Circles and Squares is the personal blog of Emanuel Pastreich which addresses contemporary issues in Asia and the United States and touches on critical questions in culture, civilization, technology, international relations and education.
Emanuel Pastreich started the blog in Korea and the title “circles and squares” refers to two fundamental aspects of Korean society, which are also fundamental aspects of human civilization in general.
On the one hand, Korean society values specialization and compartmentalization in terms of education and technology. On the other hand, traditional Korean culture stresses an overarching universality. All-encompassing theories of everything are central to the Korean tradition and remain powerful today.
The coexistence of these seemingly mutually exclusive traditions in Korea helps to explain its dynamism and resilience.
The term “Circles” refers to 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 that were once there have been long covered with concrete. “Circles” represent the deep structure of Korean culture, just beneath the surface, that gives the nation vitality.
“Squares” refers to modern Korea, a land of technology, manufacturing, logistics and finance. This Korea is embodied by the grids with right angles that define major cities. In many cases, those girds of modernity have been stamped over the old circles of village life. “Squares” represent both the tremendous global power of Korea, but the fragility in Korea borne of the separation of current society from traditional culture.