Monthly Archives: July 2016

“The mayors of Seoul” (July 9, 2016 JoongAng Daily)

JoongAng Daily

“The mayors of Seoul”

July 9, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich



If you visit the old city hall in Seoul (now a public library), a rather stoic Germanic building built during the colonial period, you will find on the third floor a small museum featuring fascinating exhibitions that detail the development of the city over the last century.

On the wall of the museum hangs a mosaic of asymmetrically arranged rectangles that feature the pictures and short biographies of the mayors of Seoul. The first mayor in the series is Kim Hyung-min who served 1946-1948 in the immediate post-war period.

It seems natural to Seoulites that the list of mayors starts from the establishment of an independent Korea—although this first mayor served before the founding of the Republic of Korea. You cannot included the 18 mayors of Seoul who served during the colonial period because they were all Japanese and carried out an exploitative colonial policy.

There was a first Korean mayor after the war, Lee Beomseung, but he worked in the old colonial system before modern city of Seoul was established.

But it struck me immediately that this pantheon of mayors was deeply wrong. After all, the first first “mayor” of Seoul (Commissioner for Hanseong City Government) was Seong Seok-rin who took up the office in 1395. An astonishing 832 people served as mayors of Seoul from the founding of the Joseon Dynasty until the Japanese occupation. Granted that the position did not have the same authority as the modern mayor of Seoul, and only a short term of rule, nevertheless, those public servants all deserve to be listed as mayors of one of the few cities in the world with a literally unbroken administrative history of over six hundred years.

So what is the psychology behind the decision to leave out 551 years of Seoul history from this museum about Seoul?

Clearly there is a profound cultural break in Seoul’s history which makes it hard for current Seoulites to associate themselves with that long history and its culture. Whereas most Parisians can name all of the bridges over the Seine River, few Seoulites can name the bridges over the Cheonggyecheon. The past is all around us in the form of monuments, and occasionally surviving buildings, but we pay little attention to those traces. They could be, by contrast, an inspiration for building a new Seoul.

More often Seoul tries to create a culture that will motivate and inspire its citizens by becoming like London, or Singapore, or Paris. The best example of this obsession with becoming some other city is the project to transform the Seoul Station Overpass into a public park covered with plants and works of arts. This plan is based on the High Line Park on the West side of Manhattan and although the results may be interesting, the plan is entirely based on an imported concept that will be implemented by the Dutch firm MVRDV.

But what Seoul really needs is not “Manhattan-ness” but rather “Seoul-ness.” The challenge for the city is how it reinterprets and makes relevant the sleeping traditions of the past, in order to create a new urban environment that leaves as many older buildings standing as possible, and hints back to the city’s roots, even back to the 14th century.

But the city is moving quickly in the wrong direction. All across Seoul, glass and steel office buildings and apartment buildings are being thrown up that completely ignore the ancient alleys of the city and which do not even hint at the traditions of Seoul’s architecture in their exteriors, or, for that matter, in their interiors.

The destruction of Seoul’s deep structure, whether it is the building of apartment buildings along the edge of the Kyunghee Palace that are alien to the traditional urban environment, or the erection of massive office buildings at Uljiro 2-ga which leave no space for the merchants or the ordinary citizens who have made the neighborhoods of Seoul feel like intimate villages for the last five hundred years.

Such radical changes in the urban environment do not create vitality, but rather break up the very continuity that encourages innovation. To make Seoul into another Singapore is to kill everything that has made Seoul so resilient. If you want to find vital culture in Seoul, seek out the factories around Uljiro 3-ga where artists make their sculptures in the back street factories run by small businesses, or visit Jungang Market where local merchants have joined up with artists have to create a vital culture.

I am not suggesting that we should try to restore Seoul to what it was in the past. That is not possible. Rather, new buildings should be built to last and built with a profound sense of Seoul’s past. We should see modern buildings as new variations on melodies from the distant past, using elements of traditional hanok, and at times even choosing clay and wood over glass and steel.

At the same time, our vast ignorance of the mayors of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty means that we know nothing about the policies that were employed in the administration of the city for five hundred years. Few of us, including those working in city hall, know about the policies for the promotion of government officials in the city of Seoul during that time, the environmental preservation and urban farming policies, the management of markets and factories, and the local administration of the districts of Seoul.

We do not have the vaguest idea what wisdom lies in the policies of Seoul from those days, or what parts might be applied to the present, or to the future. The collective wisdom, the institutional knowledge of the city, which is its greatest treasure, has been thoughtlessly tossed aside in our rush to make Seoul into a modern city indistinguishable from other modern cities around the world.

Seoulites feel that to be too closely tied to Seoul’s past will somehow hold them back, tying them to a backwards city of poverty and filth. But although a wealthy city like Copenhagen or Munich may look attractive, it is not Seoul. We will find the keys to this city’s future in its past. We must reinterpret the back streets, the urban policies, and the communities of the past and find in those patterns the past offers hints of what a sustainable future Seoul should look like.

I have no doubt that the hundreds of previous mayors of Seoul have much wisdom to share with us if we will only listen.


“역대 ‘서울시장’은 몇 명일까” (중아일보 2016년 7월 9일)


“역대 ‘서울시장’은 몇 명일까”

2016년 7월 9일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬



서울특별시청 청사였던 서울도서관에 가보면 게르만적인 금욕주의가 느껴진다. 일제강점기에 건축된 이 건물 3층에는 지난 세기 서울의 발전을 다룬 작은 전시 공간이 있다. 벽면에는 역대 서울시장의 사진과 약력을 적은 패널들이 모자이크를 이루며 걸려 있다. 이 전시물에 따르면 초대 시장은 1946~48년 재직한 김형민이다. 그전에도 이범승이라는 첫 한국인 서울시장이 있었지만 당시 시정(市政)은 아직 옛 식민 체제를 답습한 상태였다. 현대적인 서울시 행정이 확립되기 전이었다.


서울시장의 수를 광복부터 세는 것은 서울 사람들에게 자연스러운 일이다. 식민시대 18명의 서울시장(경성부윤)을 포함시킬 수는 없다. 모두 일본인이었던 그들은 식민 착취 정책을 수행했다.


나는 이 시장들의 ‘판테온’이 크게 잘못됐다는 생각이 들었다. 사실 최초의 ‘서울시장’은 1395년 한성부판윤으로 취임한 성석린이다. 조선왕조에는 수백 명의 ‘서울시장’이 있었다. 권한이나 임기 연한에 있어 한성부판윤을 서울시장과 비교할 수는 없다. 하지만 그들은 모두 세계에서 몇 안 되는 600년 넘게 지속된 도시의 수장으로 기억될 자격이 있다.


서울시 역사 중에서 551년을 빼버린 결정의 이면에는 어떤 심리가 숨었을까.


깊은 문화적 단절이 서울의 역사를 갈라놓는다. 현대 서울 사람들은 서울의 오랜 역사와 문화에서 자신의 정체성을 찾기 어렵다. 대부분의 파리 사람들은 센 강 위에 놓인 다리들의 이름을 안다. 청계천 다리들의 이름을 열거할 수 있는 서울 사람은 소수다. 기념물이나 풍파에도 살아남은 건물의 형태로 과거가 우리 주변을 둘러싸고 있지만, 우리는 그런 흔적에 별다른 관심을 두지 않는다. 하지만 그 흔적들이야말로 새로운 서울을 건설하는 데 영감을 줄 수 있다.


서울은 런던•싱가포르•파리처럼 됨으로써 시민에게 동기를 부여하고 영감을 불어넣는 문화를 창조하려고 한다. 다른 도시가 되겠다는 집착을 극명하게 보여주는 사례는 서울역 고가공원 프로젝트다. 나무가 우거지고 예술 작품으로 뒤덮은 공원을 만든다는 것이다. 이 계획의 모델은 맨해튼에 있는 하이라인 공원이다. 흥미로운 결과를 낳을 수도 있겠지만, 이 계획은 전적으로 수입한 개념에 따라 네덜란드 회사인 MVRDV가 수행할 것이다.


서울에 진짜 필요한 것은 ‘맨해튼다움’이 아니라 ‘서울다움’이다. 서울에 필요한 도전은 잠자는 과거 전통을 재해석해 오늘에 맞는 적실성을 찾아주는 것이다. 서울의 뿌리를 암시하는 새로운 도시 환경을 조성하기 위해서다.


서울은 잘못된 방향으로 치닫고 있다. 유리와 강철로 서둘러 지은 사무실 빌딩과 아파트가 옛 골목을 완전히 무시한다. 건물 외장과 내장은 전통 건축에 대해 짐작조차 못하게 한다. Read more of this post

“The Confucian Approach to Public Diplomacy in Korea” (Asia Today July 3, 2016)

Asia Today

“The Confucian Approach to Public Diplomacy in Korea”

July 3, 2016




Emanuel Pastreich


What would be the qualifications of a Korean diplomat in response to the rapidly changing nature of diplomacy in our age? Here is a lecture entitled, “What does diplomacy mean in our age?” by Prof. Emanuel Pastreich, Senior Advisor ofAsiaToday and director of The Asia Institute. This lecture was conducted for over fifty Korean diplomats engaged in the field of public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy at the Foreign Office building on June 27. [Editor’s Note]


When I met with Korea’s Ambassador for public diplomacy Cho Hyun-dong last month we talked briefly about my current research and I met with a small group of diplomats interested in public diplomacy. Ambassador Cho made a rather unusual offer to me after our meeting. He suggested that I could come to the foreign ministry to deliver a talk on the topic.

He left it up to me to write the paper, giving me the freedom to explore various themes. He also suggested that there might be an opportunity to develop it into a more complete report or monograph at a later date.

I felt that this opportunity to talk with Korean diplomats about the field of diplomacy, rather than a specific topic in current affairs, was a tremendous honor, and a chance to share some of my ideas about the rapidly changing nature of diplomacy in our age.

I am deeply concerned about how the nature of international relations is being so rapidly transformed by technological change that the field of diplomacy is simply not keeping up and we will be facing a serious crisis in the future when nations are rocked by forces within and without of which policy makers simply have no understanding.

I spent many hours writing the talk and discussed its content with several friends in advance.

The sky over Seoul was bright blue and the lecture hall on the 19th floor had a perfect view of Bukhan Mountain and the Blue House. The room was filled with over fifty Korean diplomats engaged in the field of public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy.

I first discussed the impact of technology on international relations and how our assumptions about the nature of the nation state no longer applied. I then spent some time discussing the serious challenges posed by climate change and suggested that the response to climate change would increasingly dominate all aspects of diplomacy and security.

What was perhaps most unusual about the talk was the amount of time that I spent talking about the Confucian tradition and the strengths of traditional Korean government. I felt strongly that Koreans are not aware of just how many precedents for good government exist in Korea’s past and how much we can learn about good governance by studying past precedents from the sixteenth or seventeen centuries.

I drew attention to Choi Chi-won, the great Korean diplomat of the Silla Dynasty who used culture as a mean to reinforce relations between the two countries, and was perhaps uniquely able to play a central role in policy in both countries.

I closed the talk with a few remarks about the role of women in diplomacy. As I had anticipated, more than half of the diplomats in the audience were women. I told them that I had great hopes for an age in which women would play a central role in Korean diplomacy, but I also suggested that women had to create their own women’s culture that moved beyond the highly commercialized femininity that is rampant in Korean society.

I recommended that women needed to reinterpret the Confucian tradition to make it inclusive of women in order to assure that Korea did not lose the very best of the Confucian tradition of good governance. I hinted that only through the creative reinterpretation of Confucianism can we make it relevant to the present day, but at the same time, Korean Confucianism offered the potential of true innovation.


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Lecture on leadership at Chunghyun High School in Gyeonggido, Korea (June 10, 2016)

I had a chance to deliver a lecture for high school students at Chunghyun 충현고 High School, in Gyeonggi-do on June 10, 2016. It was my fourth speech for Korean students at regular public high schools delivered in Korean.

Nothing it more important to me, and to the Asia Institute, than to communicate with young people who strive to create an identity for themselves, and the future, in the face of tremendous challenges. I received many, many questions from the students and had a chance to give away about twenty copies of my books to those who asked questions. I was particularly touched by a question about the issue of suicide. I felt that clearly the student who asked me about student suicide knew many who had attempted suicide. The discussion was extremely moving, and made me aware of just how great the challenge of creating a meaningful life is in this age of radical commercialization.



Lecture for high school student at Chunghyun High School.

Lecture for high school student at Chunghyun High School.


Standing with students after the talk.

Standing with students after the talk.

Listening to a student

Listening to a student


“안정적 직장, 공무원? ’지성인은 도구가 아니다’”

2016년 7월 30일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬




(아시아투데이 김유진 기자)

급변하는 외교 정세에 대응하는 한국 외교관의 소양에는 어떤 것이 있을까. 아시아투데이 상임고문인 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬(이만열) 아시아인스티튜트 소장이 지난 27일 외교부 청사에서 진행한 ‘급속하게 변하는 세상과 한국 외교에 대한 전망’ 강연의 주요 내용을 소개한다. 이 강연은 공공외교와 문화외교 분야에 종사하는 50여 명의 한국 외교관을 대상으로 행해졌다.


외교의 역할 

지난달 조현동 공공외교대사와 만나 현재 연구 중인 프로젝트에 대해 이야기한 적이 있다. 만남 이후 조현동 대사는 내게 다소 특이한 제안을 했다. 외교부를 대상으로 강연을 할 수 있겠냐는 제안이었다.

그는 주제 선정을 전적으로 내게 맡겼다. 또한 나중에 더 완전한 보고서나 논문으로 발전할 수 있다는 제안도 했다.

나는 외교에 대해 한국 외교관들을 대상으로 강연할 수 있는 큰 영광이자, 오늘날 급변하는 외교의 본질에 대한 생각을 공유할 수 있는 좋은 기회라고 생각해 수락했다.

외교부 청사 19층에 위치한 강당에서 바라본 서울의 하늘은 푸르렀고, 북한산과 청와대가 한눈에 보였다. 강당은 이내 공공외교와 문화외교 분야에 종사하는 50여명의 한국인 외교관들로 채워졌다.

가장 먼저 국제관계에 미치는 기술의 영향과 민족 국가의 본질에 대한 우리의 가정이 더 이상 국제 외교에 적용되지 않는다는 점에 대해 말했다. 이후 기후 변화가 야기하는 심각한 문제들에 대해 거론했고, 기술변화에 대한 대응이 외교와 안보의 모든 측면을 지배할 것이라고 강조했다.

이 강연에서 가장 특이했던 점을 꼽으라면 유교의 전통과 과거 한국 정부의 좋은 점에 대해 강조한 부분일 것이다. 개인적으로 한국인들이 좋은 한국 정부의 과거 사례가 많이 있었다는 사실을 잘 모른다는 것을 통절히 느꼈다. 따라서 우리가 16·17세기 과거로부터 좋은 거버넌스(국가 경영)의 사례를 배울 수 있다고 강조했다.

특히 신라 시대의 위대한 한국 외교관이었던 최치원을 그 사례로 들며, 그가 문화를 양국 관계를 강화하는 수단으로 사용했다는 점을 언급했다.

마지막으로는 외교에서 여성이 해야 하는 역할에 대한 몇 가지 이야기로 끝을 맺었다. 예상했던 대로 강연에 들어온 관객의 절반은 여성이었다.

한국이 유교 전통의 거버넌스가 가진 장점을 잃지 않기 위해서는 여성들이 여성을 아우르는 형태로 유교 전통을 재해석해야 한다고도 권했다. 다만 이 시대와 연관성이 있으려면 유교주의를 창의적으로 재해석해야 한다고 덧붙였다.



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