“Korea's solution to the Middle East crisis: Go for zero” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Korea’s solution to the Middle East crisis: Go for zero”

January 18, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

The request from the Trump administration that South Korea join a new naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz, at precisely the moment the entire region is on fire, places Seoul in a difficult position. Not only is the push for military conflict with Iran, which is making Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immensely unpopular with many Americans (including many in the military), the plan has also been met with profound skepticism on the part of many American allies. Many question the legitimacy, and the logic, of assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Few think that there will be any positive result from military action.

The risk of South Korea being drawn into a massive, and crippling, military conflict, and one in which the United States does not have overwhelming advantage as was the case in the first Gulf War, are high. The threat that Iran will break off diplomatic relations with Seoul, and perhaps even encourage attacks on Koreans around the world, is real.

At the same time, South Korea has benefitted immensely from the U.S.-Korea alliance and the ties between the two countries in culture, education, politics and economics are profound. A decision by South Korea to avoid the Hormuz mission, as Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has suggested, could do significant damage to bilateral relations and create resentment the extends far beyond the Trump administration.

The choice is incredibly difficult, but it must be made.

I will not pretend to offer a miracle cure. What I would like to suggest here is that this crisis offers South Korea a chance for a profound consideration of its true national security and an opportunity to launch a complete transformation of its economy and culture that will make future choices more strategically sound and will keep South Korea out of such impossible positions.

Energy resources from the Middle East are critical to the Korean Economy at multiple levels. Korea uses those energy sources in its economy, it produces products that require those energy sources such as automobiles and ships that are sold globally (and is therefore sensitive to fluctuations in the price of oil), and Korea sells many products and services to the Middle East so that the economic health of that part of the world has a direct impact at home.

So dangerous it the instability in the Middle East that Koreans must respond by focusing their full attention on the solution (putting away their smartphones) and they must make energy security the national priority.

However, this crisis, which I think is the equivalent of war, does not mean that Korea must buy even more weapons systems, or send its military into the Middle East to face tremendous dangers in an ambiguous struggle. Instead, making Korea completely independent of imported fossil fuels must become the priority. We must create the equivalent of a military economy to get us there quickly. We have no time to waste.

The rapid end of dependency on petroleum and other energy sources imported from abroad must be made such a fundamental security priority that the response of the stock market, short-term profits for business, the convenience of citizens and traditional economic growth metrics become secondary in the discussion.

The government must reassert its authority to set a national long-term agenda and to mobilize citizens, working together with all sectors, so that we can rapidly transform our economy, our means of production and our culture. It is an imperative, “the moral equivalent of war,” to quote President Jimmy Carter, that we become entirely independent of fossil fuels in the next few years.

Once we recognize that the overwhelming priority for Korea is national security, and not economic growth, and that national security will only come when we end the importation of petroleum from the Middle East, and from elsewhere, we will make real progress. Climate change engendered by emissions from fossil fuels will destroy Korea over the next 40 years (and the predictions about global warming of scientists over the last 30 years have been quite accurate) and constant dependency on imported energy means that Korea can be economically destroyed at any time by a break in the flow of petroleum and coal into the country.

The first step is for the government to ignore the cries of short-sighted business representatives who have no long-term strategy for the nation and who are more interested in overseas profits than in the well-being of Koreans.

We must set an ambitious plan to make Korea 100 percent carbon-free in four years, or fewer. Such a plan will go even beyond the most ambitious efforts elsewhere in the world and make Korea number one. Moreover, it must be even more comprehensive an effort than the Korean drive for rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s. To be successful, this goal of independence from fossil fuels must become a critical part of the lives of all citizens, giving new meaning to every action and creating a new sense of community. Citizens should be placed at the center of this national movement to end imports of energy, thus encouraging a sense of common purpose and a habit of mutual support, as opposed to narcissistic self-indulgence and greedy competition.

We must make plans for South Korea in which energy independence is set as the top priority and in which policies are no longer evaluated with regards to the profits they may derive for wealthy investors.

First, the government must reinvent finance to serve in much the manner it does in a war-time economy. As was true in the 1960s and 1970s, finance must be nationalized and used for the common good. Foreign capital which is not directed at the long-term interests of Korea, specifically energy independence, must be rejected.

The goal of zero imported fuel is necessary for survival. Profit and consumption are far lesser concerns.

The entire economy must be mobilized to manufacture and distribute wind-powered and solar powered sources of energy. Those sources of energy should be heavily subsidized for the purpose of national security and must completely displace oil and coal power. The technology should be open source and all residents should be required by law to employ renewable energy. We must see solar and wind power devices attached to every residence, every office building and spread across the country. Every plane or bus or automobile must be covered with solar panels that generate energy.

But the process goes further than that. Buildings that waste energy must be entirely rebuilt for maximum efficiency, including the installation of insulation and the use of double or triple storm windows. We should not hesitate to demolish buildings that cannot be energy efficient. Moreover, we must increase the number of trees in public spaces, even tearing down many buildings in cities to make space for plants.

Employing electric cars that can be charged using solar panels will be a critical first step. But we can only do so effectively if we require that all existing automobiles be turned in for replacement with electric vehicles within six months.

But many people should simply give up their cars forever. Moreover, South Korea should move beyond its economic dependence on the automotive sector. The ultimate plan will be to eliminate most automobiles and to redesign cities so the vehicles are no longer needed.

The scale of the transformation will be massive and must be pushed forward by a social movement that includes all citizens. Citizens must learn at local meetings, much as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, about the dangers of climate change, about the imperative to stop the use of gasoline, of plastics, and of everything related to imported petroleum. We must educate everyone about the existential danger for Korea posed by climate change and the national security risks of dependence on imported energy. We must make everyone aware of how each of their daily actions, driving a car, buying a plastic toy, eating food wrapped in plastic and imported, make Korea less secure and increase the dangers that we face.

This movement should include everyone, from every block, from every village, across Korea.

To achieve such a goal we must make reading, writing, analysis and debate central to Korean society. The link between climate change and fossil fuels, and the deep threat to Korean security posed by importing energy, can only be made clear if we revive intellectual discourse in our society and make citizens participants in the process. We must encourage Koreans to be citizens and to engage their minds in policy, not just in mindless entertainment.

But there is more. To eliminate imported energy, and thereby assure national security, we must return to our traditional values. Koreans once held frugality, modesty, self-sufficiency and humility as the highest values. It was once considered shameful to throw away a grain of rice, or to dispose of any object that had still value. Koreans wasted nothing. Thrift was a great virtue.

But Korea has been taken over by an indulgent culture of consumption that makes waste a virtue. We are encouraged by television shows, commercials and the alien concept of consumption-based economics to waste. In fact, the more we waste, the better our economy will be ― or so we are told. We have thrown away close family ties and deep friendships. Instead, we pass our days buried in our smartphones, watching stupid videos, photographs of food, video games or pornography. This flawed culture encourages a fabulous waste of energy that makes the southern side of the Korean Peninsula visible from space. It is a catastrophe, not an achievement that South Korea is lit up, and this waste deeply compromises our security. All that energy is imported, and all that energy is destroying the climate.

As we push for true energy independence, we also will be forced to reconsider the concept of trade. Trade has been presented to us as a critical aspect of the economy, and this position on the importance of trade is shared by representatives of the left and of the right.

Trade is a sacred topic, one that no one can question.

But if Korea wants true security, we must ask the hard questions. The United States, and Japan and China have already started to ask those hard questions about trade.

The ships that bring us products from around the world also consume immense amounts of imported fossil fuels and they contribute to climate change. Moreover, Korea’s dependency on raw materials and finished goods that are imported vastly increases the risks for Korea in the case of a conflict. Whereas most tools and furniture were once made in Korea, now most must be brought from abroad. Jobs have been sacrificed, the nation’s security has been compromised and local expertise diminished. If trade stops in a crisis, the Korean economy will stop.

Increased self-sufficiency is critical to Korea’s survival; the myth that the only road to prosperity is through trade must be questioned. If trade makes us insecure, we must limit trade. We are in a position where most Koreans would starve in a few weeks if food imports ceased.

The Middle East crisis is as serious as it looks. But the ultimate message for us is NOT that we need to send warships and tanks into that growing chaos. No. Rather, we must come together in Korea, to exercise great political will, and to make Korea truly independent of imported energy. That is the first step toward true security.

The struggle to change direction will be enormous. Everyone must be involved. But as we know, Korea has succeeded against the odds before.

A world without government, without ideology?

I believe we need government, as imperfect as it is, and I think that the more dangerous fantasy is that we can live somehow without government. Similarly, some think that we can live without thinking, without any   ideology.

If you believe that you can live without government, you will be ruled by governments that you cannot perceive. If you think you can live without ideology, your thinking will be controlled by ideologies that you cannot see.

Emanuel Pastreich

January 16, 2020

"한국인만 모르는 한국의 보물" (이만열 및 고산)

한국인만 모르는 한국의 보물

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬 & 고산 공저

Book Star출판사

ISBN 979-11-88768-XX-X 03210   2020년 2월 1일


01. 바람과 물이 만나 땅을 이룬다


  전통은 새로운 미래를 만든다

  기술과 정신이 만나다

  창의적인 사색의 공간

  주거문화의 새로운 한류, 한옥

  한국의 문화 외교관


  바람과 물의 이야기, 풍수

  풍수의 도시 서울 그리고 한강

  새로운 도시 계획의 모델


  토론의 전통

  토론의 장이 된 사랑방

  미래형 토론 모델


  사람들 사이엔 섬이 있다

  시대정신이 살아 있는 골목길

  북촌의 골목길을 걷다

  느리게 걷는 골목, 서촌

  희망을 찾는 마을, 벽화마을

  이야기가 있는 강풀만화거리


  자연의 선물 갯벌

  바다의 금광

  갯벌은 생명이다

02. 장인의 손끝에서 태어난 한국의 보물


  신의 그릇, 이도다완

  백색의 보석을 찾아서

  일본을 일으킨 조선의 자기


  견오백 지천년

  한지와 한국의 기록 문화

  한지 문화, 생활로 들어와야


  세계기록유산, 직지

  정신문화의 중심, 인쇄

  한국의 유전자 속 직지

03. 정신은 문화를 낳는다

 차 문화

  자연과 어우러지는 차 문화

  선비들의 차 문화

 효 문화

  유럽 사회에서 효 문화

  미래 사회 모델이 될 ‘효’


  한국 정신의 뿌리

  미국을 깨울 한국의 정신


  한국을 소개할 브랜드

  한국을 대표할 ‘선비정신’

  혼란한 시대를 이끌 모델


  중국인, 일본인, 한국인

  이웃이 가족이 되는 나라, 한국

  아름다운 이웃, 사라지는 이웃

  성미산에 희망을 심다

04. 보다 가깝고 보다 창의적인


  가장 경제적인 문자

  한글의 위기는 스스로 자초한 것이다


  정조와 정약용, 그리고 실학

  주자학의 실학 전통

  철학의 집대성자, 다산

  세계정신의 중심


  한의학에 매료된 세계 의학계

  사라져 가는 전통 의학

  동의보감의 시대

05. 한국인의 마음을 채우는 보물


  한국인의 얼굴, 도깨비

  도깨비에는 이야기가 있다


  희망의 미소

  보물이 된 미소

  벼랑에 새긴 백제의 미소

  돌덩어리에 깃든 천년 미소

The argument for staying away from technical terms like "capitalism"

I have to say that to blame everything on “neoliberalism” or “capitalism” or “consumption” does not really answer the question. Nor does blame of the super rich answer the question. Ultimately there is a flaw in human nature, in the structure of the human brain, that lies behind the chaos and destruction we witness. We tolerate things we should not tolerate. We are able to convince ourselves that things which are not seen are not important. And finally, the human brain is made of different parts which interact, but do not conform to an administrative hierarchy. The pre-frontal cortex may put together arguments for rationality, and also promote contemplation, but it runs in parallel with the amygdala which responds with fear to events and refuses to permit a careful consideration of anything but initial impressions. Then there is the brain stem which functions in an entirely instinctive manner, without a concern for logic, or even for whether the human will survive the current situation, or not. We are ultimately an interference pattern of these elements and our brains can be manipulated by technology, by repetition, by images that have pre-programmed connotations, and by complex fictions that are convincing as reality, or more so.

Such technical terms should also be avoided because they cost us an audience among ordinary people. Everything that we attribute to “capitalism” can be described in an objective manner without ever using that word. In fact, using that word often results in people ceasing to think carefully about the details of economic processes.

Is it okay to be in denial about nuclear war and climate change?

Of course it is a strategy of sorts to simply pretend that you have no idea what the risk of nuclear war is, or what the catastrophe of climate change is that awaits us. It is easy enough to be in denial. And we can understand those who do so. But if you have received a good education, if you have some economic means, if you do not have to work all day long at a fast food restaurant to survive, then such behavior is simply inexcusable. You have a responsibility to speak the truth and to do what you can, even at considerable sacrifice. That is your duty in light of the benefits you have received.

Why we must start with money

We must away from money that is backed by petroleum and coal. After the gold standard, increasingly the source of value behind currency has become petroleum . At the local level, We can start with barter and other green currencies that allow us to create fossil-fuel free economic exchange. Eventually those local economies will undergird a global economy.

Sticker to put on you automobile and on other automobiles

Here is my mockup for a sticker that we can put on our automobiles and could even put on the automobiles of thousands of others across the city, the country. Many were offended by the idea of such shaming and violation of the private property of others. I am not sure that I feel that way. When the house is on fire, you must do what you must do. What do you think?

The Ideological split in China today

If you walk through any city in China today, you will observe that the battle is not between a “Communist” China and a “Democratic” Hong Kong and Taiwan but rather an internal battle between a consumer-based, globalized China which is not all that Chinese and a China based around government institutions that still thinks that encouraging personal virtue in the socialist tradition is the paramount.

Just look at the competing images and advertising in China and you will understand.

Here are the ads put up by the consumer-obsessed global China

Here are the competing images

Here are the images put out by the government which draw less attention but are remarkable in that no such advertising exists in South Korea, Hong Kong or Japan any more. These are ads that encourage virtue.

Emanuel's study in McLean, Virginia

Here are the walls around the desk where I do most of my work in McLean, Virginia, these days.

(from upper left) Photo with my mother Marie-Louise Rouff, my friend Neil Katkov, and my friend Eric Marler, summer of 2003. Historical entry for Zhu Yun of the Han Dynasty, photo of me sitting with Yu Hui-seok (유희석) and Chung Byong-sol (정병설) at a cafe across from Yonsei University for a discussion about literary theory in 1996, photo of Benjamin building a boat at Houghton Academy (2017), and poster for Daejeon, Korea, that I designed in 2010.

(Top) calligraphy of Seolsong, the greatest calligrapher in Daejeon reads “these is a great treasury in a book” (书有金屋) (bottom from left) photo of me walking in Mt. Auburn Cemetary taken by Eric Marler (1993), quote from the Analects “If the nation loses its way, wealth and status are something to be ashamed of,” The original design I made for a poster for Buam-dong district in Seoul where we lived for five years from 2016 (with photo of me and Rachel), text from the Analects on the “rectification of names,” phrase from Analects, “Virtue is never alone; there will always be those nearby” (includes a recent sketch).

Close-up of Daejeon poster and picture from Mount Auburn Cemetary.

Emanuel Pastreich on North Korea Worker's Party statement ("By All Means Necessary") Dec. 30.

Emanuel Pastreich on significance of Kim Jong Un’s comments at North Korea Worker’s Party Conference

“By All Means Necessary”

North Korea Analysis from minute 29

(from minute 29)

Jacquie Luqman and Sean Blackmon are joined by Emanuel Pastreich, Founder and Director of The Asia Institute to talk about Kim Jong-un’s statements at a Worker’s Party leadership meeting in the DPRK over the weekend, the shared interests of North and South Korea in reaching a peace treaty, the lack of expertise exhibited by the Trump administration in their negotiations with the DPRK, and the ripple effect of US/DPRK nuclear talks on the northeast Asia region.