Monthly Archives: June 2014

Webtoon “Jungle High”

Seoul has become a major center for the production of webtoons over the last five years. These highly creative visual narratives express with particular vividness the experiences of young Koreans. The webtoon “Jungle High” is remarkable example that describes daily life for Korean youth inside a ruthlessly competitive Korean high school. The actual experience of youth, as opposed to the myths shown in the media, is portrayed in an original and compelling manner in this webtoon.


Jungle High

Jungle High



Jungle High

A Gifted High School for the College Entrance Exams

“I have my will here in my hand right now”

“If I were to try and explain this will, I would have to start with an introduction to our high school.”



“Our high school is a gifted school for the college entrance exams, a private school known as “Jungle High”

Our school motto is “The strong devour the weak”

and our class motto is “Survival of the Fittest.”

Seoul’s visual culture

I am fascinated by Seoul’s visual culture. It seems that aspects of commercial art and spontaneous art are frequently combined in harmonious and compelling patterns. Here are a few examples.


This strip of concrete above a subway entrance includes a compelling combination of commercial art, graffetti and advant garde art.

This strip of concrete above a subway entrance includes a compelling combination of commercial art, graffetti and advant garde art.


A close up of the previous  strip reveals a beetle on a  tiny poster and an even smaller poster entitled "NEF" (or, in even smaller print, "never ending fun").

A close up of the previous strip reveals a beetle on a tiny poster and an even smaller poster entitled “NEF” (or, in even smaller print, “never ending fun”).


Seoul Graffiti

Seoul Graffiti

Quiet Green Revolution In Seoul

Perhaps some people have noticed the slow greening of Seoul over the last years. There are more plants everywhere and they are being taken care of more carefully than ever before. Whereas previously flowers were planted and left to die. These days we find that they are being watered and cared for.


Across the city roof gardens are being set up on major buildings. Owners are encouraged to do so, and most every city owned building already has a roof garden. Many of the culture centers and sports centers that dot the city have quite attractive gardens that are drawing a crowd of those in the know.

But that is not all.


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“New Role for America” (Joongang Daily, June 25, 2014)

“New Role for America”


Emanuel Pastreich

Joongang Daily

June 25, 2014


There has been a lot of talk about economic integration in Northeast Asia and the potential for achieving something akin to the European Community. Unfortunately, although that potential for the region remains, increasing tensions between China, Japan and Korea have undermined the progress made over the last few decades. Territorial issues, historical issues (the comfort women and the refusal of Japan to pay reparations) have taken center stage and the optimism and momentum we saw in 2000 at the time of the G-7 Meeting in Okinawa has faded. 

The United States can assist in Northeast Asia to bring peace and stability, but increasingly the people of this region, even if they do not say it explicitly, feel that the U.S. perceives regional division and discord as advancing its own interests, rather than cooperation and reconciliation. 

It is essential that the U.S. erase that negative perception and affirm that it can play a vital role in East Asia as a committed Pacific nation. But unless we fundamentally redefine our mission, we risk losing our position of authority in Asia permanently.

My father told me as a boy, “Never do the same job for more than one year.” He did not mean you should quit your job every year! What he meant was that although you may have the same title in the same organization year after year, you must constantly innovate, endlessly transform how you work and modify your approach to new issues and circumstances.

That advice is most pertinent to the role of the U.S. in Northeast Asia. We need a fundamental transformation now. 

Above all, the U.S. should take the lead in working together with Korea, China and Japan to come up with a comprehensive, long-term strategy to address the threat of climate change. The spreading deserts in Northern China threaten to destroy the region’s ecosystem. The risk caused by dust and fine particles has reached crisis levels and will require a complete restructuring of our economies and our thinking. The U.S. should play a central role in the debate and the implementation of solutions. 

In the case of North Korea, the threat is increasingly a result of the spread of deserts in that nation, and not its nuclear program. If we do not stabilize the land usage in North Korea and protect its topsoil, we may create a crisis on the peninsula that will last for five hundred years and leave our great grandchildren wondering how we could have been so blind. 

The U.S. military has already launched the ambitious Spiders or “Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security” program to create the next generation of energy efficiency and ensure effective use of renewable energy sources. The U.S. military has the expertise and the economies of scale to transform the energy infrastructure in East Asia to make it highly efficient and non-polluting. 

As we restructure security concerns, the U.S. military can increasingly play this positive role in the region, and thereby the military’s role can be transformed from a defender of outdated security technologies from the Cold War to a leader in promoting innovations aimed at response to climate change. Those innovations can be developed through alliances for research and implementation with the nations of East Asia. 

Arms control is another field in which the U.S. can play a positive role. If we look back at the European case, it is clear that a critical factor in setting the stage for the European Union and economic integration was the engagement of the U.S. in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) with the Soviet Union, which set clear limitations on the arms build-up and opened the way for a more rational relationship. Starting in 1969, the two superpowers opened negotiations on nuclear forces in Europe that changed the relationship. 

There is no such agreement in place for arms control in Northeast Asia and consequently rocketing military spending in the region, led by the U.S., has been spilling over into Southeast Asia and Central Asia. We need to implement such an agreement and thereby transform the U.S. from a peddler of weapons to a partner for negotiated agreements on security in the region. 

That can only be achieved through long-term discussions between institutions at every level that the U.S. should support. Northeast Asia deserves a comprehensive arms control regime that covers both strategic and conventional weapons. The process of discussing such a possible treaty can do much to encourage trust between nations. 

If the U.S. can play the central role in terms of limiting its own spending on arms in the region, and encouraging other nations to do so as well, we could set the stage for a Pacific pivot in which the focus falls on finding new partners for cooperation, and not some misguided attempt to bring back the Cold War. 

Moreover, the emergence of transformative technologies such as drones will require entirely new approaches to arms control that must be innovative. The U.S. should work with Korea, China and Japan to set up new standards for the usage of drones in the region that will limit the impact of this game-changing dual-use technology. 

Finally, any serious U.S. initiative in Northeast Asia must take China as a partner. China is not a country that we can label as a threat. China represents one out of five humans living on this earth. We must recognize China as a diverse nation that includes many deeply committed to building a better world, and we must join with China in setting forth a century-long plan for creating a new civilization that is appropriate to the true threats of our age.

Broad engagement with East Asia, articulated through a shift to genuine concern about climate change and arms control will not be seen as a sign of American weakness, but rather will be interpreted as an indication of a new potential for American leadership. 

The Paradoxical Commandments

My friend Daniel Lafontaine published on Facebook a set of aphorisms about doing good attributed to by Mother Teresa today.  I enjoyed them immensely and when I researched them, I discovered that they are based on a text called “The Paradoxical Commandments” (no doubt based in turn on earlier wisdom) written by Kent M. Keith in 1968.



Here is the original text:


The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith


People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.




”面向世界的中国梦“ (贝一明 Emanuel Pastreich)


 2014年 6月 12日

贝一明 Emanuel Pastreich







但令我十分伤感的是,在过去四十年间,美国梦在逐渐衰败。美国梦日渐偏离了创造平等社会的初衷,Cat Stevens与Pete Seeger的歌颂邻里关爱与社会正义的歌曲已经被人们遗忘。美国梦所代表的“自由”已经变成了消费与纵欲的“权力”。所以如今自由更像是开豪车住豪宅并丢弃社会正义感的权力。在开放社会保障他人权力这一自由的本意已经从“美国梦”里消失了。











Elite, smooth and completely indifferent

Here is a typical image of a fashionable woman that can be found in Korean advertising. In this particularly case, fashion is the product. But the important feature is spiritual, not visual. I want to ask you, if you can imagine how this woman would think and behave.

Would she strive to reduce poverty and injustice in our society? Would she take a deep interest in the well being of working people in her community? Would she give generously to environmental movements and do everything in her power to reduce waste?

Ultimately, we do not know, but the surface appearance given is one of radical elitism, of a smooth detachment and a complete indifference to the fate of our society and our biosphere. I find more and more advertisements that employ this particular posture  popping up in Seoul and they disturb me deeply. To think that  young girls may be thinking about such a posture as an ideal is tragic, if not criminal, in terms of its greater implications for  humanity.


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창조적인한반도통일 (아시아인스티튜트 와 Foreign Policy in Focus) 7월 4일금요일오후 4:00-6:00 @ 시민청

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“Unifying the Korean Peninsula as a Creative Act





7월 4일금요일오후 4:00-6:00






Town House Meeting


사회: 임마누엘페스트라이쉬



한반도의통일은광범위한파급효과와함께  한반도에근본적으로큰의미가될지정학적변화를가져오게될것입니다. Read more of this post

“Throw-away Republic of Korea” (Joongang Daily, June 9, 2014)

The Joongang Daily

June 9, 2014

“Throw-away Republic of Korea”


Emanuel Pastreich


Although I love coffee, I can hardly stand to go into a coffee shop and order a coffee to go in Korea. The coffee itself is delicious. But it is served in a paper cup covered with a plastic lid and wrapped in a sleeve made of unbleached paper that was perhaps intended to keep you from burning your fingers on the hot cup – but in almost all cases is unnecessary. A thick stack of 5 to 10 paper napkins, a plastic device for stirring and cream and sugar in separate packages are also stuffed in the paper bag along with other goodies such as a wet wipe.

In this age of diminishing resources it is painful to see such a tremendous waste of materials in Korea. What is disturbing is that most Koreans do not even seem to see anything wrong with such practices. Customers almost never say that they do not need certain things (that they do not need so many napkins, or that they will not use the sugar). The person behind the counter never asks the customer whether he or she needs all the products – in many cases the server does not even suggest that a person drinking the coffee in the shop should use a mug instead of a paper cup if the drink is not to go. Many stores opt not to offer any mugs at all so that they can save money by eliminating the space for washing the mugs inside the store.

Many times when I ask that the coffee be put in the plastic mug I carry with me, I receive puzzled looks. When I return the plastic spoon and extra napkins, I am stared at in bewilderment.

It seems almost as if Koreans think that being modern and advanced means consuming things without a thought as to the consequences that such consumption has for the Earth. Maybe some people think that the whole point of drinking coffee is to lose oneself in an exciting and pleasurable moment without any concern for what the implications of one’s actions might be for the ecosystem, or for human society.

It is a twisted interpretation of the term “freedom.” The noble goal of realizing one’s own spiritual potential has degenerated into a fevered rush to consume food without any particular goal and without an awareness of one’s impact on the world. And now that Korean culture so profoundly influences the cultures of China and Southeast Asia, the cost is even larger. If Koreans see wasting resources as an essential part of modern life, then so too will others around the world who view Korea as a benchmark for development.

Cutting down trees to create paper for coffee cups reduces the amount of trees available to transform CO2 into oxygen and save our planet. The utensils needlessly wasted means that more petroleum is used to create those plastics and more substances that do not decay easily are introduced into the environment. One person’s consumption is not significant, but the aggregate of the waste of paper, plastic and food itself is frightening.

Sometimes I think some people get a pleasure out of wasting natural resources. Somehow it just does not feel like a modern lifestyle if you do not receive all of those throw-away things. If you had to bring your own napkin, or if you had to wash your own cup, or if you could not conveniently throw everything in the trash can without sorting it when you are finished, life would be less convenient and less fun.

But these wasteful habits have nothing to do with original Korean culture. Korean culture was originally about conservation, about rationality in consumption and about a deep commitment to true sustainability for the future. Koreans traditionally valued every single grain of rice and frowned upon the waste of even the slightest bit of food. In the traditional Korean household of a hundred years ago, literally everything was recycled, or it was designed so that it simply degraded into soil again. Even the feces and urine from private homes was recycled into fertilizer for crops.

We tossed away that traditional emphasis on sustainability because we thought it was a backward practice from our past.

But we were unaware of just how wise the Koreans of the Joseon period truly were. They thought far into the future when they administered the Joseon Kingdom, planning a system that would last for 500 years; today we cannot think much further than the next election, or even further than the next pay check. Let us cast off this throw-away Republic of Korea and return to a sustainable kingdom that will outlast all of the so-called advanced nations.

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Bali without Bali

Here is an advertisement for vacationing in Bali that I saw in the subway last week. What I find so disturbing about this image, and many like it, is that the people and the culture of Bali are completely cut out of the picture. It is a banal luxury setting that could just as well be in Cancun or Tahiti. Once I thought that the whole point of travel was to encounter other cultures and peoples. And also to contribute to the local economy. In this case, however, one has no opportunity for any interaction and most likely there is no benefit to the local economy either.

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