국이 용감하게 글로벌 안보 비전을 제시한다면 한국은 침묵하는 다수가 존중하는 나라가 될 것이며, 미국•일본•중국 등 예상치 못한 여러 나라에서 예상치 못한 친구를 발견하게 될 것이다.

한국의 안보 정책은 정확히 어떤 내용이어야 할까. 우리는 총이나 대포 같은 무기가 계속 어떤 기능을 할 것이라고 상정해야 한다. 하지만 안보 위협의 근본적 변화를 정확히 감지하지 못하고 큰 비용을 들여가며 전쟁에 시대착오적으로 대비한다면 우리는 심각한 위협에 빠질 수 있다.

기후변화 대응을 위해서는 우리의 국부(國富)를 확대 투입하는 것 외에 선택의 여지가 없다. 기후변화는 미래의 분쟁에서 한 요소로 작용하는 데 그치지 않을 것이다. 기후변화 완화와 적응은 안보적 고려의 중심이 될 것이다. 우리는 안보 개념을 다시 생각해야 한다. 한국의 글로벌 리더십은 한국이 다른 나라들보다 어느 정도까지 빨리 이러한 전환을 달성하느냐에 달렸다. 한국의 제안이 일부 미국 고위 관료를 자극할 것이라는 사실이 우리의 시야를 가리면 안 된다. 미국의 많은 전문가가 그러한 입장을 취하는 한국을 더욱 존중하게 될 것이다.

한국은 리더십을 발휘해 차세대 무기체계의 점증하는 파괴 잠재력이 미사일•핵무기 같은 무기 개발을 제한하기 위해 우리가 선의의 조약을 체결할 것을 요구한다고 주장해야 한다. 그렇게 주장해야 하는 이유는 기후변화 대응 비용 때문에 그러한 무기체계를 지탱할 자금이 없으며 조약이 유일하게 효과적인 무기 통제 수단이기 때문이다.

우리는 또한 미래 분쟁의 본질을 변화시킬 드론(특히 마이크로•나노 드론)과 로봇의 위협에 대응하기 위해 상당한 재원을 투입해야 한다. 벌떼 같은 수많은 소형 드론의 무리는 비국가행위자(non-state actors)가 무방비 상태인 우리를 겨냥해 지극히 파괴적인 분쟁을 개시하는 것을 허용할 수 있다.

사이버 전쟁과 3차원 인쇄도 유사한 도전이다. 우리는 이런 기술을 이차적인 이슈가 아니라 미래 분쟁의 잠재적인 핵심으로 간주해야 한다. 드론과 결합된 사이버 전쟁의 궁극적 의미는 일방이 핵무기가 포함된 상대편의 모든 무기를 접수해 분쟁에 사용할 수 있다는 것이다. 리스크가 너무 크기 때문에 어떤 경우에는 수동으로 작동되는 무기로 되돌아가야 할 것이다.

이러한 기술은 민족국가보다는 세계 곳곳에서 유유상종하는 비국가행위자들이 활용할 가능성이 크다. 그들은 동아시아 국가안보 정책을 뒷받침한 국가 대(對) 국가 분쟁에 대한 기본적인 가정을 무시하며 대규모 분쟁을 일으킬 수 있다.

마지막으로, 한국은 미래형 안보 접근 차원에서 완전한 에너지 독립을 향해 용감하게 발걸음을 내디뎌야 할 것이다. 한국은 군용 에너지를 석유•가스•석탄 수입에 의존하고 있기 때문에 해상 운송이 불가능하게 되는 경우에 지극히 취약하게 된다. 한국은 세계에서 가장 수준 높은 태양력•풍력 발전 체제를 개발해 전체 군사체제와 통합해야 한다. 그래야 에너지 공급 차단이 분쟁 대응 능력에 아무런 영향을 미치지 않는다. 로저 소킨의 영화 ‘짐(The Burden)’이 보여줬듯이 미 군부에서 가장 사려 깊은 사람들 중 많은 수가 화석 연료에 대한 의존이 전략적 취약점이라고 생각한다. 한국은 창의성과 용기로 우리를 새로운 방향으로 이끌어야 한다.

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美国儒生, 与陌生的韩国相会

我的书 “한국인만 모르는 다른 대한민국” 一部的翻译。 

美国儒生, 与陌生的韩国相会

韩国人总爱问的一个问题就是 ‘你吃泡菜吗?’. 甚至有如果不能吃泡菜就不给签证的说法。而美国、欧洲或其他任何一个国家都不会向外国观光游客们问他们吃不吃汉堡包、比萨、意大利面、香肠、奶酪等。这并不是大众化,而是国民的意识问题。完全没有要了解互相之间想法的提问,有的只是那些英语会话教材当中的或者很形式性的提问。这可不是为了照顾外国人,你可是为了自己自身提问呢。对侵犯 ‘个人隐私’的问题无所顾忌,这种尴尬的情况我可是经历过很多次。

有一次,我跟几名首尔大学院的研究生们,在一大早就到韩国的海南天涯海角村(해남 땅끝마을)去旅行。可以说在那次旅行当中经历了许多印象深刻的事情。离开喧闹的都市本身就像从监狱释放一样令人愉快,最重要的是在幽静的农村夜晚, 是个可以通过讨论来了解朋友们内心世界的绝佳机会。一到那地儿,就看到拥有蓝色海洋的海南美丽风光在迎接我们,头轮山的大兴寺和达美山的美黄寺也都太美了。但是到了晚上,我的期待破灭了。根本没有什么认真的讨论,取而代之的是大家围坐在一起开始喝酒的饮酒旅行。抱着也许的侥幸心态我又等了等,但是大家都醉了,并开始唱歌及大声吵闹,甚至引起了隔壁邻居的抗议浪潮。没办法的我只好间或尝试着询问他们对这个世界是如何看待的,提出讨论下人生观和世界观如何如何,意图间接引导一小阵的主题讨论。记得我提议时说 “人生最初的记忆和最无法磨灭的记忆,大家以现在为起点,讨论一下记忆吧”。学生们本来非常开心愉快地在位置上饮酒作乐,听到我的话后都一脸莫名地看着我。在耶鲁大学和哈佛大学就读时, 我也偶尔会与朋友们一起去旅行,那时我们真的几乎是一整夜全身心投入到互相问答讨论当中,我们可以通过提出的问题看出其在学术上的成熟度。最终那次我们的海南旅游行,就在每晚饮酒、唱歌中度过了。他们是什么样的人,觉得在这个世界中存在的意义是什么,又为什么而活,这些我都完全没能了解到。

当然也有许多不在此例当中的朋友,比如在首尔大学博士课程中见到的几位朋友就是如此。我和他们对话时尽量使用韩国语。我们即使参加读书会,也会尽可能更多地去学习去讨论。随着时间的推移,我们讨论的主题也变得更加多种多样。与他们在一起的时光不下于在日本度过的时光,同样意义深远。我们每次聚会都会对不同的主题进行深度讨论。读书会自然面然地演变成研究古典小说的聚会了,因为他们想让我了解文学理论。随着时间的推移我们的讨论越来越有趣味,我们对文化的多样性及社会、历史的影响都进行过深入的讨论。

我不是社交型的人。但是与他们的聚会给了我建立多样人脉关系的机会。还被他们邀请到家中作客,不知不觉地喜爱上了韩国。了解韩国得熟悉韩国的礼节。日本也像韩国一样重视礼节。但与韩国有一些差异,对礼的解释不同也许是因为两个国家的文化差异造成的。

因奶奶结下韩国

1994年秋,就读首尔大学汉语语言文学博士课程时,寄宿在冠乐社(관악사是首尔大学宿舍)。读博士课程的学生还在冠乐社寄宿的情况是非常特别少见的。在延世大学语学堂与首尔大学学习期间,一有空我就到韩国各个地区去旅行,逐渐开始了解韩国的历史和传统文化。其实那时我学习韩语只是把它当做了解中国和日本文学的垫脚石。在学习中国文学和日本文学时,我也不知道怎么的有种空落落的不足之感。但却并未达到全面研究韩国转变学习方向的程度。我还是深深地沉浸在中国的古典文学中,比起繁杂而且混乱的韩国,日本在所有方面都整理得较好,我对于韩国仍然是茫然一片。但是有一天,决定性的契机到来了。 当然与韩国的缘分也可以说是一段小插曲。

1995年为了迎接新年,我又打包行囊去旅行。去往以‘八万大藏经’著称的陕川海印寺。1994年12月31日,高速大巴抵达海印寺的时候已经是深夜了。首先要找到住处,我跟着民宿阿姨在一片幽暗的胡同里面进入了一所破旧的房子。隔壁房门大开,几名男女大学生们正在吃烤五花肉,还沸沸扬扬地进行着烧酒派对。

放下行李后,他们热情地叫我过去。虽然我不吃荤,但我还是过去了。来自首尔的他们也像其他韩国人一样爱问:从哪里来为什么来、能吃泡菜不、能喝大酱汤不、会喝酒不、为什么一个人来这儿、有爱人吗 等等这样的问题……虽然交谈了好一会儿,但大学生们的对话总是围绕着酒和女人说个不停。这样的交谈在首尔的酒家里也可以进行呀,干嘛非得大老远地到海印寺来聊,我还真是无法理解。更何况是在年末的最后一天,正是除旧迎新的特别日子里。

再谈下去也是浪费时间于是我从座位上站了起来,回到屋里躺下了,即使我没有什么特别想做的。躺着无聊就把海印寺《八万大藏经》和相关书籍翻了翻,不知不觉地我就进入了梦乡。还做了个梦。

在梦中,我是在曼哈顿的一所公寓里、是在去世的奶奶家里,小时候我经常去玩的地方。没看见奶奶就询问了下管理人员,他回答说奶奶出去了。我只好在少了奶奶有些空荡荡的家中担忧地等着奶奶。过了半天,奶奶才终于推开门进来。奶奶一见到我就高兴得合不拢嘴。

“奶奶!”

我太高兴了,大喊着扑到奶奶的怀里。奶奶看着我眼睛里泪光盈盈。

从梦中醒过来已经是大早上了,起来发现这不熟悉的地方可不是奶奶家,是我深夜来到海印寺附近找的一家简陋民宿。

在那天的梦中,奶奶比我记忆当中还要苍老了许多。奶奶在她七十多岁时因为癌症去世了。对奶奶来说我是特别的,奶奶对我世俗的成功有着非常大的期待。奶奶并没有隐藏那份期待,在每一件小事上,都称赞我,给了我勇气和力量。到现在我做任何事情仍旧总是充满自信,这肯定全是奶奶的赞赏和支持给了我养料。

在那个梦中,奶奶出现了,像她活着时那样生动且真实。在梦中,我感得和平、幸福。虽然只是个梦,但是感觉奶奶就在韩国还活着似的。晨光中的海印寺被白雪覆盖,森林中鸟鸣禽啼。虽然奶奶在梦里短暂出现又消失了,但与昨天不同的是我却不再感觉这里陌生了。 1995年1月1日,在这短短的一天之内,突然感觉韩国像朋友一样那么亲切。

韩国人独特的反问

怀揣人文学科的意图来到韩国,我感触良多。其中还有些开始不太能理解的。可以说是‘语言悖论’这种的反问。事实上刚到韩国时,以为韩国人都无感没有幽默细胞呢。不怎么爱开玩笑话也不多,直接而简单。但如果居住久了,你就会发现韩国像美国或日本一样有很多反讽反问表达。例如会在喝着很烫的水时感叹道“嗯,真凉快!”,美人经过时会发出“啊,让我死了吧!”这种感叹。这或许是韩国人的情绪水平衡量的尺度,也是粗鲁的表达方式。比如好朋友之间久没见面会在见面打招呼时发出“嗨!冤家”“嗨,你这家伙,真是好久不见了!”的呼声。 现在我也习惯了,但第一次听到的时候,还真的以为他们是死对头,即将会有一场战斗呢。越想越觉得这还真是非常独特有趣的表达方法。

以前对韩国的印象,就是韩国人也是同样住在公寓中,吃着同样的食物,同样在客厅里看电视,但事实却不然。将来我在韩国生活得更久一些时,也许有可能在遇到久未见面的好朋友时粗鲁地说着“嗨,你这臭小子!”拥抱致意。但事实上我对此还是有点儿胆怯,不知能否做到呢。

韩国 早晨寂静的国家?

韩国人所拥有的活力

骨子里是美国人的我踏上韩国土地已经是15年前的事了。来韩国之前对韩国的印象就是韩国是一个早晨很寂静的国家。但是来到韩国以后发现与我所认知的形象有很大不同。不知是不是因为时间过去太久的关系,但至少在我居住在韩国的这期间,韩国离寂静还是蛮有距离的,这并不是贬低的意思。 从各个方面来说韩国超出我想象的充满活力。所以呢, 在此期间我结识了数不清的朋友,也体验了多样的文化。虽不至江山一改那么久但是也经过了不短的岁月。现在那些分散的关于韩国的想法我在一定程度上做了整理。

韩国是与我生长的美国有着鲜明对比的国家。首先两国的历史有着巨大的差异。美国最近才开始把印第安人留下的红色血迹写在历史上。与韩国悠久的历史相比简直就是”新手”。但是拿历史时间说事,进行两个国家的比较,也许对韩国人来说是一种侮辱。因为美国的历史才只有200多年,拿来比较对韩国人来说是有伤自尊的事情。即使是从英国清教徒们在寻找宗教自由而移居到美洲大陆的起点时间来看,也只是五十步笑百步。

从政治和经济领域,说美国的历史就是民主主义和资本主义的历史也丝毫不为过。美国的联邦宪法是在1787年制定。美国从那时已经为今日的立法与司法制定了行政机关。1789年法国大革命之后19世纪末,美国从政治国家体制向行政国家体制转变。(以南北朝鲜战争为契机,开始了联邦制度和复合官员政治。)在大萧条时期施新政,向官僚国家转变体制变得坚固。

那么韩国又如何呢? 韩国是世界上少有的单一民族,数千年来在一个地方生活。文化同质性也从来没被损坏而维持了下来,但韩国与过去完全不同,变成了新的国家。因为韩国是在战争后一切都被破坏的情况下,重样建立的。在重建国家的过程中引进了许多新鲜事物,至今仍在持续。与过去完全不同的韩国诞生了。

支撑国家经济的企业也是一样。美国的IBM等公司的历史更是可以追溯到世界大战时期。其根本在19世纪就已开始。但是韩国的企业大部分是从日本殖民地解放出来以后的1945年和1950年南北朝鲜战争后开始的。而且不过50~60年,韩国就成功挤进世界上排名前10位的经济大国行列。可谓短时间内‘压缩成长’。这是在哪个国家都史无前例的事情,在世界上把它称做‘奇迹’。虽有开发独裁的批评,但韩国人的心中如果没有那份充满活力的能量也是不可能完成的事情。那份能量就是创新国家的活力。

除了新国家的形象之外,韩国比起美国来给人一种更加国际的印象。当然美国在世界政治、经济的主要舞台上非常活跃是不可否认。让世界各国的多种文化自然地流入,通过这一连接打造全世界巨大的网络。这种现象是美国的一大优点,但在我眼里现在看到的却根本不是那样。在超越国境线必要性消失的今天,美国正在不知不觉地逐渐变成孤立的岛屿。美国人几乎是除了欧洲几个国家以外,对其他国家几乎完全不识,就像韩国谚语中说的‘井底之蛙’一样。不知道外面世界的青蛙会如何呢? 只有通过水井口看着天空的云彩,陷入自我满足感,在美国社会中对世界的信息逐渐减少。

但韩国却不同。最近韩国是全球化的浪潮。去往美国欧洲、迪拜、乌兹别克斯坦、非洲等世界各处都可以很容易地寻到韩国人。夸张的说,比起拥有20亿人口的中国更容易寻到。韩国人口少,但庞大的数字人口却分布在世界各地。他们不像美国人一样安安稳稳地坐等着,而是为了吃穿在世界各地进行勤奋地创作及寻找机遇。这是我亲自耳闻目睹感受到的!这活生生的经验在韩国社会积淀着。像泡菜一样发酵后,将是以后国家发展的庞大原动力。

忠清南道 “大百济庆典” 的感想

    韩国有个问题是量性发展能向质性发展轻易转移。积淀的经验经发酵后散发的文化香气,洒向全世界。这从访韩外国人的立场上来看时,很容易就能得知。

我做又松大学教授的时候,应忠清南道的要求曾参与过大百济庆典。以外国人的立场上来看有很多地方我感到可惜。我的作用是大百济庆典为了扩大国际庆典规模,让许多外国游客能参与活动而做些企划咨询事务。

    一开始不太顺,我利用了大部分时间来做些搜集整理介绍资料的工作,所有内容都得从头做起。检索搜集的基础资料,发现全部都是以韩国游客为对象的现有资料。只好重新制作。古代百济的中心地是忠清南道,这是必须向外国游客介绍的。还好对我这个外国人来说,找到我感兴趣的东西比什么都重要。向外国游客介绍,最先想到的就是代表性遗迹百济武宁王陵。查找了些武宁王陵的相关资料,都是极其常识性的介绍而已。逐条就是时间和方式,以及几个出土文物的介绍就完了。外国人好奇的可并只不是这样。百济是什么样的国家、百济武宁王陵的特别之处是什么,当时百济人在想什么是怎么生活的,并且外部势力之间的力学关系如何,这些才是让外国游客更加好奇的。

例如武宁王时期制作的‘金铜大香炉’上有42种动物。其中包括罕见的大象和鳄鱼。当时的百济人看到那种动物从生态地理学上说是不可能的。但是为什么香炉上会有那些动物?大象和鳄鱼是只在东南亚和印度地区可以看到的动物。那么就是说百济人至少亲眼目睹过那种动物或与该地区有着某种交流。这就可以类推为文化象征是受当时百济的国际交流和影响关系。百济与当时中国的东部地区和东南亚、越南、印度进行了海上贸易,应该是在贸易过程中各个国家和地区的特产动物互相流入境内。佛教传入后,海上贸易就更加活跃了。

    再加上骆驼和鹦鹉曾作为礼物送给日本王的内容介绍,可以让武宁王陵成为更有深度、更有趣的文化商品。就像香料战争只因一种胡椒香料的流入,洞穿欧洲的历史。外国人对于金铜大香炉是多少号国宝、多少号宝物并不太感兴趣,遗物中有趣的过去与故事决不可原样掩埋。百济与日本,在日本现下正好是韩国艺人与韩国电视剧一炮走红引领“韩流”的时候。但依我看,这样的韩流热潮很久以前就已经存在了。就是被称为是‘”(くだら)’的潮流,是古代日本的‘百济模仿’热潮。くだら是‘大国’之意,日本敬称百济为大国。

当时的日本是青铜器和铁器复杂混乱的国家。与日本相比,百济是日本没法达到的那种发达国家。百济人超越日本居住的空间“野蛮人的窝棚”水平发展了房屋和地暖文化,并且纤维织造技术也已传入引领流行时尚。如果对这个大国遗书热潮加以好好研究的话,再与现在的韩流热潮相吻合,也有可能引发更大的韩流旋风。我看到的是超越时间的百济与日本依然有着密切的关系。

    他们的关系还清楚地说明了一事件。在韩国的土地上,曾展开过三次整个东亚历史上的大规模战争。日清战争(甲午战争)、壬辰倭乱和久远的东亚最早的国际海战‘白江口战斗’。公元660年,罗唐联军灭亡百济,就出现了百济复兴运动。日本为拯救灭亡的百济,派遣1,000艘战舰和军士27,000余名。他们到达的地方就是现在的东津江下游,是日本的齐明天皇女王决定全面出兵的。那么日本为什么把当时整个日本的军事力量大规模援军派往百济?

当然韩国人和日本人对其原因、日本皇室间与百济的关联性肯定大部分都很清楚。我在日本东京大学攻读硕士课程的时候,偶尔会到大阪熊本这样的地方去旅行考察。熊本至今还有许多百济的古坟。在大阪还有百济人制造的狭山池(おおさかさやま)水库。是日本历史上最古老的水库。 该水库充分确保了大阪的农业用水,并以此为跳板发展成为了一个大城市。在日本古代的飞鸟地区(飛鳥の地)至今仍有百济人的开拓地,被称为百济州。“百済大寺”是日本最大的寺庙和百济宫殿遗迹。

当时的百济大寺共9层塔高达80米。从这就可以充分地看出日本皇室是如何想百济的。因为有这么密切的关系,日本人也对忠清南道的庆典很关注。利用文化节促进两国相互理解也是非常令人鼓舞的事情,而这只是小小的开始。百济是从古代起就具有国际意识的国家。把此意识发扬,与日本以外的其他国家接近下会怎么样? 有可能会引发与众不同的兴趣。

朝向真正意义上的国际化

我既不是韩国人,也不是日本人。而是美国人。作为外国人的我认为韩国当前的课题是‘国际化’。就像古代百济步入柬埔寨、泰国、印度一样。但是国际化过程并不像说话那样容易。首先需要对国际化有个基本理解。

到目前为止,韩国社会在许多方面仍旧保守,对外国人仍旧暴露出其保守性。这也许是‘单一民族’纯血统的认识造成的。但是这也会让外国人不舒服。

那么,韩国在国际社会的地位如何? 韩国通过儒家传统中的国际作用和相关模型可以找到答案。过去春秋战国时代周朝就是最具代表性的例子。周朝是中国被很多周边国环绕的中心国家,开启了和平崛起与繁荣的时代。刀与钱不代表和平,周朝与邻近国家通过平衡外交得到了尊重。因此周朝的地位是‘平等国家中间的第一’。

想起查尔斯达尔文在《物种起源》中说:“能够存活的物种,既非最强的物种,亦非最聪明的物种,而是最能适应改变的物种。”。韩国是经历了日本帝国主义强占时期和朝鲜战争这些波澜壮阔的现代史,总是以挑战性的姿态,不断创新成长的国家。这就是韩国拥有的力量。我相信韩国在面临最近不断变化的新国际秩序之际会在全世界发挥着核心作用。为此,要维持开放性,并以与其他国家保持和平为指向。与其他国家处于敌对关系对于国家利益没有任何帮助,这是常识。 韩国的宿命是要像周朝那样与周边国家构建和谐社会。

我对韩国感兴趣这事让我遇到的很多韩国人感到惊讶,他们都非常好奇我为什么学习韩语、为什么对韩国文学那么感兴趣。我认为如果韩国社会变得更加国际化,这样的好奇疑问自然地会减少。就像韩国人学习韩国文学那样,外国人亦然。

此过程不可再推迟。以世界上最低的韩国出生率来看,更是如此。这样下去几十年后的首尔街头,白发老人们都似龟步一样慢慢地来回。老人们也要吃喝拉撒,事情谁来做? 劳动力不足事态严重到不能闭眼无视。

弥补这个劳动力不足的方法是让外国工人流入。这是为了韩国的持续发展不可避免的选择。自然地实现初步的国际化,不做任何准备的放任是不负责任的。从现在开始要为此打下扎实的文化基础。

 

韩国中的外国人、世界中的韩国人

站两种文化的边界上

在韩国学习期间感觉比较容易,可能是因为对汉语与日语已经非常有了一定的了解。我主要通过看来书熟悉多样的表达。即使如此也未能完美熟练地使用韩国语。但是在与韩国人见面的场合,我尽量努力地使用韩国语。现在孩子们使用的表达仍旧有许多是我不知道的。因为我主要是接触韩国语学术领域,。写这篇文章时,在很多方面的表达我怀疑其准确性。因为我还只是个‘初级韩国人’。

我几乎不看电视,有外国人出现的时候偶尔看。这样的节目对来自不同国家出演者按照国别、对其语言和文化的多样性进行了布置,另外对于家庭、凄美的爱情也如实转达。可以了解很多内容。但是电视里的世界与现实不同,在现实中人们仍然对外国移民有着偏见和误解。当然这种偏见与背后有少数外国工人的犯罪行为或非法就业等负面原因理由有一定的关系。再加上在国际婚姻中,不只外国女性受伤害,韩国男性受伤害的事例也很多。因此消除不了对外国移民的偏见,是造成偏见加剧的罪魁祸首。但这只是极端的一面。

他们受低薪困扰、是为了在祖国的亲人们、为了争取多赚一分钱追赶时间即使危险也毫不犹豫冲。如果不做3D行业的话,会有别的活路吗? 韩国的青年们也受就业难困扰心里难受,有些太过悲观的甚至会自杀。用当今时髦的流行语这叫做,‘我的鼻涕三尺长’(吾鼻三尺缩略相当于汉语的泥菩萨过河)。在许多外国年轻人当中,有一部分年轻人还到韩国的乡下去务农。与韩国人结婚并为适应陌生的文化而努力的移民女性数量也不少。韩国外籍居民的子女也有日益增加的趋势。

基于到这样的现实考量,可以看出对于韩国的多文化社会的切实关照是如此地迫切需要。UN联合国也在关注着韩国对多文化融合社会上的对策。即使不说多文化家庭,就是普通家庭也累积了很多问题。最突出的是社会经济的两极化问题、子女养育和教育问题、就业难及住宅问题。综合一看韩国的社会矛盾状况也非常严重。

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Aldous Huxley and Climate Change

 

 

Quote from Aldous Huxley for the many insane people around us who look the way in the face of the doom of climate change.

 

 

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”

 

 

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World Revisited

“Chinese Dream: Western Imitation or Radical Alternative?” (Foreign Policy in Focus August 12, 2016)

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Chinese Dream: Western Imitation or Radical Alternative?”

August 12, 2016

 

 

Emanuel Pastreich

 

 

When I arrived in Nanjing to attend a conference recently, I asked the student assigned to show me around whether he could take me to the famed Confucian temple Fuzimiao in the old city. It was my first visit to Nanjing, and I wanted to explore its back streets and perhaps stop at a traditional tea house.

I knew Nanjing — or Jinling as it was known before the Ming Dynasty —even though I had never visited before. I had read many poems set in Nanjing when studying Chinese literature at the University of Tokyo and at Harvard University. The landscape of the Qinghuai River was familiar to me from seventeenth-century miscellanies, and I had fantasized about the sprawling mansions of Nanjing in the eighteenth century when I read the novel Dream of the Red Chamber in college.

But my quest for traces of old Jinling in the frenetic streets of contemporary Nanjing was a failure. All traditional buildings around the Fuzimiao Confucian Temple have been torn down and replaced with bland concrete buildings housing fast food restaurants and shops selling t-shirts. Although some stores had fine teas, for the most part the food and the gear available was not much different from that found in Bangkok, or in Los Angeles for that matter. Nothing was manufactured in Nanjing. The city has lost its community of artisans and craftsmen, not to mention its poets and novelists.

The interior of the Fuzimiao Confucian Temple did not feel authentic. The walls were formed from poured concrete, not stone or plaster. The woodwork was cut by rough hands, and the corners where the floor met the walls were not carefully finished. The furniture was poorly crafted and the calligraphy hanging on the walls mediocre.

I found no grand history that afternoon in Nanjing, nothing like the relics of an inspiring past that you find at Notre Dame in Paris or around the Todaiji Temple in Nara. I got the impression from some explanations that I read that Nanjing’s past is something that Chinese are obligated to read about, but not much in that civilization is relevant to the present day.

My student guide was extremely helpful in the search for a traditional teahouse, but I came away with a feeling of deep sadness that so much of traditional China has been lost—not so much because of the Cultural Revolution but from the growth of a ruthless consumer culture. This sadness was most certainly not sentimentality.

The true tragedy is that China had at one time offered the world the most sophisticated system for supporting a complex bureaucracy and a large population entirely on the basis of fully sustainable organic agriculture. When the American agronomist F. H. King wrote the bookFarmers of Forty Centuries, or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan in 1911, he argued that East Asia offered a model for truly sustainable agriculture that the United States should adopt as soon as possible. Tragically, China has imported the lethal American mix of fertilizer and pesticides that makes nothing sustainable. The Chinese wisdom of agriculture has been lost on young people at exactly the moment it is most needed.

So also, the Chinese traditions of modesty and low consumption, respect for the elderly, and personal humility have tremendous appeal as an alternative to a ruthless consumer society. But if you come to China looking for these virtues, you will be disappointed.

 

The West Dreams of China

Many Westerners are seeking in China an alternative to the deep malaise that infects Western culture. It was a similar impetus that inspired me to study Chinese literature: a disillusionment with the materialism and militarism that were slowly eating away at the institutions that make up the United States. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism offer Americans an alternative to a society in which the individual’s every action is calculated in monetary terms.

I was inspired by China as a student because of the appeal of frugality and the commitment to the unity of learning and ethical practice. Many of the great Confucian scholars made it a practice only to eat what they needed and to refrain from indulgence. Even well-off Chinese avoided waste and ostentation and considered literature and philosophy to be the highest calling. China represented a civilization dedicated to tranquility in which villages maintained a careful harmony with nature that assured their survival for centuries.

But when I visit China today, I find the same blind worship of the false gods that I wanted to leave behind in the United States. I am shocked to see the pointless waste of food at restaurants in China, and the impulsive, needless purchase of unnecessary products and accessories by Chinese. Such actions would have been seen as shameful by Chinese 100 years ago—and such consumption is shameful today in this age of radical climate change. Today most young Chinese throw away plastic bottles and bags like their American peers, without a thought for the consequences.

Most tragically, Chinese bureaucrats also evaluate success according to the same twisted economic theories and fetishisms that have done such damage in the West. Chinese are drawn to fancy department stores packed with disposable goods, and they view flashy fighter planes as symbols of national power. I am sensitive to this shift because as an American I have watched my own country lose its way, its citizens seeking shelter from the harsher realities of society in consumer fantasies.

America has failed miserably to set an ethical model for the world. Not only has my country engaged in a series of illegal wars for over almost two decades, Americans have become so narcissistic that they make no effort to set higher standards for the world to follow in terms of environmental policy or their concern for those who do not have the benefits of wealth.

China, meanwhile, is setting the pace for developing nations around the world today. The nations of Africa and Asia turn to China as a model of successful development and receive an increasing amount of aid from Beijing. China has an impact on the world unlike any other country because one out of five people live in China. China’s culture is impacting nations in Africa and South America directly, and many from developing nations are scrambling to learn Chinese.

China has the tremendous wisdom and depth in its culture, a long tradition of sustainable agriculture and low-consumption intellectual engagement that could provide an alternative for development. China is not offering a fundamental alternative to the consumption-based U.S. model.

 

The Chinese Dream

Many Chinese imagine a strong China that can stand up for its interests and leave behind forever the humiliations it suffered after the Opium Wars (1839-1842; 1856-1860). The desire on the part of Chinese to build up national strength to resist foreign powers is understandable. Unfortunately, the assertion of national power often takes the form of imitating the trappings of national power so loved by the United States, such as the building of aircraft carriers and tanks, rather than a commitment to addressing real security threats like climate change.

The debate in China has been whether China should further embrace neoliberalism, or revive its Maoist traditions. The return to traditional approaches to economics, ecology, and governance have not been considered as a third way. President Xi Jinping introduced the “Chinese Dream” in the midst of the debate on how far to take Chinese globalization.

Xi used the term “Chinese Dream” (Zhongguomeng) in November 2012 after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, predicting a “rejuvenation of China” that would take the form of “a dream of the whole nation, as well as of every individual.” Although the dream was presented as a spiritual challenge to citizens to work together for a better country, and a better world, for many Chinese the “Chinese dream” means simply a rich China packed with big cars, long highways, soaring skyscrapers, and stores packed with consumer goods. They dream of a day that they can eat at expensive restaurants and order so much food that they leave piles of it behind. Many see Chinese see the Western good life as progress even as we observe all around us signs of impending doom.

We should not glorify traditional China, given the rigidity of Confucian teaching in the late imperial period and the severe limitations on the activities of women. At the same time, Chinese should see their past not as something to overcome but as an inspiration for the future. Chinese culture assumed that students were to be trained to read poetry from childhood and should study ethics and philosophy, rather than business administration and marketing. Intellectuals were expected to maintain a commitment to society and to good governance, and government officials were expected to be intellectuals who valued the humanities above all. What we need is something closer to what E. F. Schumacher referred to as the “middle way” between “materialist heedlessness” and “traditional immobility” in his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

China did not grow economically by exploiting the peoples of the world and their natural resources in the way that Europeans and Americans did, and still do. Perhaps we can imagine a world in the future in which China, rather than joining the club of rapacious globalists, returns to its original roots in a sustainable economy that values the humanities and wisdom above all, and reinterpret this as a “Chinese dream” for all Chinese as well as for the developing world.

The Chinese must incorporate into their dream a focus on long-term economic and environmental justice — values that in many respects form the core of the Confucian and Daoist tradition. China should draw on its tradition of ecology and political ethics as the foundation for a new worldview that offers alternatives to “economic growth” metrics and “consumer indexes.” China has the philosophical foundations — the aesthetic — required to build such an intellectual institution. Chinese in the Ming and Qing dynasty were entirely capable of formulating and implementing agricultural and irrigation plans spanning centuries.

Perhaps the rediscovery of traditional Chinese concepts of sustainable agriculture will serve as the necessary stimulus to create a “synthesis that will fuse economics and environmentalism in a way that fundamentally reorients both disciplines,” as John Feffer suggested in his article “The New Marx.” The question is whether Chinese are ready to recognize the treasure that they already hold in their hands.

Whether China is equipped to play a lead role in the world is not relevant. China has been thrust to center stage by circumstances, ready or not. The deep decay of American culture over the last three decades, combined with the striking irresponsibility of American intellectuals, has left the United States embroiled in international and domestic problems that will prevent it from such central role in the international community, regardless of what American media may say.

China is the only country that has the financial assets, the expertise in the sciences, the scale and the depth in its institutions and culture to play such a global role. Moreover, because China was a hegemon in Asia, but not a colonial power in the sense that England, France, Spain, and Germany were, there is a chance that China will promote a level playing field around the world. But that last point is far from guaranteed. The critical question is whether China has the creativity and the moral authority to stand back from the excitement of wealth and power and critically assess how its traditional culture offers a viable alternative for both China and the world.

The majority of Chinese still have not grasped the fact that it is now China’s responsibility, and not merely its opportunity, to advocate for the rule of law, for a peaceful world, and for a better sustainable future around the world. Some countries choose to offer an alternative, and some countries have that responsibility thrust upon them. China finds itself in the latter position, and the world awaits China’s decision.

 

The Future of “One Belt One Road”

Exactly at this moment, when China is called upon to play a central role in the global economy, the country has launched its “One Belt One Road” project. China has invited nations from around the world to participate in this project to promote integration and cooperation among the nations of Eurasia.

The “One Belt One Road” has focused on infrastructure and resource development so far. These projects can sometimes be useful for developing a sustainable future, but in many cases are not. Emphasis has been placed on increasing the flow of oil, gas, and other raw materials into China to fuel further growth and investment. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the New Silk Road Fund (NSRF), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Silk Road Gold Fund, and the Mining Industry Development Fund have little to do with preserving the environment. This drive towards consumption as national strength does not bode well as Chinese consumption of food and fuel has such an impact on the entire world, as Lester Brown has demonstrated in his book Who will Feed China?

Still, the project is just beginning, and China may ultimately use this project to establish new institutions, policies, and habits that lead the Earth in the right direction.

“One Belt One Road” is an unprecedented opportunity for two reasons. It is an opportunity to establish a new international community that follows directly the prescriptions of the United Nations charter, a tradition that has been all but forgotten in Europe and the United States. But it also offers us the possibility of establishing institutions for global governance appropriate to a densely integrated Earth that are not dominated by private equity funds and multinational corporations in the manner that the World Bank is.

The “One Belt One Road” project requires global cooperation and cannot be dictated by China. That fact also offers a rare chance to create new institutions of consensus that are not run by superpowers, but that potential can only be realized if other nations take the project seriously as a plan for humanity, not just a chance to make money.

China should also think more profoundly about the common term for this project, the “new silk road.” The term “silk road” harkens back to the overland trade between China and the rest of Eurasia in the Tang Dynasty through trading centers such as Samarkand and Andijon and over the sea route connecting China with India, Persia, and Africa. But the silk road was not just about money and trade. The silk road also refers to the profound cultural exchanges between China, central Asia, India, and Persia that resulted in the flowering of Buddhist philosophy, the exquisite murals of the Dunhuang Caves, the delicate porcelain and sculpture of Changan, and the lyrical poetry of Li Bai and Du Fu in Tang Dynasty that set the course for the rest of Chinese literary history.

Might this new silk road avoid the well-worn path of Western-style economic development and put its sights on achieving the highest levels of cultural expression? Or could it put more emphasis on organic farming than on building dozens of new airports? Might joint projects to improve the production of sustainable energy replace the extraction of fuel and metals?

At the moment there are few indications of such a shift. But China has demonstrated such radical transformations in the past. China has the solution in its past, although many Chinese are unaware of it. Perhaps China’s past offers that last opportunity for our tortured world.

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“孝 道” (金融博览 2016年 8月 1日)

 

 

金融博览

 2016年 8月 1日

“孝 道”

贝一明(Emanuel Pastreich)

 

中国有句俗语:百善孝为先。此 话非但不俗,而且包含着中国 文化特有的智慧。孝道何以是善中第 一呢?因为父母是孩子的第一榜样, 第一老师,而家庭是孩子成长的第一 环境。《三字经》讲“人之初,性本 善”,这个先天之善的萌芽与生长, 父母是第一影响力。对孩子来说,父 母的言行是最优先的言传身教,父母 务必树立好的榜样,要配得上孩子的 孝敬,这是对父母的自然要求;孩子 以孝敬之心促使本性中善的因子健全 生长。孝,不仅是对孩子的要求,也 是对父母的要求,所谓子孝父慈,就 是这个道理。家庭是最基本的社会单位,也是孝道实践的最基本单位。

孝是在抽象的道德与具体的实践 之间架设的伦理体系的核心所在。孝 道还将个人部分与公共部分集合起 来,形成了可持续发展的政治体制。 魏晋“以孝治天下”,作为一种政治策 略,其中心思想是,在家若能尽孝, 为国方能尽忠。孝,小而言之可以安 家,大而言之则可以治国。这实在是 体现出中国古人的创造力,绝不仅仅 是封建思想的体现。孝道,在中国封 建社会为封建思想所用,并不奇怪, 不能因此否定孝道的价值,尤其是在 当今中国。中国的传统文化中哪一部 分将成为中国未来发展的蓝图?孝道 在中国未来的发展中承担什么样的价 值?值得我们思考。18 世纪,中国人 高度评价国人的孝道。中国人认为, 对于长者及祖先的尊敬是文明社会的标志。

笔者曾访问过韩国安东的儒教乐 园。立体拼图充斥着整个园区。这里 用仿佛是从漫画中跳出来的人物,展 示着儒教的价值。笔者可以充分理解 主题公园展示体验馆的宗旨,但遗憾 的是儒教德行的涵养被掩盖,重点放 在了吸引观光客的感官上。笔者并没 有发现有足以吸引 12 岁以上游客的内 容。今天我们的社会迫切需要内置于 孝道中的、对他人持有的恻隐之心。 笔者从媒体上看到,中国如今出现了 子女将年迈父母丢弃的现象,还出现 了因被家人疏远而在绝望中选择自杀 的年轻人。

孝道是中国必须要复兴的传统, 但要想重新提倡孝道,最重要的是要 意识到应对孝道进行合乎时代文明要 求的重新诠释。只有这样,孝道才不 会只停留于抽象的概念,才会成为鲜 活的日常生活的一部分。要想从根本 上打造全新的孝道,需要发挥想象力。

要想将孝道的传统与如今的社会结合起来进行重新诠释,需要大家的参与, 尤其需要有与艺术家、作家、普通市 广民们一起工作的知识分子的参与。

首先,孝道应摆脱对女性的所有偏见。中国社会已经发生了根本性的 变化,因此儒教传统也应转变为“性 中立 (gender neutral)”。这样的改革先 例在犹太教和基督教传统中可以大量 发现。子孙景仰的祖先中应该包括女 性,女性应该与男性享有同等的地位 参与到儒孝仪式中。所有好的传统都 是对于今天而言的——如果不能对传 统进行改革,其结果就是丧失传统本身。

此外,孝道不仅要理解成道德上的 义 务, 还 要 理 解 为 达 到 自 我 理 解(self-understanding) 的过程。孝道是 我们所具有的认同性的核心。我们是 谁,从何而来,去往何处,如果丢掉 孝道这一切将无从回答。我们今天拥 有的文明相当部分曾经流淌在祖先们 的血液里。虽然我们对他们不太了解, 但我们却是祖先们的光荣所创造的产 物。要想复兴孝道的传统,就要擅长 讲故事(storytelling)。父母应该向子 女讲述祖先的故事,让子女明白他们 的思想、情感、长相、体型以及经验,明白他们的生产和生活方式,以及这 些是如何与逝去的祖先们联系在一起的。

还需要提及的是,孝道与弗洛伊 德 (Freud) 式的接近法比较类似,但孝 道提供更具建设性的心理学理解。通过孝道,可以明白父母在子女生活中 占据极其重要的分量。这并不是通过 抽象的科学分析,而是通过强化父母— 子女关系中积极一面的日常实践而显 示出来的。

英国哲学家伯特兰•罗素(Bertrand•Russell,1872-1970)在1922年出版的《中国的问题》(The Problem of China) 一书中讲道,比起西方国家的“将个人的忠诚引导到战斗部队的爱 国主义”,儒教的孝道对于政府的运 营更具可行性。这句话包括了深刻的 意义。孝道提供了将个人与国家连接 起来的统合性哲学的可能性,让中国 得以维持充满人间之爱的国家管理制度。

 

 

 

Electric fans in the subway

I am not bothered by Koreans lacking certain “Western” habits and I think that Korea is plenty sophisticated in its own way. But there is one thing about Korea that really bugs me: the complete lack of concern for the impact of our actions on the environment. Most notably, we have seen a great enthusiasm for small plastic fans that can be held in hand, or even powered by smart phones. They sell for just 9000 Won. But no one seems to think about the impact on the environment of that unnecessary use of plastics (petroleum) batteries and other materials. Or the waste of electricity (generated by nuclear power, natural gas, coal or petroleum) required. The bottom line is that you can use your own hands to power a fan. No need for an electric fan. Such actions are indulgent and thoughtless when we think about the impending doom of climate change.

 

 

classic hand-powered fan and wasteful electric  fan.

classic hand-powered fan and wasteful electric fan.

Electric fans for sale

Electric fans for sale

Talk at Refuge P-Nan (피난처) center for refugees in Seoul

I visited Refuge P-Nan (피난처) to meet with three of the political refugees living there and meet with their hard working staff and a group of student volunteers. A total of eight political refugees live on site and there are education programs for other refugees in Korea as well. I was greeted by the director Lee Hotaek (이호택) who showed me around and explained me how the number of people applying for refugee status in Korea has increased rapidly and how the members of Refuge P-Nan work to help refugees settle into Korean culture and also to raise awareness among Koreans about the importance of supporting refugees. Director Lee told me that Korea was the first Asian country to pass a law on refugees and that although the numbers of refugees who are admitted is still low, that Korea has now surpassed Japan.

I spoke about my experiences as a foreigner in Korea and also discussed how war and climate change will make refugee issues central in this century.

 

I agreed that I would give talks for refugees in the future and make an effort to contribute to their projects. I feel strongly that the best way to avoid feeling sorry for oneself about the difficulties of living in a foreign country is to work together with people who face far greater challenges.

 

The outside of Refuge P-Nan

The outside of Refuge P-Nan

 

 

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Hunger Strike to demand a response to climate change

I am thinking about launching a hunger strike to

demand that the government of Korea respond to the challenge of climate change

and present a concrete program for how it will transform the country rapidly

into the leading green nation in the world.

Bamboo-Forest-Theme-Park

I cannot launch such a hunger strike without a

concrete and clear demand and I would be much effective

if other people in Korea joined me.

Let me know what you think.

We can start in September.

There is not much time left.

Thanks

Emanuel

 

“The truth about our palaces” (JoongAng Daily August 1, 2016)

JoongAng Daily

“The truth about our palaces”

August 1, 2016

 

Emanuel Pastreich

 

It was the fifth time I had overheard the same conversation from Chinese tourists visiting Gyeongbok Palace. One of the group remarked in a dismissive tone that Korean palaces are so small and simple compared with the impressive edifices that dominate the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Korean friends have confessed to me that they are a bit ashamed when they hear such remarks from Chinese visitors. But I have never felt there was anything to be ashamed about in the planning of the ancient city of Hanyang (Seoul). One of the greatest strengths of Korean democracy can be traced back to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty and that was the clear limits on the power of the king that stood in notable contrast to the unlimited power of the emperor in China. The palaces, first Gyeongbok and then Changdeok, were designed to give the impression of dignity, but not to overwhelm the observer, or to suggest that the king had super-human status. In contrast, the massive Forbidden City, which by its very name implies it is off limits, Korean palaces are not much larger than the homes of the scholar officials on the northern side of the city (Bukchon) and the houses of the scholar officials are not much bigger than the homes of commoners.

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