Monthly Archives: September 2013

“The Real North Korean Threat” in Foreign Policy in Focus (September 23, 2013)

Foreign Policy in Focus

September 23, 2013


“The Real North Korean Threat”

Emanuel Pastreich


There is a terrible danger lurking just over the DMZ that threatens the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia. That threat demands an immediate response that is focused and forceful, as well as a long-term strategy that will bring together all members of the international community for a campaign dedicated to the permanent containment of this threat.

It is not North Korea’s Taepodong ICBM systems, nor its Musudan or Nodong missiles that I have in mind. Nor do I refer to the nuclear weapons that recently were tested as part of Pyongyang’s high-stakes diplomatic cat-and-mouse game with the international community. Although the danger of an arms race in Northeast Asia is serious, humanity faces another, potentially more devastating peril—one for which we have yet to begin to make required strategic preparations.

I refer to the spread of deserts and semi-desert regions in North Korea as a result of the reckless logging of forests, the misuse of soil, and irresponsible farming practices. These ecological dead zones, where few plants can survive, are spreading. As desertification worsens, this ecological nightmare will have serious, perhaps irreversible, repercussions in South Korea and throughout the region.

Professor Kim Seoung-il of Seoul National University estimates that over 1 million hectares of forests in North Korea have been lost over the last 20 years, leading to a nearly irreversible loss of soil and an endless series of floods and droughts. Read more of this post

The Manhattan Project and the Fukushima Initiative

Regarding the Fukushima Initiative of the Asia Institute, I am a bit torn about whether or not we should use an analogy to the Manhattan Project. The analogy is a good one in that the Manhattan Project brought together the best and the brightest to focus their full attention on the extremely complex task of developing an atomic weapon quickly. Under the inspired leadership of Robert Oppenheimer, a group including such scientists as Richard Feynman,  John Manley and Enrico Fermi put together their collective wisdom and creativity to pursue in a period of a few years a project that would have perhaps taken more than a decade under normal circumstances. Certainly that is the sort of intensity and focus we are imagining with regards to Fukushima.

At the same time, the Manhattan Project is not a neutral analogy. It was, after all, the tragic beginning of nuclear weapons and by extension all nuclear technologies. To invoke the Manhattan Project requires us in a sense to strip it of its original political significance and use it almost in reverse. Perhaps the Fukushima Initiative is a Manhattan project to clean up the mess that resulted from the original Manhattan Project. In the words of Albert Einstein (a few books from whose library came into my possession through the assistance of Vince Rubino) the nuclear age “has changed everything but our thinking.” We need to see everything differently now. Fukushima has brought that message home and this is the moment for action.

“일본 원전 사고 복구작업은 세계 각국 첨단기술이 융합될 장을 마련해준다” ( 뉴수위크)


2013년 9월 16일

“일본 원전 사고 복구작업은 세계 각국 첨단기술이 융합될 장을 마련해준다”



지진과 쓰나미가 일본 후쿠시마의 원자력 발전소를 파괴한지 2년도 넘는 시간이 흘렀다. 후쿠시마 원전 사고는 아시아태평양 지역의 공공보건에 가장 심각한 위협 중 하나다. 역사상 가장 심각한 방사능 유출 사고로 기록될 가능성이 크다. 후쿠시마 제1원전에서는 아직도 방사능이 흘러나와 지하수로 스며들고 있어 태평양 전체를 오염시킬 위험도 있다.

최근 도쿄전력은 방사선이 지하수와 해수로 흘러들어가는 것을 막을 기술이 부족하다고 밝히며 일본 정부에 지원을 요청했다. 이 위기를 극복하려면 수십년에 걸친 국제사회의 협력이 필요하다는 사실은 명백하다. 그럼에도 일본은 그런 협력체계를 구축하는 일을 시작조차 하지 않은 상태다.

후쿠시마 원전 사고 해결은 1960년대 우주 경쟁에 비견될 수 있다. 그 시기에는 인류를 달에 보내기 위해 각국에서 첨단기술의 향연이 펼쳐졌다. 이에는 물론 장기간에 걸친 연구가 필요했다. 이번 후쿠시마 사고 복구작업에서는 그런 노력이 국제적으로 이뤄져야 한다. 수많은 사람의 생명이 달린 문제이기 때문이다. 후쿠시마 사태는 핵 비확산, 테러리즘, 경제위기 못지 않은 관심을 받아 마땅한 주제다.

이 문제 해결을 위해선 한국, 미국, 중국, 일본과 그밖의 국가들에서 가장 뛰어난 인재들이 모여 장기적인 계획을 마련해야 한다. 공학, 생물학, 농업학, 철학, 역사, 도시 디자인 등 다양한 분야의 전문가가 필요하다. 이들은 지역사회 재건, 주민 재정착, 방사선 유출 제어, 오염된 토양과 물 정화 등 다양한 층위에서 협력을 펼칠 것이다.

후쿠시마 사고는 인류의 큰 재앙이지만, 동시에 불의의 사고에 맞닥뜨렸을 때 가동할 수 있는 국제 네트워크를 구축할 기회를 제공했다. 이번 노력에서 마련한 돌파구는 페르시아만의 석유 제거나 기후 변화 같은 다른 장기 프로젝트에도 활용될 수 있다.

한국은 후쿠시마 위기에 적극 대응해 세부 계획을 세우고 세계 각국 정부, 연구단, 사업체 Read more of this post

On the potential in the Korean Wave

I thought a bit about the recent interview in Arirang’s “Catch The Wave” with Adrien Lee.


Regarding K-Pop, I think we can say that Psy is like Elvis Presley: opening the door to new possibilities in music and a new direction in popular culture. The question is what the next step will be. If we look back on Elvis Presley, then the question is who will be the Beatles in Korea? Who will be Peter Paul & Mary? Who will be Simon and Garfunkel? The key, I think, is moving music back towards a concern with contemporary social issues so that is speaks to youth at multiple levels.


Seoul Decadence


I have been extremely positive in my assessment of Seoul’s potential, But I do not want anyone to think I am blind to problems in this remarkable city. I am deeply disturbed by the inroads in Seoul of the global decadence that is destroying many cultures around the world.

In particular the blatant degrading of women in the media into objects of consumption and the emergence of pornographic advertisement is worrisome. At the most basic level, humans cease to be humans. Young women in cities like Seoul who are exposed to such destructive images are let to think that somehow they must conform to this grotesque model, that sexuality must be part of their identify and that the gaze of others is of the utmost importance.

This particular scene at Nonhyeonjin Station in Gangnam featuring a Caucasian model is typical. The situation is made worse by the fact that you cannot escape the image. Just as you cannot set up Youtube to block out violent and pornographic videos without blocking out essentially everything.



In addition, the incredible waste of electricity is of great concern. What is the point of such use of video–as if to say the use of energy is irrelevant.


Emanuel talks about his book “A Different Republic of Korea” at the Seoul Book Forum

Emanuel spoke with an audience of book lovers at the Seoul Book Forum (September 11, 2013) about his book “A Different Korea” and engaged in a long discussion about the value of Korean traditional culture. The four members of the discussion group wore the traditional Korean hats of teacher and students.

9 11 book concert

The entire event is available at


In addition, a collection of short reviews of the book are available at




“福島原発事故への世紀にわたる対応” (ザ・ハフィントン・ポスト・ジャパン)








ギャラクシーズー 宇宙ギャラクシー・ズーピアツーピア財団ピアーツーピアサイエンス,原発原発事故外交廃炉放射能汚染汚染水社会福島福島第一原発 放射能汚染ニュース




事故当初においては、環境へ放出された放射性物質はセシウム137と134、そして比較的少量のヨウ素131を含んでいたことが明らかになっているが、長期的な健康被害は主に人体に容易に吸収されるセシウム137によって引き起こされると考えられている。セシウム137の半減期は30年と言われており、数十年に及び健康を脅かすことになる。最近の調査 Read more of this post

Director Pastreich hosts three part program on the potential for an East Asian Community on Arirang TV

Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute, hosts a three part Arirang TV program exploring the potential for an East Asian Community that includes Korea, China & Japan. The program, entitled “Korea, China & Japan: The History that Unlocks the Future,” includes discussions with experts from across Asia and several compelling interviews with individuals committed to this vision. The program was produced and broadcast by Arirang TV in August, 2013.


Part One

Introduction to the three countries and their relations

Part Two

Discussion of the Pacific War and its lingering shadows.

Part Three

Ideas for a way forward towards and East Asian Community.


“Look to the Gem Within” (Business Korea, September 2, 2013)



Perspectives On Korea

Look to the Gem Within

A Harvard PhD’s Views on Korea’s Potential


Dr. Emanuel Pastreich, a long-time resident of Korea who has worked with various Korean academic and government institutions in efforts to increase Korea’s global stature, has recently released a remarkable book that presents the quintessence of his philosophy. Dr. Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute and a professor at Kyung Hee University, and has penned A Different Republic of Korea about Which Only Koreans Are Ignorant, which has drawn considerable attention.

Pastreich adopted a Korean name, Lee Man-yeol, which he says was given to him by his father-in-law when he married his Korean wife in 1997. An active writer and columnist in Korea, he has established himself as a public intellectual in Korea in this age of internationalization.

The book is meant as a touchstone to point Korea in the right direction towards its true long-term potential on the global stage. Much of the focus falls on the various hidden treasures in Korean culture itself. Pastreich uses a powerful parable taken from the Lotus Sutra to describe Korea’s relationship with its own culture.

The parable goes like this. A man meets an old friend and they talk until late in the evening. Before dawn, the friend leaves while Read more of this post

Imagination and ethics in an age of globalization

“Ultimately, the most critical element for ethical behavior in this day and age is imagination. Without a strong imagination, we cannot imagine the complex manner in which our actions, even those that seem so innocuous and innocent, impact the rest of the world. We need an imagination to put together the links between what happens here and what happens in Syria. Without an imagination, the two are forever unrelated.”

Emanuel Pastreich
September 1, 2013