Korea: Circles and Squares aims to address contemporary issues in Korean business, research, policy and culture so as to suggest how this country that seems so dysfunctional to many expats is increasingly playing a central role in manufacturing, research, business & art.
One of the keys to understanding Korea is identifying two aspects of Korean culture and society.
The deep emphasis on specialization and compartmentalization at one level in Korean institutions and the overarching tradition of universality and encompassing theories of everything also central to the Korean tradition. The combination of these two seemingly mutually exclusive traditions in Korea does much to explain its remarkable dynamism and resilience.
Circles represent the traditional layout of Korean villages, conforming to the lay of the land, to rivers and mountains. You need only wander a little off a major boulevard to find streets that still follow this model, even if the fields have been long covered with concrete. Circles represent the deep structure of Korean culture, just beneath the surface, that gives it such vitality.
Squares represent modern Korea; land of technology, manufacturing, logistics and finance. This Korea is embodied by the grids that define major cities, in many cases stamped over the old circles of village life. Squares represent both the tremendous global power of Korea, but also a certain fragility borne of the separation of current from traditional culture.