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A dangerous game: Losing the chain of accountability through Korea-US-Japan missile defense and intelligence integration

A dangerous game: Losing the chain of accountability through Korea-US-Japan missile defense and intelligence integration

Emanuel Pastreich

Circles and Squares

The THAAD anti-missile system deployment and the recent intelligence sharing program between Korea and Japan are often linked in people’s minds in the sense that they are major shifts in military policy, but the larger implications are lost.

To start with, the overwhelming drive behind these changes, and many other shifts in security and diplomatic policy, is an effort to build a solid alliance between the United States, South Korea and Japan as a response to threats from North Korea and to deter an increasingly aggressive China. Many experts believe that THAAD plays no role in deterring North Korea’s missiles but only serves as a serious irritant to China that will leave us one day quite nostalgic for the days when a peace loving China had under 300 nuclear weapons (as is the case now) rather than ten thousand or more. China is one sixth of the world’s population and so essential a part of the global economy that the very concept of containment suggests a deeply flawed understanding of the extremely limited scale of the American economy.

But we overlook the more serious problems that lurk behind these institutional changes. Our primary concern should be with accountability and transparency. The THAAD and overall the anti-missile system is reportedly about stopping nuclear missiles from coming in from North Korea to attack South Korea, Japan and the United States. But in fact the THAAD system, combined with other elements of a comprehensive missile defense system for the United States and military allies in Northeast Asia, and throughout the world, is first and foremost about identifying a missile launch and taking the first step launch a counter missile to shoot it down. Whether the counter missile works is not so important as the act of launching the missile to attack which is an act of war. In effect, the integrated missile defense system is the place at which hostile acts by other nations (North Korea, China and Russia are generally assumed to be those nations, although only North Korea is mentioned in the media) are identified as such and the first step towards war is taken.

What if the hostile act is in fact a mistake, or even an intentional misreading of the other nation’s actions?  This issue is extremely serious and should be at the center of the debate—yet all we get it an eerie silence.

Even more important is the question of how the decision is made to start hostile actions. The increasing integration of military activities between the United States, South Korea and Japan are establishing precedents for how an emergency would be handled. So far the prospects of avoiding a mistake are not good. To start with, how would a decision to engage in hostile actions start out? Well, in an ideal world, the information about an enemy launch from North Korea (or China) would be conveyed to the President of the United States (Trump) and he would confer with the heads of state of Japan and Korea and they would decide together.

I doubt anyone thinks this is what would happen. Increasingly it looks like the United States would make the decision, based on its own information without any review of that information by the Koreans or Japanese. But because it is missile defense, this decision would need to be made in minutes and there would be no possibility even for careful review within the United States. That is the real danger of the missile defense system: although it is not effective at stopping missiles, it makes it easy to quickly start a global war without proper consultation or accountability.

But let us go a bit further in this sticky matter. Would President Trump be the one to start military action? Well, according to the constitution he would be, but that document does not mean much in contemporary American politics. Now with Secretary of Defense Mattis openly defying him and large sections of the military in open revolt against his regime, it is not at all certain that the White House would be the one to determine whether the US goes to war.

I will not pretend to know how a supposed missile launch from North Korea or China would be interpreted as an act of war that merited hostile military action, but there is dangerous ambiguity that the decision would be made within the US military without any transparency or accountability to the people, or even the rulers, of the United States, Japan or South Korea.

We need to consider this issue in terms of the new agreements on intelligence sharing. Of course if there was a clear threat and the sharing of intelligence between the US and Japan, between the US and Korea and between Japan and Korea was a way for those working on the same problem to cooperate effectively in sharing information, then there would be a strong logic there. But is that what we are looking at? I doubt it.

To start with, the actual process of sharing intelligence is not at all transparent and we do not know from looking at the actual signed agreement what actually will be done. The concern for all of us should be rather that the United States, South Korea and Japan are passing over the process of deciding to take military action to an opaque and unaccountable system.

There are precedents for such behavior in the past. The First World War raged out of control at the start because a series of secret diplomatic agreements between the nations of Europe (which had never been revealed to the citizens of those nations) dictated the manner that Germany, France England Russia and Austro-Hungary should respond to the crisis. There was no space, no option for negotiations or even including experts in the decision-making process.

So are these intelligence-sharing agreements the equivalent of the secret diplomacy that dragged Europe into World War One? I fear that the parallels are significant. If intelligence is about a better understanding of the situation on the ground, then the process must be open. But from what I have been told (and I do not have any access to the actual classified agreements) it looks like each nation is being placed in a straightjacket whereby the decision to commence hostile actions is obscured and kept away not only from the people, but also from the leaders themselves.

Finally, we should not consider this situation to be merely a matter of bad policies. We are wrestling with technology itself. Increasingly these weapons systems have become automated, leaving humans out of the decision-making process altogether. It has been assumed that automation of the weapons system is a positive—but there is no evidence for that claim. As we know from the Cuban Missile crisis, what kept that incident from spinning out of control was the decisions of individual military officers in the United States and Russia. Such accountability is critical for our survival.

The media has spent endless hours hyping up the danger of a nuclear missile attack from North Korea, but passed over these extremely serious issues in complete silence. There is, in my opinion, a greater risk of a misinterpretation of some event as a hostile attack from North Korea leading to a global war than there is a risk of North Korea actually launching an attack.

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“스마트폰 개발보다 더 중요한 걸 놓치고 있는 한국” 다른 백년

다른 백년

“스마트폰 개발보다 더 중요한 걸 놓치고 있는 한국”

2017년 9월 18일

페스트라이쉬 임마누엘



지난 한달 동안 핵무기 이야기만 듣다 보니까 핵무기만이 유일한 위험처럼 느껴질 수 있다. 하지만 빠른 속도로 오지는 않지만 훨씬 더 위험한 문제가 동시에 우리 눈앞에 다가와 있다.

초여름, 유례없는 가뭄으로 농사가 큰 피해를 입고 저수지는 바짝 말랐다는 기사가 신문을 뒤덮었다. 기상청에 따르면 5월 총 강수량은 161.1밀리미터밖에 되지 않았다. 1973년 측정을 시작한 이후 두 번째로 낮은 기록이다.

그러나 가뭄과 기후변화를 연결 짓는 기사는 찾아보기 힘들었다. 한국에서 일어나는 현상이 동북아시아 사막화 현상과 관계있다는 언급 또한 없었다. 실지로 아시아 지역에서는 사막화가 가속화되고 있다. 전망은 좋지 않다. Read more of this post

“韓中国交正常化25周年…無謀な軍国主義に直面した勇気と現実に対する要求” 亜洲経済



2017年 8月 21日





また、私が教えている韓国と中国の生徒らは、この地域で可能な限り多くの可能性を持っており、我々にものすごい潜在力を提供している。私は彼らの努力に絶えず感銘を受けており、私たち皆がより安全で明るい未来を創造できることを願う。 Read more of this post

“The coming chaos on Korean Peninsula” Korea Times

Korea Times

“The coming chaos on Korean Peninsula”

August 8, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


Korean newspapers were filled with reports of the unprecedented drought that did such damage to local agriculture over the last month leaving reservoirs bone dry. The Korea Meteorological Administration noted in May that total precipitation was just 161.1mm, the second-lowest since statistics started being kept in 1973.

But the Korean media has hardly a word to say about the relationship of this drought to climate change, nor the ties between what is happening here and the spreading deserts in Northeast Asia. The region faces desertification, and the prospects for the future are not good. Read more of this post

“Call for bravery and real vision in face of reckless militarism” Aju Business Daily

Aju Business Daily

“Call for bravery and real vision in face of reckless militarism”

August 21, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich



China and Korea have seen a tremendous flowering of economic, cultural and educational exchange and cooperation since the normalization of relations on August 24, 1992. My students today include a new generation of young people from China and Korea who sincerely want the countries to work together closely and many of them have a command of Chinese language, or of Korean language, that goes beyond anything that could be found in the previous generation.

Also, my Korean and Chinese students have a global vision for what is possible in the region that is inspiring and suggests that they offer us tremendous potential. I am constantly impressed by their efforts and I hope that they can create a more secure, and a brighter, future for all of us. Read more of this post

중앙일보 서평



더 큰 대한민국


2017년 8월 25일

한국인만 몰랐던 

더 큰 대한민국이 만열 지음레드우드

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬 경희대 후마니타스 칼리지 교수는 한국인보다 한국에 더 자부심을 느끼는 외국인이다. 여러 저작을 통해 한국 문화의 가치와 잠재력을 역설한 그가 이번에는 한국인 이름 ‘이만열’로 한국 사회를 통찰하는 책을 썼다. 『한국인만 몰랐던 더 큰 대한민국』이라는 제목에서 3년 전에 펴낸 『한국인만 모르는 다른 대한민국』의 연장선이자 확장판이라는 책의 의의가 가늠된다.

 책에서 놀랐던 대목은 이 교수와 한국 사회의 거리다. 이 교수는 외국인의 시선이라고는 믿기지 않을 만큼 우리 사회 깊숙이에 들어와 우리의 내밀한 곳을 후벼 판다. 이를테면 ‘박근혜-최순실 게이트에서 이들이 부당하게 갈취한 금액은 이명박 정부가 4대강 사업에 쏟아부은 22조 원이나 자원 외교에 낭비한 수십조 원에 비하면 적은 편이다(23쪽)’와 같은 진단은, 숨기고 싶은 상처를 들키고 만 것처럼 창피하고 아프다.

이 교수의 남다른 시선은 예리하고 깊이 있는 분석이 아니라 이 교수의 자리에서 비롯되는 것으로 보인다. 이 교수는 기꺼이 관찰자의 자리를 이탈해 내부자의 자리로 들어온다. ‘우리는 한국이라는 나라의 구성원으로서… 정보에 기반한 현명한 결정을 내려야 한다(63쪽)’며 한국적 저널리즘의 수립을 주장할 때 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬는 한국에 정착한 지 10년째인 외국인이 아니라 한국 여성과 가정을 꾸린 이만열이라는 한국 사회의 내부자다.
그렇다고 이 교수가 한국을 위하기만 하는 것은 아니다. 가방에 텀블러를 넣고 다니는 이 교수에게 일회용품 낭비를 부추기는 한국의 카페 문화는 끔찍하다. 성형수술을 한국의 주요 관광상품으로 육성하자는 움직임은 심오한 정신세계를 구축한 한국 문화의 뿌리를 흔드는 일이라고 꾸짖기도 한다. 읽고 보니 싫은 소리투성이다. 그래도 기분 나쁘지는 않다.

“신에너지 패러다임 전쟁” 경향신문  


2017년 8월 8일

“신에너지 패러다임 전쟁”

임마누에 페스트라이쉬


중국 정부가 베이징에서 화석연료 택시 사용을 단계적으로 중단하고 전기차를 대대적으로 도입한다는 정책 발표를 했다. 그러나 이 뉴스는 북한 핵무기와 한·미 자유무역협정(FTA) 재협상에 묻히고 말았다.

한국과학기술원(KAIST) 행정동 앞에 수년간 쓸쓸하게 서 있던 전기차 1대가 생각난다. 한국은 아직도 전기차 전면 도입을 위한 조치를 취하지 않았다. 한국인들은 도널드 트럼프 미국 대통령과 문재인 대통령의 관계를 걱정하는 동안, 중국은 2020년까지 재생가능 에너지 3600억달러 투자를 공표하고, 태양에너지·풍력 발전 및 개발산업에서 주도권을 잡기 위해 달려가는 중이다.

한국에서는 스마트폰 생산과 자동차 수출만 늘리면 경제가 다시 일어설 수 있다고 믿는 듯하다. 그러나 지금 경제·기술 분야에서 일어나는 변화는 그야말로 기념비적이다. 한국이 이를 제대로 알아보지 못하는 게 아닐까 걱정된다. 안이한 해결책을 제시하는 미디어 또한 솔직하지 못하며 무책임하기까지 하다.

일단 역사적 시각에서 지금의 경제 전환을 살펴보자. 역사적으로, 대영제국에 무역대국의 자리를 물려주기 전만 해도 경제 규모나 수준에서 가장 앞섰던 국가는 중국이었다. 중국의 번영에는 여러 이유가 있지만, 가장 주효했던 요소는 대규모 식량의 효율적 생산이었다. 1830년대 이전만 해도 각국이 활용 가능했던 에너지는 사람과 동물의 육체노동뿐이었다. 다시 말해, 광합성으로 전환된 태양에너지는 식량의 농업적 생산을 통해서만 얻어낼 수 있었다.

중국은 장기적 농업정책에서도 크게 앞서 있었다. 전국적 수리(水理) 관개(灌漑) 제도 확충과 노련한 운용 정책은 그중에서도 최고였다. 그러나 19세기 영국(을 선두로 프랑스와 독일 등)에서 석탄을 기반으로 한 새로운 경제가 시작됐다. 석탄은 목재나 육체노동보다 훨씬 많은 에너지를 제공했고, 대량생산이 가능한 공장을 가동시켰다. 중국의 에너지 시스템은 경쟁 상대가 되지 않았다. 석탄으로 얻은 화력이 군수산업에 도입되면서 중국(을 비롯한 아시아 전역)은 아편전쟁에서 능욕을 당하는 처지가 됐다.

그러나 대영제국의 석탄경제 또한 영원할 수는 없었다. 20세기 초반 석탄보다 훨씬 효율적인 또 다른 화석연료, 석유가 전면에 등장한 것이다.  Read more of this post

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Missiles or the Environment: Korea’s True Security Challenges”

August 1, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


The news in Seoul has been taken over by reports that North Korea has launched another missile into the ocean. Images of the missile launch were repeated over and over again followed by speculation that North Korea would use the missile to attack the East Coast of the United States. The reporting was pure hype without a single rational voice offering an opinion about the significance of one missile launch or the difficulties of assessing the possible payload for such a missile.

The timing of this news coverage with South Korea’s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system was too perfect. Missing from the discussion has been the real threats that South Korea faces and whether missile defense is effective. These two obvious questions were swept under the rug.

North Korea’s missile launches in fact were a response to a series of live ammunition drills off its coast by the United States, South Korea, and Japan that have been going on, more or less continuously for a year. To North Korea, these drills seems like a preparation for an invasion. Not only is it natural that North Korea would make some response, granted the United States penchant for illegal regime change, it is entirely legal to do so according to international law. The United Nations Security Council has condemned North Korea for missile launches and called for sanctions, but China’s suggestion that both sides freeze their military actions is far more rational and Pyongyang has indicated that it is open to such negotiations. Read more of this post

“Real reason Korea should fear China” ( The Korea Times July 25, 2017 )

The Korea Times

“Real reason Korea should fear China”

July 25, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


The news that China will phase out all fossil-fuel taxis the near future plying the streets of Beijing, and that the government has approved plans for the massive implementation of electric cars across the country, has been buried under articles in Korea about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and possible FTA (free trade agreement) re-negotiations.

I remember the single pathetic electric car parked for years in front of the president’s office at KAIST University. As it rusted away there proudly, no steps were taken to actually start using electric automobiles on a large scale in Daejeon, or Korea.

While Koreans were fretting about whether President Trump would be nice to President Moon Jae-in, China has committed $360 billion through 2020 to the development of renewable power and is well on its way to being the dominant power for the development and production of solar and wind power.

Perhaps Koreans are thinking that if they just make a few more smart phones, or sell a few more sleek automobiles overseas, the Korean economy will get back on its feet. Sadly, they have failed to grasp the monumental scale of the economic and technological shifts taking place today.

Let us look at the current economic shift from a historical perspective. China had the largest and most sophisticated economy in the world before it was displaced by Great Britain. China’s success drew on its high level of education and the lack of military conflicts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but above all it was China’s capacity for the production of food on a massive scale, with high efficiency, that was the key point.

Before the 1830s, energy took the form of human and animal labor. That is to say that energy could only be obtained from the sun via photosynthesis in agricultural production of food and them expressed through manual and animal labor.

China had a sophisticated long-term agricultural policy, the crowning glory of which was the expert administration of an advanced irrigation system covering the entire country.

But the British (and later the French and Germans) started a new economic system based on coal in the 19th century. Coal provided far more energy than wood, or than manual labor, and powered factories that produced goods on a massive scale. The Chinese system could not complete with this new economic process, and when coal power spilled over into military applications, China (and all of Asia) found themselves humiliated in the Opium Wars.

But that coal-based economy that drove the British Empire did not last forever. The United States moved quickly in the early twentieth century to build the infrastructure for an economy based on petroleum, a fossil fuel even more efficient than coal. The United States embraced this new petroleum-based economy quickly because it had the institutional flexibility to do so, and also because the American economy was not tied to coal to the degree that Britain’s was. The United States ended up at the center of an automobile-centered new global economy.

But the game was not over. China is challenging the world economic system, taking full advantage of recent efficiency breakthroughs in solar and wind power that make a fossil fuel-free economy possible. These breakthroughs form an exact parallel to the breakthroughs in steam engines early in the 19th century in Britain and Germany that turned the world economy upside down.

China is well on its way to dominating this new paradigm for energy production, one which may eliminate the need to import expensive fuels to power production ― not to mention reducing costly foreign wars to secure petroleum.

If China manages to dominate the technology for solar and wind energy production, control its manufacture it will thereby effect a fundamental shift in the global economy that will be the equivalent to the two previous turning points in world history. Parallel to China, Germany has also started to move towards renewable energy in full force.

And what about Korea?  If Korea cannot break with its current petroleum-dominated economy and it fails to make that fundamental leap in its thinking about the economy, what are its prospects? The future is grim for Korea if it   lacks the will to walk away from its addiction to Middle Eastern and American oil money? It could go down with the nations trapped in an outdated economic system, just like China did in the 19th century.

The changes that are required to adopt this new renewable energy paradigm are profound. One thing is certain. The time has come for Koreans to awaken from their dream of exporting their way to riches, and rather to take a hard look at the foundations of the Korean economy.

Korea’s True Security Challenges (Essay)

Korea’s True Security Challenges

 July 20, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


Decay of the media and of the decision-making process

The Korean peninsula faces a daunting array of security problems that will require tremendous efforts over the long term to overcome.  But the most serious security risk of all is the complete inability of the Korean people to understand what the real threats are that they face. The media, the entertainment industry and a vast culture of denial has combined forces to distract and misdirect the Korean people away from the real dangers of this age.

Koreans are told over and over by their newspapers and TV news that the greatest risk is of a nuclear missile being launched from North Korea which will destroy Seoul. In fact, North Korea’s military posture is entirely defensive and there is no chance that they would launch a missile at South Korea except as a response to an attack.

By contrast, Koreans are all but unaware of the collapse of the ecosystem in Northeast Asia, the death of the seas (and the fish that they depend on for food) as a result of warming waters, the spread of deserts and shortage of water which threaten to engulf the Korean Peninsula in an enormous desert stretching into central Asia. They have not even started planning for the rising oceans, a massive infrastructure project that will leave Korea with no budget to pay for fighter planes, tanks or other outdated military equipment.

 As opposed to the highly unlikely attacks from North Korea that are hyped in the privatized media, the threats to the environment are essentially 100% guaranteed.  So any consideration of the issue of security on the Korean Peninsula should start out by noting that most people in South Korea are fed a diet of fictions that makes it far more difficult for them to grasp what the dangers are. They are often convinced that North Korea is about to rain down nuclear weapons on them even though that it almost impossibility.

Nor is the death of the ecosystem the only threat that the Korean Peninsula faces.

The rising inequality in Korean, and East Asian, society is tearing the fabric of society apart and will lead to serious conflicts domestically and internationally in the next fifteen years. The media covers North Korea in a less objective manner because it is controlled by concentrated capital that makes tremendous profits from military defense systems. Sources for unbiased information about how the world works like newspapers and universities are so deeply linked to the stock market and the secret world of capital investments that they are incapable of articulating an alternative viewpoint.

Although Koreans are aware that the concentration of wealth, and the death of a public sector in Korean society over the last thirty years has led to greater inequality, they do not understand exactly how and they are not encouraged to think deeply about this crisis. Even extremely liberal groups do not offer opinions on the profound contradictions of a decadent industrialized society. They do not advocate that banks or telecommunications companies should be highly regulated public monopolies. But that assumption was common sense to liberals and conservatives in the 1950s.

The death of sources of information independent from the stock market and foreign investment banks, the death of local community groups that gave meaning to the lives of ordinary people through regular meetings, cooperative efforts and mutual aid has left many Koreans exposed and profoundly lonely. We can see this fact evident in the high suicide rate for both youth and the elderly.

Life has been taken over by a ruthless consumption- driven culture that holds up as the definition of “happiness” the immediate satisfaction of the individual through the eating, drinking or watching of things that give a short-term thrill. Even politics has been reduced to a popularity show with little interest in the details of policy, or long-term developments and overwhelming fascination with the latest statement on the social media.

Such an environment makes it impossible for citizens to even comprehend what “security” is about and the politicians have become babysitters who tell citizens what they want to hear. As the old saying goes, “the people do not want leaders, they want magicians.”

The careful analysis of social, environmental and economic factors that are destabilizing Northeast Asia has been replaced by sensationalism. The rise of the video game culture has played a role in this grotesque transformation of the public sphere. Many Koreans (and Japanese), including adults, spend their time playing video games that glorify ruthless military conflict and make it appear as if shooting guns and blowing people up is not only good fun, but solves all problems. This gaming culture makes so effort to explain how security has become a more complex problem, nor to draw attention to social inequity or the collapse of the ecosystem.  Video games suggest that it is split-second response that is critical for security. That myth is critical to the military industrial complex.

So the best business is pumping up the stock value of military contractors through articles that suggest that a new nuclear submarine, or THAAD anti-missile system will protect Korea even though there is no evidence that this is the case. The profits from building submarines or anti-missile systems are staggering  but there is no scientific evidence that they do anything but increase the risk of conflict. Sadly, Korea is being pulled in the direction of the United States economic system, a criminal state  in which a large percentage of wealth is siphoned off in the interests of “defense” to pay for useless weapons systems that make the rich richer. The media is happy to play its profitable role. IN fact, because the media in general offers so little of any use to ordinary citizens, this spinning of fantasies may be their only profitable role.

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