Monthly Archives: February 2019

국회간담회 “국가 미래 반절을 위한 “국가미래기본법” 발의 내용”

2019년 2월 19일


국회 간담회

 “국가 미래 반절을 위한 “국가미래기본법” 발의 내용”



국회 미래정책연구회



패널 토의 “국가 미래 발전을 위한 ‘국가미래기본법’ 제정의 필요성과 향후 과제”

좌장: 이남식 (국제미래학회 회장)

고문현 ( 한국헌법학회 회장)

양승우너 (한국4차산업혁명법률협회 회장)

박인동 (김&장 법부률사무소 변호사) 

문형남 (지속가능과학회 회장 )

이만열 (이사이인스티튜트 이사장 )

이민영 (KNS뉴스통신 부사장)

WSWS on the wall and “emergency powers”

Regarding the “emergency powers” issue, the WSWS presents a very solid analysis, in my opinion.

The content is not revolutionary so much as it is constitutionalist. The points are quite solid and they are ignored by much of the progressive media which is just as much swept up in the circus as anyone.

See the posting:

 “Trump to declare national emergency to build wall”

Especially note:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, criticized Trump’s expected declaration, saying, “The president is doing an end run around Congress.” She said that Democrats were “reviewing our options,” which could include a congressional resolution of disapproval or a legal challenge.
At the same time, she was visibly ambivalent about the right of a president to assert emergency powers, suggesting that a Democratic president could make use of the same power on an issue like gun control. Noting the first anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she continued, “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.”

WSWS points out, that just as the Democrats were not interested in who really won the election in Florida back in 2000, or what happened to the ballots cast by poor people. So also, the Democrats are not concerned about the destruction of the constitution. If anything, they are wondering whether a bit of constitutional remodeling might bring them also more power.

But I want to say something about WSWS.

This avowed revolutionary outfit describes itself in this manner

The World Socialist Web Site is published by the International Committee of the Fourth International, the leadership of the world socialist movement, the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.

The WSWS aims to meet the need, felt widely today, for an intelligent appraisal of the problems of contemporary society. It addresses itself to the masses of people who are dissatisfied with the present state of social life, as well as its cynical and reactionary treatment by the establishment media.

Our web site provides a source of political perspective to those troubled by the monstrous level of social inequality, which has produced an ever-widening chasm between the wealthy few and the mass of the world’s people. As great events, from financial crises to eruptions of militarism and war, break up the present state of class relations, the WSWS will provide a political orientation for the growing ranks of working people thrown into struggle.

We anticipate enormous battles in every country against unemployment, low wages, austerity policies and violations of democratic rights. The World Socialist Web Site insists, however, that the success of these struggles is inseparable from the growth in the influence of a socialist political movement guided by a Marxist world outlook.

But having read many excellent articles at WSWS over the last ten years, I have to say that the writing really sounds like the work of CIA analysts. I am not saying it is a front, pushing propaganda. On most issues, they are as aggressive as anyone, but rather that we are looking at a source for insiders to spill their guts and use their skills for something more intellectual.

The actual text of the “Green New Deal” Is it an unconstitutional consolidation of power using the pretext of climate change which is not even focused on climate change?


Here is Naomi Wolf’s commentary about the formation of a committee of 15 people who are unaccountable and are not even required to focus on climate change

(a) Establishment of the Select Committee For A Green New Deal.—


(A) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is hereby established a Select Committee For A Green New Deal (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “select committee”).

(B) COMPOSITION.—The select committee shall be composed of 15 members appointed by the Speaker, of whom 6 may be appointed on the recommendation of the Minority Leader. The Speaker shall designate one member of the select committee as its chair. A vacancy in the membership of the select committee shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.



(i) The select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan shall: (a) be prepared in consultation with experts and leaders from business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, academia and broadly representative civil society groups and communities; (b) be driven by the federal government, in collaboration, co-creation and partnership with business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, research institutions and civil society groups and communities; (c) be executed in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of such Plan; (d) provide opportunities for high income work, entrepreneurship and cooperative and public ownership; and (e) additionally, be responsive to, and in accordance with, the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality set forth in paragraph (6).

(ii) In addition to preparing the Plan as set forth in paragraph (2)(A)(i), the select committee shall prepare draft legislation for the enactment of the Plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “draft legislation”), in accordance with this section. Such draft legislation may be prepared concurrently with the development of the Plan, or as the select committee may otherwise deem appropriate, provided that such finalized draft legislation shall be completed in accordance with the timing set forth in paragraph (5)(B)(ii).

 (iii) The select committee shall not have legislative jurisdiction and shall have no authority to take legislative action on any bill or resolution, provided that the foregoing shall not affect the select committee’s ability to prepare draft legislation in accordance with paragraph (2)(A)(i) and (2)(A)(ii).

(B) INVESTIGATIVE JURISDICTION.—In  furtherance of the mandate set forth in paragraph (2)(A), the select committee shall have the authority to investigate, study, make findings, convene experts and leaders from industry, academia, local communities, labor, finance, technology and any other industry or group that the select committee deems to be a relevant resource. The select committee may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, hold public hearings in connection with any aspect of its investigative functions.


(A) Except as specified in paragraph (2), the select committee shall have the authorities and responsibilities of, and shall be subject to the same limitations and restrictions as, a standing committee of the House, and shall be deemed a committee of the House for all purposes of law or rule.

(B)(i) Rules [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Organization of Committees) and [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Procedures of Committees and Unfinished Business) shall apply to the select committee where not inconsistent with this resolution.

(ii) Service on the select committee shall not count against the limitations on committee or subcommittee service in Rule [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Organization of Committees).

(4) FUNDING.—To enable the select committee to carry out the purposes of this section—

(A) The select committee may use the services of staff of the House and may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, use the services of external consultants or experts in furtherance of its mandate;

(B) The select committee shall be eligible for interim funding pursuant to clause [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] of Rule [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Interim Funding – Organization of Committees); and

(C) Without limiting the foregoing, the select committee may, at any time and from time to time during the course of its mandate, apply to the House for an additional, dedicated budget to carry out its mandate.


(A) The select committee may report to the House  or any House Committee it deems appropriate from time to time the results of its investigations and studies, together with such detailed findings and interim recommendations or proposed Plan or draft legislation (or portion thereof) as it may deem advisable.

(B) (i) The select committee shall complete the Plan for a Green New Deal by a date no later than January 1, 2020.

(ii) The select committee shall complete the finalized draft legislation by a date no later than the date that is 90 calendar days after the select committee has completed the Plan in accordance with paragraph (5)(B)(i) and, in any event, no later than March 1, 2020.

(iii) The select committee shall ensure and procure that the Plan and the draft legislation prepared in accordance with this section shall, upon completion in accordance with paragraphs (5)(B)(i) and (ii), be made available to the general public in widely accessible formats (including, without limitation, via at least one dedicated website and a print publication) by a date no later than 30 calendar days following the respective dates for completion set forth in paragraphs (5)(B)(i) and (ii).


(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

(B) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation. In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan (and the draft legislation) shall:

    1. including by ensuring that local implementation of the transition is led from the community level and by prioritizing solutions that end the harms faced by front-line communities from climate change and environmental pollution;

(C) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that innovative public and other financing structures are a crucial component in achieving and furthering the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality and cooperative and public ownership set forth in paragraphs (2)(A)(i) and (6)(B). The Plan (and the draft legislation) shall, accordingly, ensure that the majority of financing of the Plan shall be accomplished by the federal government, using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments  made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.


Why do we need a sweeping Green New Deal investment program? Why can’t we just rely on regulations and taxes alone, such as a carbon tax or an eventual ban on fossil fuels?  

Why should the government have a big role in driving and making any required investments? Why not just incentivize the private sector to invest through, for e.g., tax subsidies and such?

How will the government pay for these investments?

Why do we need a select committee? We already have committees with jurisdiction over the subject matter e.g. Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Science, Space and Technology.  Just creating another committee seems unnecessary.

Why should we not be satisfied with the same approach the  previous select committee used (i.e. the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming)? Why do we need a new approach?

Why does this new select committee need to prepare draft legislation?  Isn’t investigation, hearings, briefings and reporting enough?

What’s an example of a select committee with abilities to prepare legislation? Does the new Select Committee For A Green New Deal seem to fit on that list?

Doesn’t this select committee take away jurisdictional power from the other (standing i.e. permanent) committees that have jurisdiction over at least part of the issue?

But a select committee only exists for the congressional session that created it! So even if this select committee prepares legislation, it likely won’t get passed in this session by a Republican-held Senate and White House, so why does having a select committee now even matter?

What’s wrong with the other proposed legislation on climate change? Can’t we just pass one of the other climate bills that have been introduced in the past? Why prepare a whole new one?

 パストリッチ インタビュー 「島国に戻らないで」 東京新聞

2019年 2月 13日











洪陵文化沙龙 “韩中关系展望” 中文研讨会

洪陵文化沙龙 18届中文研讨会邀请函                                                                                             



主题:     韩中关系展望

时间:     2019228(周四) 1100 am 1030开始签到)

地点:     庆熙网络大学洪陵文化分馆(경희사이버대학교아카피스) 1楼会议室

서울특별시 동대문구 홍릉로 91/서울특별시 동대문구 청량리동 205-694.(地图与公共交通情况详见邀请函第2页)


主    持:李万烈(贝一明)(Director, The Asia Institute)


10:30 – 11:00  入场

11:00 – 12:30  研讨

12:30 – – –  共进午餐

联    络: 万延娇 (Professor, Kyung Hee Cyber University)                                           

Tel: 010-8013-9988 

「朝鮮半島の統一」についての小考 エマニュエル・パストリッチ


2019年 2月 1日




マスコミが特定の政策を「進歩」または「保守」と規定すれば、大多数の人々は、メディアの判断をそのまま受け入れる。プリンストン大学シェルドン・ウォルリン(Sheldon Wolin)教授が「逆さまの全体主義(inverted totalitarianism)」と呼んでいるものとは、商業メディアや広告主の圧力などの隠された力によって、日常的な問題の言説が厳しく制限されている政治的な状況で、服従を強要する独裁者がいなくても、全体主義的システムが定着する。利益を追求する企業の力は、私たちの時代の最も重要な問題を自然に無視する風土を作り上げた。一例として、我々はもはや本を読まない。 10分以上集中できない人が多い。商業メディアは情報取得の場となり、ソーシャルメディアは猫とデザートの写真を提示したり、時折、商業メディアが作り出したイメージを披露するだけである。


内容自体はすべて肯定的である。ただし、これを説明する過程で、世界と断絶、閉鎖された封建 – 社会主義国家に生きなければならなかった北朝鮮の住民が今では消費社会の喜びを享受し、はるかに裕福な韓国の兄弟姉妹のように楽しみながら生きることができるようになることを暗に述べている。しかし、韓国も楽園ではない。韓国はかなりの社会的、文化的、経済的な力を持っているが、その中で多くの人々が深い疎外感を感じ、これにより高い自殺率、日常的な自己虐待と他人虐待を招いている。強欲な雇用システムも外せない。現在、韓国では若者たちが苦労して仕事を探すも、社会に奉仕し、高度な訓練を受けることが出来たり、真の人生の決定を下すことができる機会はおろか、コーヒーショップやコンビニで働くことになる場合が多い。生活のあらゆる側面が利益を追求するショーに変質し、人々はこれに疲れてしまった。



マスコミが北朝鮮に導入される巨大な市場経済を語るまさにその瞬間、市場経済は、韓国、フランス、または米国で消滅している。ピーター・フィリップス(Peter Phillip)が熟考の研究を通じて発行した著書「ジャイアント:グローバルパワーエリート(Giants:The Global Power Elite)」で描写するように、スーパーリッチ層とその補助者は現在、お互いの株式を購入して、低金利のお金を貸すようにお互いを保護する彼らだけの社会を構成している。これに対し、一般人は低賃金の仕事であっても掴むために残酷な競争を続けなければならない。この搾取型システムは、「第4次産業革命」の産物である。第4次産業革命の時代には、(グローバル機関投資家の意志ではなく、ただ、天の意に沿って)技術により、労働者の地位が大きく脅かされるものと言われている。



北朝鮮に工場を建てる計画がある場合、次の質問をしてみなければならない。誰が工場にお金を出すのか、収益金は誰の元に行くのか、誰が工場を所有するのか、その工場の労働者が持つ権利は何であり、彼らは収益金のどの程度を受け取るのか、これらの労働者の健康を保護するために、または、環境に及ぼす植物の影響を評価するためにどのような手順を実行するのか? 北朝鮮は石炭、金、鉄、レアメタルを採掘することの環境への影響を評価する専門知識がないため、専門家やNGOが、これらの評価プロセスに必ず参加しなければならない。ところが、今、これらの機構は、北朝鮮訪問ビザすら受けることができない。






より大きな問題がある。トマ・ピケティ(Thomas Piketty)が「21世紀の資本論(Capital in the Twenty-F​​irst Century)」で説明したように、少数の手に、より多くの富が集中されるようになると、朝鮮半島の分断は、貧しい北朝鮮と豊かに暮らす韓国との間の分断ではなく、韓国と北朝鮮の平凡な市民はより貧しくなり、ごく少数の選ばれた者だけがスーパーリッチになるという分断になる可能性が大きい。現在、韓国と北朝鮮の間に存在する巨大な格差を否定しようとするものではない。ただ、富の集中による経済的歪みがはるかに深刻であることを指摘したい。




















比較的最近に大規模な経済的、政治的統一プロジェクトの先例があった。1936年、日本人の朝鮮総督によって締結された「第1次満州 – 朝鮮協力協定(第一次満朝協定)」である。この協定は、満州と朝鮮の両方の迅速な工業化と効果的な経済文化の統一のために「満州と朝鮮は一つ(満朝一如)」と呼ばれるビジョンに始動をかけた。1930年代後半の朝鮮の新聞は、朝鮮企業は安い満州労働力を活用して、満州の天然資源(石炭、鉱物、肥沃な土壌)を用いて迅速に富を生み出すことができる巨大な機会を得たと報道することに忙しかった。


朴前大統領は、自分の父である朴正煕元大統領から政治と経済を学び、父が野心的な若者として経済ブームに乗って満州に行って権力を得たことに注目したのである。19世紀の多くのアメリカ人が「Go West」という致命的な誘惑に駆られたように、1930年代の朝鮮人たちも、1930年代の満州という広い土地に走って行った。今韓国人たちに北朝鮮の開発がどのように写っているのか、そして1930年代満州の開発がどのように人々の心を引き付けたのかを見ると、驚くほどに類似している。



What is this “Green New Deal” of the Democratic Party?

Perhaps the most telling statement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at her meeting with the media (February 7, 2019?) in front of the Capitol was this one:

“Climate change and our environmental challenges are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comment represents the manner in which the Democratic Party can take a real issue and turn it into sawdust with its magic touch. To start with, adding “and our environmental challenges” to “climate change” significantly weakens the focus and suggests that there is but a spectrum from climate change, to lead in water to irregular garbage pickup by the sanitation department. So also the expression “one of the biggest existential threats” made the term “existential” seem like a colorful booster, such as those popular with PR firms, or lobbyists, to describe a topic you want to get tax dollars. It is the equivalent of “robust” or “critical” or “absolute must.”

Based on my own experience in DC, I am deeply suspicious that this bright and bold statement was in fact written by a lobbyist or PR firm.

That interpretation is further supported by her employment of the hopelessly banal expression “threats to our way of life” which makes it seem like there is nothing critical or existential at all about the problem, but rather that in the future we may have to pay more for gas, or for vegetables, or not be able to enjoy our weekends with the kids in the park.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushes for her borrowed “Green New Deal”

The Democrats have taken the concept and the content of “Green New Deal” from the Green Party without giving any credit to Jill Stein and her team. They talked about a broad coalition, but they did not invite any Greens, or other groups not related to the Democratic Party. I am a bit shocked at how many are willing to just accept this move and see it as a revolution in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is as closed as it ever was.

World Beyond War’s Global Security System

“朝鲜半岛光与影” 多维新闻



2019年 2月 6日








但是,身为一个在韩国生活了十二年的人,我还是不得不承认,韩国也有十分差劲的地方——尽管说这话时我有些犹豫。高自杀率、空气污染、残酷的校内竞争、深埋在年轻人心中的疏离感、对进口食物和进口燃料的极度依赖,以及在贫困线上挣扎的大批老年人口,都证明韩国已被包裹在密不透光的阴影之中。 我们应当牢记孔子的名言∶“不患寡而患不均,不患贫而患不安。”的确,与朝鲜相比,韩国的人民平均生活水平要高一大截,但其贫富差距问题也更加严重,且有愈演愈烈之势——这种经济矛盾可比生活水平低下危险得多。






所有记者笔下的专家在谈论朝鲜时,其立足点都是经济增长、GDP、生活条件、生产和消费一类的事情。以他们的标准来看,朝鲜远远地落后于发达国家——尤其是韩国,无可救药。这意味着韩国可以用老大哥的身份来教朝鲜什么是“发达” ,什么叫“现代”。但是就其本质而言,“发达”“现代”这两个词都是主观的,是意识形态上的。在韩国,许多人认为资源的浪费性消耗无可厚非,值得倡导;认为住在面积更大、暖气开过头的房子里,拥有汽车和智能手机是一种进步。


















The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula  (Emanuel Pastreich)

The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula

Emanuel Pastreich

February 1, 2019

How many times have I seen an American expert pointing to a satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night and remarking that the striking difference between the darkness the envelops North Korea and the bright lights that illuminate South Korea, as well as Japan, symbolizes the insularity, the oppressiveness and the pathetically backward economic state of the North. The obvious point is that the brightly lit South is a model of progress, of technology, of democracy and of free markets. 

This contrast between the light of progress and democracy and the darkness of dictatorship and ignorance has a certain aesthetic perfection that easily feeds the imagination of viewers; the narrative is intellectually predigested and it goes down smooth.

In the political debate in South Korea, this narrative is not seriously questioned in the media, among scholars, or among politicians. The progressive politicians argue that we should engage with North Korea and invest more in such projects as the Kaesong industrial complex so that North Koreans can find opportunities for employment and South Koreans can make profits from the cheap labor and abundant natural resources that North Korea offers. The conservatives argue that North Korea is a dictatorship and that it threatens South Korea militarily and cannot be trusted. They say that North Korea must first open itself up completely to the international business, and allow complete inspections of all its nuclear facilities.

But the assumptions made by the progressives and conservatives in South Korea do not differ fundamentally. Both are assuming that South Korea is more advanced and that a future North Korea should look more like South Korea where citizens enjoy a far greater GDP, drive cars, live in spacious houses with televisions and smartphone and produce K Pop hits that sell around the world.

Of course, it would be ludicrous to make an argument that North Korea is a model for others. The closed environment and the repressiveness of the government is no myth.

But as someone who has lived in South Korea for twelve years, I have been forced to admit, despite my hesitancy, that there is something seriously wrong here too. Whether it is the high suicide rates, the polluted air, the ruthless competition in schools, the deep alienation felt by young people, the extraordinary dependence on imported food and imported fuel or the tremendous numbers of the elderly who live in poverty, there are deep, deep shadows that cross all of South Korea.

There are two important points that are often buried in the shadows in the official narrative about North and South Korea. We need to look at North and South Korea from the ground up, not from high up in space.    

I have heard from numerous South Koreans who had the opportunity to visit North Korea that they had a strong sense that something vital had been lost in South Korea when they walked through the small vegetable markets in North Korea, observed the modest décor in the clean-scrubbed hotels and encountered the unadorned and unpretentious behavior of the citizens of Pyongyang.  

Such South Korean friends noted that women in North Korea, although they may not have the luxuries of the South, are also not under the same pressure to wear makeup and to compete with each other in consumption. There is not the demand for brand clothing.

South Koreans detect decency in the manner in which people treat each other on the street in Pyongyang. Many are reminded of the Korea of the 1960s and 1970s when there were far closer relations in South Korea between family members, and between members of the community. For that matter, the absence of automobiles, of youth addicted to cell phones, of endless advertising that drives people to buy things that they do not need or want for the sake of profit—all these aspects of North Korea evoke an original Korean culture that has been lost.

But there is an even more important issue that has been completely buried in the media of South Korea, and in our discussions about North Korea.

All the discussion by “experts” by journalists, about North Korea is based on issues involving economic growth, GDP, standard of living, production and consumption. According to these standards, North Korea is helplessly far behind advanced nations, and South Korea in particular. That means that South Korea can be the big brother and teach the North Koreans how to be “advanced” and “modern.” But all those terms are subjective and ideological in nature. The assumption made in South Korea is that wasteful consumption of resources is a positive and that it should be actively encouraged. It is assumed that it is progress to live in bigger, overheated homes and to own automobiles and smartphones.

But there is no scientific evidence, whatsoever, that underlies these assumptions. They are as accurate as saying that praying to the moon will bring rain or using leeches to drain blood will cure the diseases.  

In fact, research shows that such behavior patterns focused on consumption can have profoundly destructive effects on society as a whole including deep alienation and increased levels of suicide and substance abuse. That is to say that the assumptions about what North Korea should become, and what South Korea has been successful at, are based on ideology, on unfounded assumptions and on a myth of modernity. The result is that South Koreans are convinced that they are successful even as profound stress and frustration sweep through families.

When we approach this image of the Korean Peninsula at night using a scientific approach, this image tells a profoundly different story; the lights and shadows are completely reversed.

The overwhelming opinion among experts based on objective scientific analysis, not based on ideology, or profit, or warm fuzzy feelings, is that humanity faces an unprecedented crisis in the form of global warming (climate change) and that at the current rate we will be lucky if we manage to avoid extinction as a species.

There are numerous reports and books on the catastrophic changes in our climate, and the resulting extinctions taking place already. We can already see in Seoul that mosquitos manage now to survive until December, and often flowers are found blooming into January. That is just the beginning of what will be rapid, life threating changes.

If we let things progress as this rate, the oceans will warm, and grow acidic until fish are extinct, deserts will spread until much of Earth is uninhabitable and South Korea, hopelessly dependent on imported food and on the export of fossil-fuel intensive products, will be devastated

So what should South Korea do if it wants to survive? The answer is quite clear. It should start looking more like North Korea in terms of energy consumption and frugality. It should stop wasting energy and be dark at night, the way it has been for tens of thousands of years. It should get rid of all the useless lights on apartment buildings, end those electrified signs on commercial buildings, reduce dramatically unnecessary internal heating and end the wasteful design of high ceilings and concrete, glass and steel exteriors found in its buildings. It should go back to the traditions of frugality and simplicity that characterize much of its history.

South Korea should be dark at night. Its citizens must be aware of the tremendous cost of keeping its cities illuminated, in terms of the expense of importing fuel, in terms of the terrible pollution generated by subsidized fossil-fuel power plants, in terms of increasing global warming that is destroying the future for our children.

But there is a deeper, hidden secret. We have been fed a myth that Korea must grow, must advance, must consume and consume more to be modern, to be advanced, to be recognized as being special, as opposed to the unwashed masses of “developing countries.” Becoming modern has been assumed to be the highest priority for generations. But what is modern if consuming fossil fuels and wasting natural resources is destroying our ecosystem and damning our children?

The numerous problems that exist in North Korea are quite serious, but from the perspective of climate change, South Korea should be benchmarking North Korea’s low-consumption, rather than planning to vastly increase consumption and build highways and expensive wasteful apartments.

Many people may find that my words sound odd, even nonsensical. It is so obvious to many that South Korea’s modernity and its high level of consumption is a badge of honor, a sign that it is a member of advanced nations. Consumption considered as a major factor in calculating the state of the economy? If people consume less (and that means consuming less energy) then the growth rate will go down.  

But if we are facing extinction because climate change, who cares what stupid things the newspapers tell us about consumption? We must stop subsidizing fossil fuels immediately. Those numerous lights that burn all night in South Korea do not represent cultural advancement, but rather a dark and dangerous game of living for the moment by sacrificing the futures of our children.

There are infinite meaning and depth, spiritual and personal experience, to be derived from talking with family and friends, from reading books, writing letters and essays, walking in the woods or putting on plays and musical performances for each other. It requires almost no and does far more for us than a jungle of smartphones, lit up Starbucks Cafes, or throw-away plastic toys and cups that we are given, whether we want them or not.

As we think about the future of a unified Korean Peninsula, we must first move beyond this dangerous concept that being modern and advanced is a priority. We should ask ourselves rather what does it mean to be human? How do we live a meaningful and fulfilling life and contribute to society?

I do hope that North Koreans can live in a freer way than they do today and that they can eat more nutritious food. Yet they will not find any nutritious food in the convenience stores that have taken over South Korea and destroyed the family-owned stores that once gave citizens economic independence.

But I also hope that South Koreans can be set free also from the invisible chains that bind them to mindless consumption, that force them to consume increasing amounts of coal (heading in the opposite direction of almost every country in the world) and that leave so many feeling deeply alienated from friends and from family because of a brutal culture of endless competition.

The move toward unification must be about freedom for North Koreans and South Koreans. How unfair it would be if we assumed that only North Koreans are entitled to be free.