Monthly Archives: August 2012

Asia Institute Interview with Mr. N R Narayana Murthy

August, 2012


N R Narayana Murthy

Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys Technologies Pvt Ltd., India

Mr. Murthy is a legendary Indian business known for building Infosys Technologies from a local company to a global leader in consulting and technology services. This Interview concerns the position of SMEs (small and medium-size enterprise) in Korea and in the world. Read more of this post

“16 Steps to address the environmental crisis: Things you have already thought of!” (essay)

16 Steps to address the environmental crisis

Steps that you have already thought of, but that you have never seen written down anywhere!

Emanuel Pastreich

August 19, 2012

One of the great tragedies of our age is the ineffectiveness of efforts to address the environmental issues of our day. People are distracted from the problem of climate change by a specious debate about whether climate change is as dangerous, or dramatic, as some would claim, or whether it might be less severe, even a part of natural processes. That discussion is a remarkable waste of time. Even if you believed there was no climate change whatsoever (which is hard to argue considering that the Middle East was once fertile farmland), the crisis of overpopulation, water scarcity and pollution of ground water, the destruction of forests and ecosystems, over-fishing and damage to the atmosphere itself is more than enough to suggest radical change is taking place in our environment that puts us all at risk. Read more of this post

Seoul Metro strives to make commuters more civilized

One unique aspect of Korea is the degree to which government sees it as its job (often in a positive sense) to change culture and habits so as to create a more cultured, civilized, society. The most striking effort over the last two years is the push to get Koreans to line up to get on trains and to walk up and down staircases on the right side. The process has had considerable impact on Korea where people did not line up, or walk on the right side, previously.

Attractive new signage in the Seoul Metro encouraging consideration for other passengers.

Read more of this post

First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have been reading through Franklin Roosevelt’s   First Inaugural Address this evening as part of work on a book. I was struck by the  relevance of much of its content for the current day and have included two striking quotes and the full body of the address.

First on the tragedy of making profit the driving force for a culture:

“Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”

A demand that people start speculation with other people’s money. Read more of this post

The Chinese inscription above the entrance to Sterling Memorial Library

The stone inscriptions at Yale spoke to me as an undergraduate, particularly the haunting carvings of the Sterling Memorial Library. This enormous bibliographic cathedral is a mixture of late Art Deco and Gothic Revival that was designed by James Gamble Rogers and completed early in the depression in 1931.

Above all, the carvings over the main entrance to Sterling Memorial Library made the deepest impression on me as I passed through them almost every day. From left to right above the right door stand four tablets with ancient scripts: Arabic, Greek, Chinese and Mayan passages with their respective scribes standing below. Read more of this post

The New Political Culture of Intimacy: Ahn Chol-Soo’s Book “Thoughts of Ahn Chol-Soo”

I am currently reading Ahn Chol-Soo,s new book  “Thoughts of Ahn Chol-Soo.”

Ahn, who serves as Dean of Graduate Studies at the Institutes for Convergence Technology at Seoul National University, has been engaged in a remarkable political dance for the last year  concerning whether or not he will run for president. He  is someone  who has never held political office before. In the United States, this sort of a political game would  be impossible as no one  who is not committed early on could possibly be a last-minute candidate. With the Korean elections scheduled for December, it is astonishing that someone who has not taken the first step to start a campaign is being compared favorably at times with the conservative party candidate Park Kyun-hye.

This photograph of Ahn washing dishes is one of many photographs of Ahn Chol-Soo that pepper his new best-seller “Thoughts of Ahn Chol-Soo.” The choice of dish washing is significant at several levels. Most political figures put most of their effort into building up their stature. Here Ahn attempts to create an accessible and intimate image as someone who is a successful businessman, but still perfectly capable of washing his own dishes.

Read more of this post

“I am a selfish bastard” as media and cultural phenomenon in Korea (report)

Emanuel Pastreich

Report on Media in Korea

August 6, 2012

“I am a selfish bastard”

The rise of the podcast comic radio program “I am a selfish bastard” (“Na nun Ggomsu da”)was a profoundly important political event in Korea. The title “I am a selfish Bastard” phrase refers explicitly to President Lee Myung Bak in the most vulgar of wording. The show functions as something like the Korean equivalent of the Daily Show, making fun of the Lee Myung Bak administration without mercy, but there is more to the show than just comedy.

Members of “I am a Stupid Bastard” at their best.

“I am a selfish bastard” took an extremely original approach to media and news unlike anything Koreans had witnessed before. Read more of this post

Labor and the Korean Media (report)

Labor and the Korean Media

Emanuel Pastreich

August 6, 2012

The Korean media has been roiled by a series of strikes and labor campaigns since President Lee Myung Bak appointed or promoted close personal associates as CEOs for three major broadcast companies.

The main strikes against KBS, MBC and YTN were above all born of resistance against the control of broadcast company policy by President Lee Myung Bak.

The media is considered absolutely critical for the functioning of democracy and such attempt by the president to seize control of the public media was Read more of this post

Peace on the Peninsula through Art: Park Sidong’s Seokjangni Art Museum on the DMZ

Peace on the Peninsula through Art

Park Sidong’s Seokjangni Art Museum on the DMZ 

I first visited Park Sidong’s remarkable   Seokjangni Art Museum on the DMZ in March, 2012 after attending a seminar held at a military outpost overlooking North Korea. I was on a panel with artists and scholars discussing how an innovative residency for artists held right on the DMZ could serve as the first step towards bringing peace to the peninsula. The idea struck a chord with me. Could it be that rather than holding yet another seminar or writing yet another op-ed, just having artists practicing art could help facilitate the cultural and ideological shifts required to move beyond the current stalemate? I think there is that  chance.


The sculpture greeting the visitor

  Read more of this post

Pastreich Talk at KBS about the power of Korean Media.

I gave a talk at KBS’s education center in Suwon on the topic of the Korean Wave and the future of KBS on July 24, 2012. The talk was intended for new employees of KBS and there were perhaps 150 young people, fresh out of college, who represent the future of Korean media.

The talk stressed the importance of Korean youth to take advantage of their remarkable cultural influence in the world to create a better future for us all. I gave examples of the impact that Korea can have in either a positive or negative manner, and drew attention to the great depth of the Korean cultural tradition, far beyond current K Pop, to inspire people around Asia and around the world to reach for something greater than consumerism and self-gratification.

The talk encouraged the next generation at KBS to imagine a unique global KBS that reaches beyond its limits, a medium that can go beyond CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.

The response of the young KBS employees was quite enthusiastic and one even came up to me to tell me about her plans to learn more about China.