Category Archives: Articles

Foreign Policy in Focus “Trump and the Rush to Deploy THAAD” Raekyong Lee

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Trump and the Rush to Deploy THAAD”

May 3, 2017

Raekyong Lee


The Korean police swarmed onto the golf course in Seongju, just 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, just before dawn on April 26. The officers pushed aside the dazed protesters and escorted a group of US Army military trailers that carried the critical parts for the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system.

The deployment of THAAD in Korea has become extremely contentious since China expressed its strong opposition. The sudden deployment of the AN/TPY-2 radar system and two missile launchers and interceptors a week before the Korean presidential election on May 9 has created even greater controversy. It looks for all the world like a bid to make deployment a fait accompli even as the liberal candidate Moon Jae-in, who is the frontrunner in several polls, suggests that the system requires further debate. Read more of this post

“Paying attention to global shifts” (JoongAng Daily April 1, 2017)

JoongAng Daily

“Paying attention to global shifts”

April 1, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich

The Koreans whom I meet are confused to a degree that I have never witnessed. It is not merely that they fail to comprehend the profound geopolitical shifts taking place today, but they appear not even to realize that they are confused.

They smile and go about their daily work as usual, but they have no idea what the future holds for them, and they cannot even articulate their concerns. Read more of this post

“Technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science”


Paul Goodman’s article in the New York Review of Books from 1969 “Can Technology Be Humane?” contains the famous line which has stuck with me for years:



“Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science. It aims at prudent goods for the commonweal and to provide efficient means for these goods. At present, however, “scientific technology” occupies a bastard position in the universities, in funding, and in the public mind. It is half tied to the theoretical sciences and half treated as mere know-how for political and commercial purposes. It has no principles of its own.”

I would not say that I agree with Goodman’s rather harsh assessment., but I think he raises the most essential question of what exactly technology does.

Short note from Noam Chomsky

March 12, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich:

Many youth feel trapped. They feel that they live in a system that puts them at a disadvantage and does little to help them. They feel misunderstood and they feel that there is an absolute gap between themselves and those who seem to be deciding how things are done, how society is run. Why do they feel that way?

Noam Chomsky:

Contemporary neoliberalism has created what some call a “precariat” – people living a precarious existence, on their own, cast in a hostile market system with little solidarity, mutual support, stability and security.


“The day after the removal” (JoongAng Daily March 15, 2017)

JoongAng Daily

“The day after the removal”

March 15, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich


The protests on the day after President Park’s impeachment took the most disturbing form. A large crowd gathered in Gwanghwamun Square to celebrate the unanimous decision for impeachment of the constitutional court. The protest resembled a carnival of celebration, but there were those who actively promoting other issues like the release of the black list, the removal of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system, the rejection of nuclear power and demands for more profound changes in Korean society. For them, impeachment is merely the first step in a more profound political transformation.

There was a line of police buses that blocked the boulevard. This time the police buses were not keeping protesters away from the Blue House, but rather separating the anti-Park protesters from a group of pro-Park protesters who gathered around city hall with their Korean flags (and some American flags) who were led on by rousing speeches in defense of President Park against what they perceive as a political vendetta by an irresponsible group who wish to lead the country astray.

The division of downtown Seoul into East and West reveals more profound fragmentation in Korean society, resulting in part from the growth of a superannuated society which produces a deep gulf in the basic assumptions about how the nation should be run. There are now unresolvable gaps in terms of what is assumed to be true concerning such incidents as the sinking of the Sewol Ferry, the actions of President Park and the imprisonment of the leftist politician Lee Seok-gi. Read more of this post

Digital Times “Because this year forms the close of a long-term cycle, we need political innovation and participatory politics”

The Digital Times

“Because this year forms the close of a long-term cycle, we need political innovation and participatory politics”

Ye Jeen Soo   

2017-03-02 10:29:49

■ 2017 Restart Korea

Insights into deep-rooted problems in the Korean economy by foreign experts

Interview with Emanuel Pastreich

professor at Kyunghee University’s International Graduate School

Emanuel Pastreich (Korean name, Lee Man-Yeol • 53) Professor at Kyunghee University’s College of International Studies is a scholar who knows Korea better than Koreans. When we asked about problems in Korean education, he spoke of the strengths of traditional Korean education, strengths found in the remarkable spirit of the ethical Korean scholar (seonbi) and the traditional spirit of community. Pastreich majored in classical Chinese literature at Yale University and received a master`s degree from University of Tokyo and a doctoral degree from Harvard University. Considered an outstanding scholar, he speaks Korean, Chinese and Japanese fluently. Little things like the kindness he demonstrated when to female employee who brought the coffee revealed that he has much internalized that traditional Korean tradition of courtesy.

We asked him about direction of Korea after the political disruption of the presidential impeachment trial when he visited the Digital Times on February 23.

Read more of this post

Labor and Slavery using Chinese (the case of the “coolies”)


Emanuel Pastreich

February 25, 2017

We are increasingly seeing a return to cruel and inhuman approach to human labor that produced industrial slavery in the 19th century. In effect, humans were used as a complement to the coal-driven engine for their physical strength at that time.We are seeing such actions taken regarding humans now tied to the computer-driven global economy.

The exploitation of Africans then is well known. That of Chinese, less so. This passage from the book “American Involvement in the Coolie Trade” is most revealing. Of course American companies are still involved in similar exploitation of Chinese workers today–even at the same time that China is presented as an enemy.

People seeking profit were able to do the most terrible things to other humans using the thinnest of arguments about how some humans where less equal than others, and they did it for centuries. I wanted to believe that humans have a strand of goodness in them that can be awakened when confronted with truth, but it turns out that such a process only works on rare occasions.

If we look at the slave trade, the British captured people and sent them over piled in boats knowing that half would die on the trip.But the profits were sufficient to do it for three hundred years.The move against slavery only emerged slowly and was only successful because the industrial revolution made slavery less profitable.

The passage below describes the guano caves where Chinese slave labor was forced to work. Guano is the piles of excrement of seabirds, seals or bats and has a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphates that make it a perfect fertilizer for intense farming. So also were Chinese drafted into the whaling industry which slaughtered whales to the edge of extinction in the pursuit of their oil which was used for lighting. That whale oil trade was the forerunner of the petroleum industry which continues to dominate our economy.

The irrational drive for profit at any cost, to the degree that it became obsessive, was the topic of Herman Meville’s novel Moby Dick. The captain of the boat Pequod in Moby Dick is the captain Ahab, who remarks,

“All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.”

The point of Ahab’s comment is that his drive to catch the whale, as part of an increasingly crazed consumer culture, is completely insane, but each and every step along the way seems quite logical, even coldly rational. No doubt the coolie trade was quite similar.

American Involvement in the Coolie Trade


Shih-shan H. Tsai

page 54

The treatment of the Chinese coolies on board ship was even more inhuman. The transport ships were usually badly equipped and overcrowded. Food was poor and sanitary facilities lacking. Brutal Treatment of the coolies was often reported. The American ship “Waverly” bound from Sawtow to Callao, Peru, with 450 coolies on board, was a good example. On October 27, 1855, while preparations were being made to buy the body of Mr. F.O. Wellman, the captain of the ship, at Carito, Philippines, the coolies believed that they had arrived at their destination. They wished to go on shore and attempted. to take possession of the boats in order to do so. The new captain, to prevent this, fired into them. The crew, fearing a revolt, armed themselves. The Chinese were, after a struggle, driven below and the hatches closed up, and “on opening them soem twelve or fourteen hours afterwards it was found that nearly three hundred of the unfortunate beings had perished by suffocation.”

Many coolies could not endure the treatment they recieved. Some of them committed suicide while the militant ones instigated mutinies. Many of the coolies stabbed themselves with pieces of wood, or hung themselves to the masts of guano ships, “while three hundred, in 1856, drowned themselves in the ocean during a single day off hte Guano Islands near the coast of Peru.” Mutinies frequently erupted when the coolies discovered they had been tricked into contract bondage.

Angry and desperate coolies butchered crew and officers, and often set fires aboard their ships in mid-passage. One case of mutiny that attracted the attention of the United States government occured aboard the American ship “Robert Brown,” sailing from Amoy in 1852. “Four hundred Chinese emigrants had been enticed aboard the vessel normally bound for San Francisco. When they discovered that they had been deceived and were being carried into contract service in another country, they mutinied and killed the officers.”: Afterwards, they testified in court that they had been promised four dollars a month as hired laborers and not as contract laborers.


“Seoul should be unpredictable” Febuary 20, 2017)

JoongAng Daily

“Seoul should be unpredictable”

Febuary 20, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich



The recent meeting between Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump was a farce. Both men were clearly complete strangers with no common interests other than to push for their own domestic agendas. Anyone watching their forced actions could see that it was a marriage of convenience.

Both politicians make good use of “political unpredictability.” Abe has abandoned Japan’s long commitment to peace as a goal and is moving quickly away from its social welfare system that was so impressive to us in the 1980s. Trump has not only abandoned the free trade stance which was the core of U.S. policy since the Second World War — without even bothering to ask Congress to pass the laws necessary, he is taking steps domestically, such as personal attacks on judges, that undermine the rule of law.

Of course, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and advanced missile technology is profoundly destabilizing and dangerous. Yet the odds of the North actually using nuclear weapons against the South or the United States is extremely low. Rather the risk is that continued development of nuclear weapons will set off an arms race in the region which will end up creating tensions not only with Pyongyang, but between all the nations of the region, and that process, unchecked, could end in nuclear war.

I would like to suggest that Seoul engage in its own version of “unpredictability” by doing something that no one ever guessed it would do: tell the truth.

Not only should Seoul state bluntly that the greatest danger of the North’s nuclear program is its risk of triggering an arms race. It should call on the United States to engage in serious negotiations with the North, China and Russia to create an environment in which we can reasonably expect that the North will first stop testing nuclear weapons and then take steps to eliminate those weapons. Read more of this post

Park Geun-hye’s role?

The scandal involving President Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil and Chung Yoo-ra suggests the terrible consequences of a hidden bias towards women even in an age where women play a critical role in Korean society.In the case of Park Geunhye, if we can believe the reports, she spent an enormous amount of time on her appearances, trying to conform to demands that she be attractive. She could not formulate policy for herself, although obviously intelligent and well educated, and was reduced to a tool of older men who used her and then threw her away. I think that it is entirely appropriate to perceive Park Geun-hye at an irresponsible person who engaged in illegal actions for her narrow benefit but also, at the same time, as a women victimized by a culture that made her value conforming to a certain image of femininity more important than doing her job.

But the more disturbing part of the story is the fairy tale aspect of the denouement  . The story told in the media, liberal and conservative, is one of three women, Park Geunhye, Choi Soon-sil and Jung Yoo-ra who engage in terrible corruption that puts the nation at risk. They three of them, and their actions, are described in far greater detail than anyone else. But this story line sounds like it came out of a Confucian history book. The standard approach from ancient times was to try to blame the corruption of men on women. Yang Guifei of China’s Tang Dynasty  is the best example, the woman who was blamed for the corruption of the Yang family which led to a popular uprising—even though she herself did not have much to do with the corruption. And yet the most progressive people buy into this story. And this story keeps us from investigating more deeply into who actually got the money and how it was distributed. It also keeps us from thinking more deeply about what it is in the system and its organization that encourages such corruption.

A Modern Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The great three-way battle after the end of the Han Dynasty for control of the realm under heaven in ancient China forms a  perfect parallel for the current geopolitical rivalry between the United States, Russia and China.

Back in the second century A.D. the states of  Wei, Shu and Wu competed with each other in an effort to unify China and establish their political authority.

In a previous age, there was some resistance to this analogy because the United States considered itself to be in a special class, but with the rise of Donald Trump, and the cultural degradation of the United States, the analogy is rather apt.

Here is my own analogy for the three states of ancient China. Tell me what you think.

Sun Quan (孫權) the King of the State of Wu (吴)


Is the equivalent of Donald Trump, Emperor of the United States


Liu Bei (劉備) King of the State of Shu ( 蜀)


Is the equivalent of Xi Jinping, Emperor of China


Cao Cao (曹操) King of the State of Wei 魏


Is the equivalent of Vladimir Putin, Emperor  of Russia