Monthly Archives: March 2013

Asia Institute Seminar with Professor Benjamin Barber, March 25, 2013




The Asia Institute presents with HOBY Korea this unprecedented opportunity to speak directly to the world-famous scholar Professor Benjamin Barber and join him for an intimate lunch on Monday, March 25, 2013. The event is aimed specifically at those engaged in the education of high school students as this event is leading up to the Asia Institute’s GCF Youth Green Fund Symposium for high school students (July 12-14, 2013). Please contact me:

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A Revolution in Seoul! The Return of the Fortress Wall

For the last sixty years, Seoul has been trying to forget its past and establish a new image, both at home and abroad, as a truly international city. Those bits of old Seoul, whether the palaces or old hanok houses, strike the observer as incongruous traces of a completely different world that somehow avoided the wreckers ball. Moreover, a key aspect of Seoul’s project for modernization has been the integration of the northern and southern banks of the Hangang River into one modern global city connected by freeways. It seems that the old streets crowded with grocery stores and dry goods had to be completely replaced with large-scale towers of glass and steel. That part is not uniquely Korean–it is the plague that swept the United States in the 1970s and only started to be turned around with the demolition of Penn Station in New York City.

But now a new image for the northern bank of the Han River is emerging and becoming very powerful. The new vision focuses on the fortress wall that has survived in part around old Seoul The new posters, such as this one below, make the fortress wall a defining element for Seoul and go so far as to sketch in the parts that have been razed.

The city of Seoul has put together a very impressive walking tour based around the fortress wall for tourists (and residents). I am delighted as someone who has often walked around the city wall and found it quite beautiful.

The second poster offers stamps for a cultural passport for those who visit each of four designated city gates in the fortress wall. In good Zhu Xi style, each wall is associated with a virtue–as the poster explains.

Even three years ago it would have been hard to imagine the city of Seoul making the fortress wall so central to its own

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Avatar Culture in Korea

Korea is swept by avatar culture: a tendency to define one’s identity in terms of virtual representations. Avatar culture is one of the driving forces behind plastic surgery, by the way, since avatar representations of the human body put immense pressure on the individual to conform–often to an entirely unrealistic, or fantastic, model.

This photograph represents quite accurately the broad impact of avatar culture in daily life.


Here are a few more avatar-like commercial images from downtown Seoul. Imagine the impact they have on young women who see them every day.


Selected Publications of the Asia Institute Released

Selected Publications of the Asia Institute has been released in a soft-cover edition. It is available at all Asia Institute events, or by request.


The set price for this 360 page collection of our seminars, reports and articles is 12,000 Won.




大田三川: “과학·자연·예술 융합된 생태도시 대전을 꿈꿉니다” (대덕넷)


2013년 3월 6일 


“과학·자연·예술 융합된 생태도시 대전을 꿈꿉니다”

이만열 경희대 교수, 대전의 하천 형상화한 포스터 제작
하천로고 머그컵 이어 ‘대전삼천 포스터’로 대전사랑 지속


이주원 기자



“대전의 하천은 참 멋있습니다. 이 하천을 중심으로 앞으로 대전이 자연과 과학, 예술이 융합된 멋진 생태도시가 되길 바랍니다”

이만열 경희대 국제대학원 교수. 한국말을 유창하게 구사하는 외국인 교수로 유명한 그가 이번에 대전의 삼대하천을 모티브로 한 포스터를 소개하며 한 말이다.



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Oped: “On Climate, Defense Could Preserve and Protect, Rather Than Kill and Destroy”


On Climate, Defense Could Preserve and Protect, Rather Than Kill and Destroy

Thursday, 07 March 2013 10:34

Holding the line against the Kubuchi Desert.

One hundred groggy Korean college students stumble off the train in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, blinking in the bright sunlight. A 14-hour train ride from Beijing, Baotou is by no means a popular destination for Seoul’s youth, but then this is no shopping excursion.

A short, elderly man in a bright green jacket leads the students through the crowd in the station, hurriedly giving orders to the group. In contrast to the students, he does not appear tired at all; his smile is unimpaired by the journey. His name is Kwon Byung-Hyun, a career diplomat who served as the Republic of Korea’s ambassador to China from 1998 to 2001. Whereas his portfolio once covered everything from trade and tourism to military affairs and North Korea, Ambassador Kwon has found a new cause that demands his full attention. At 74 years of age, he has no time to see his colleagues who are busy playing golf or for indulging in hobbies. Ambassador Kwon is in his little office in Seoul on the phone and writing letters to build an international response to the spread of deserts in China – or he is here, planting trees.

Kwon speaks in a relaxed and accessible manner, but he is anything but easy-going. Although it takes him two days to get from his home in the hills above Seoul to the front line of the Kubuchi desert as it makes its ineluctable way southeast, he makes the trip often, and with enthusiasm.

The Kubuchi Desert has expanded so that it is just 450 kilometers west of Beijing Read more of this post

Murals on the way to Kyung Hee University

The School of Art at Kyung Hee University decided to devote its efforts to transforming the alleys around the university by painting a series of compelling posters with strong messages that call out to the passer by. The posters are remarkably effective. Here are a few examples.

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“Greed, Capitalism and the Second Law of Thermodynamics” in The Hangyoreh

The Hangyoreh

March 4, 2013


Greed, Capitalism and the Second Law of Thermodynamics


By Emanuel Pastreich


Many lament  our consumer culture and the ruthlessness and selfishness of today‘s people. The phenomenon of blind consumption is undeniable, and its damage to the ecosystem and to humanity itself is increasingly the primary threat we face. But the ultimate cause of such consumption is far from clear. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is to assume that because a trend is manifest that it necessarily has a single cause. Simple trends can be generated through the interference of complex factors.

There is great enthusiasm for employing the word “capitalism” to describe the run-away quality of contemporary consumer society, and increasingly that term is used by groups that we think of as both left and right.

But the word “capitalism” is rather ambiguous and its use obscures as much as it illuminates. To start with, that term suggests that the problems we are facing today, from climate change to the destabilization of markets and the disruption of economic systems through the globalization of production and distribution, are somehow just a repeat of the industrial revolution that socialists and communists denounced as “capitalism” in the nineteenth century. Read more of this post

Asia Institute Report: “Proposal for a Constitution of Information”


The Asia Institute released a report on March 3, 2013 in which it makes a proposal for a “constitution of information” to respond to the challenges posed by the information revolution.

Proposal for a Constitution of Information

March 3, 2013

Emanuel Pastreich





When David Petraeus resigned as CIA director afteran extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell was exposed, the problem of information security gained national attention. The public release of personal e-mails in order to impugn someone at the very heart of the American intelligence community raised awareness of e-mail privacy issues and generated a welcome debate on the need for greater safeguards. The problem of e-mail security, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of a far more serious problem involving information with which we have not started to grapple. We will face devastating existential questionsin the years ahead as human civilization enters a potentially catastrophic transformation—one driven not by the foibles of man, but rather by the exponential increase in our capability to gather, store, share, alter and fabricate information of every form, coupled with a sharp drop in the cost of doing so.Such basic issues as how we determine what is true and what is real, who controls institutions and organizations, and what has significance for us in an intellectual and spiritual sense will become increasingly problematic. The emerging challenge cannot be solved simply by updating the 1986 “Electronic Communications Privacy Act” to meet the demands of the present day;[1] it will require a rethinking of our society and culture and new, unprecedented, institutions to respond to the challenge. International Data Corporation estimated the…

Full report here.

Images of Women in Korea (I am moving away from the verbal and towards the visual these days)

women in KOrea