Category Archives: Interview

“The Greatest asset of Korea is our people” Speaker Chung Sye-kyun (January 3, 2017 Huffington Post)

Huffington Post

“ ‘The Greatest asset of Korea is our people’ Speaker Chung Sye-kyun on Impeachment and Korea’s future”

January 3, 2017


Emanuel Pastreich

Chung Sye-kyun became speaker of the National Assembly when his Democratic Party of Korea swept to victory in the June elections last year. The conservative Saenuri Party had taken a tremendous fall because of the fading appeal of its neo-liberal policies.

A senior figure in Korean politics with a balanced personality, Chung is not quick to make emotional judgments, but rather focused on creating harmonious relations within the political sphere. He has a passion for institution building. He has emerged as a central political figure in Korea during the impeachment proceedings of President Park Geun-hye.

I had a chance to talk to him briefly about Korea’s current political crisis and his perspective on the challenges, and possibilities, that lie ahead. As a man in the eye of the storm, he is perhaps best positioned to give an accurate assessment.

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“Interview with Harvard’s Legendary Dean Henry Rosovsky” (Huffington Post, January 9, 2016)

Huffington Post


“Interview with Harvard’s Legendary Dean Henry Rosovsky:

The Secret of excellence and the prospects for Asian Higher Learning”


January 9, 2016


Emanuel Pastreich



Harvard University had obtained a remarkable global role since the end of the Second World War. Of course it has been a strong institution for a long time, but if we think back, in 1900, or even in 1930, it was not considered to be on the same level as some universities in England, Germany or France. What exactly was it that allowed Harvard to reach the status that it enjoys today?

The task of building a great university is never simple.

Let me stress one point because it’s so often misunderstood, and we see this in Asia today: To become a world-class university takes a lot of time. There are simply no shortcuts. People tend to assume, and I have encountered this sort of thinking all over the world, that if they just sink enough money into a university, it will emerge in a few years as a first-class institution. But such rapid growth never happens. It takes time; it takes generations.

That said, there are a few clear factors that determine the potential of a university to reach the highest levels of excellence. In the case of Harvard University, it was true that by the time of its tercentenary (300th anniversary of its founding) in 1936, Harvard had already achieved a reputation as a world-class institution. Harvard did not have the stature that it does today.

So what specifically happened between the nineteen-thirties and now? Well the United States became more economically powerful and attracted more resources and faculty from around the world after the Second World War. But one very important development were the innovations introduced by President James Bryant Conant who served as president from 1933 to1953.

What were the specific steps that President Conant took as president to transform Harvard? Read more of this post

Interview with Dr. Bark Taoho, former minister of finance (ROK) Arirang G-Lounge

January 4, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich
The Asia Institute
Arirang TV




Interview with Dr. Bark Taeho (former minister of finance)
Seoul National University
Graduate School of International Studies
Review of the global economy in 2015 and prospects for 2016.


arirang bark tae ho

Part 1

Part 2


Part 3


Part 4

“Chinese meritocracy and the limits of democracy” (Interview: Daniel Bell in The Diplomat)

The Diplomat

Interview: Daniel Bell

“Chinese meritocracy and the limits of democracy”

December 17, 2015


Emanuel Pastreich




China as a society, a government, an economy and a culture is quite difficult for us to comprehend today. The changes are so rapid in cities like Beijing and Shanghai and the culture remarkably fluid. What do you see as the defining characteristics of China’s culture today and what do you anticipate in terms of China’s future role in the international community?

The most striking cultural shifts in China over the last two decades or so has been the revival, both orchestrated and spontaneous, of tradition. The main trope for culture in the twentieth century, especially since 1949, has been anti-traditionalism. As far back as the May 4th movement in 1919, and before, whether it was the financial elite, the liberals, the Marxists, or anarchists they all agreed that China was poor and that one of the causes of that state of affairs was the backward traditional culture.

We have witnessed a dramatic reevaluation of tradition in China, and also in other East Asian countries with a Confucian heritage such as Korea. This part of the world has witnessed rapid growth over the last three decades that has sharply reduced poverty and the region has remained at peace. So when people look around and ask what do all these countries have in common, one answer is their Confucian heritage. So whereas the previous narrative was that Confucianism undermined modernization and economic growth, now many argue that it actually helps.

We are witnessing the return of a more historical and humanistic perspective on the world, an emphasis on education, a concern for family across several generations, and a new assessment of the value of China’s tradition of political meritocracy. Chinese have long held that the key to a political system is the selection and promotion of leaders with superior abilities, ethical qualities and social and cultural skills who can best lead the nation forward. The perspective has Confucian roots, but it has been modernized and has been the core of the strategy for economic development in China and other East Asian countries such as Korea and Japan. Although Confucian ideology was denounced during the Cultural Revolution, it is taking on a new centrality today. And the promotion of core Confucian values is not limited to the government. We see similar efforts in business and in the non-profit sector. Read more of this post

Interview: Benjamin Elman The Diplomat, December 10, 2015


The Diplomat

Interview: Benjamin Elman

“The ‘rise of China’ narrative can be read in different ways, and for Japan it is a challenge.”

December 10, 2015

Emanuel Pastreich



When people talk about the future of East Asia, and the potential for integration, they say,“Well, Europe has been integrated from Roman times but East Asia has no such precedent. In fact Japan has never really been part of a unified architecture in Asia.” Is there something in the way East Asia has evolved in the 2,000 years that limits future integration, or is that not an assumption we should make?

In order to understand global issues, one needs to understand the regional issues that undergird them. China, Japan, Korea, and to some degree Vietnam and other portions of South Asia have become a very viable regional group. China is increasingly influenced by the nations around it in economics and politics. To understand the region’s potential, we need to consider the historical development of the Chinese empire, the economic impact of the Tokugawa government (17th-19th centuries), and, ultimately, how Korea was a part of economic and scientific change influencing both sides.

Korea often served as a conduit for medical knowledge, for Buddhist and Confucian metaphysics, and for technological innovations. Korea has been caught in the middle historically as China continued to surpass Korea in terms of its military and economic power and influence in East Asia during the Ming and Qing dynasties. I think that when Japan’s Toyotomi Hideyoshi led invasions (1592 and 1597) of Korea that fundamentally altered the geopolitical landscape and reduced Korea’s role in the economic and political order of the region.

We tend to underestimate just how big Japan was in the global economy in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Tokugawa reunification of Japan after the battle of Sekigahara (1600) brought together a population of 25-27 million under a highly disciplined military. That meant that Japan was not just an island, but a powerful state capable not only of invading Korea and marching all the way to the Yalu River, but also capable of challenging the Ming Dynasty. Innovations in naval warfare and the decision of the Ming to throw their full weight into the campaign against Japan meant that Hideyoshi was forced to give up the campaign against the Ming, but the consequences of that campaign were that Korea was devastated and is only now starting to recover its self-confidence. The Gyeongbok Palace remained in ruins until the middle of the 19th century. Japan took advantage of Korea’s decline. Read more of this post

Interview with Ambassador Thomas Lehmann of Denmark @ G Lounge (Arirang TV)

G Lounge
Arirang TV

November 30, 2015
Interview with Ambassador Thomas Lehmann
Danish Embassy in Seoul

interview with thomas lehmann

Hosted by Emanuel Pastreich

Green Growth in Korea and Denmark


A wide-ranging discussion of the “Green Alliance” between Denmark and Korea and prospects for new approaches to growth post Paris 2015 COP 21.


Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Interview: Lawrence Wilkerson @ The Diplomat

The Diplomat

Interview: Lawrence Wilkerson

A discussion of tensions in East Asia, and some possible solutions

By Emanuel Pastreich

December 03, 2015



What do you see as the underlying sources for the tensions between China and the United States today? 

The tensions between the United States and other ASEAN nations with China over the South China Sea today are extremely serious. The South China Sea and the tensions with Russia over Ukraine are the two greatest sources of possible conflict today and I believe that either problem could lead to war if not properly handled.

The problem is in part one resulting from an American drive to confront China, but it is exacerbated, almost daily, because the Chinese leadership has discovered that nationalism serves as a great replacement for the void in ideology that the death of communism has produced. I fear that as growth slows below 7 percent, the Chinese government will increasingly feel a need to throw nationalist red meat to the Chinese people. I fear that the speculation about a possible military conflict could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I suggest that America and China, and other nations, take concrete steps to reduce the tension and create a broad dialogue. The United States or China could end up in a situation in which both parties, to avoid a loss of face, are forced to do what they said they would do. In the South China Sea – and in particular around the Spratly Islands – we see the greatest risk of a major confrontation.

All sides should recognize that we have a dangerous situation. Such confrontation is not in the interest of the United States, China or the region.

I am not interested in defending China regarding the South China Sea, but there are those who have argued that although some see Chinese activities in the South China Sea as excessive, or arrogant, China’s actions are certainly not worse than American interference in South America in the 1960s and 1970s and that there is no justification for the United States to get involved in what is essentially a regional problem. What are your thoughts?

The argument regarding the United States’ meddling is a fair one to make. I would rather want to focus on the need to start a broader and more level-headed discussion about territory in the South China Sea that moves beyond an emotional and nationalist fight between the claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines, and China. Let us also bring in countries like Indonesia who have a stake in the region. I think the best way to address what I personally think is a mistake on the Chinese part is to have other voices say, “Listen China, these claims are causing an unnecessary problem. You are making claims that are far beyond what any international law would codify and approve.”

There are laws and processes that can be invoked to deal with these claims without escalating military tensions. The United States should pull back and not try to make itself the center of attention.

The United States could say, but currently is not saying, “Let’s resolve this dispute in a way that benefits everyone and sets a positive precedent for the future.” Read more of this post

 The United States of Batman

Dissecting American Politics at the Cineplex

with Italy’s leading cultural critic

Giuseppe Sacco


Foto senza Occhialithe dark knight

Emanuel Pastreich

November 7, 2015

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“한국아, 넌 왜 자서전도 없냐” (아시아경제 2014년 7월 8일)

아시아경제 인터뷰

예일대 중문과 및 전체 우등 졸업, 도쿄대 석사, 하버드대 박사. 이어서 서울대 대학원 연구생. 한·중·일 등 동양 3국의 언어와 문학, 문화에 정통한 푸른 눈의 학자가 지난해 <한국인만 모르는 다른 대한민국>이라는 책을 내 ‘이제 한국이 국제사회의 전면적 주도권을 잡을 수도 있고, 시민의 행동을 통해 세계 역사의 방향까지 좌우할 수 있다’고 한국의 가능성을 부각해 주목을 끌었다. Read more of this post

“창조경제 해법요? 전통문화를 공부하세요” (한국경제 매거진)

한국경제 매거진 

2014년 2월 



“창조경제 해법요? 전통문화를 공부하세요”


“한국이 해결해야 할 모든 문제의 답은 이미 한국인이 갖고 있다.” 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬 경희대 국제대학원 교수는 이렇게 말한다. 그러니 ‘우수한 선진 문물’을 배우기 위해 해외 탐방에 나설 일이 아니다. 그저 조선시대의 실록과 같은 역사적 기록물을 뒤지는 것만으로도 미래를 위한 실마리를 찾아내는 데 충분하다. 이방인의 눈으로 ‘한국 문화의 자부심’을 말하는 그로부터 ‘한국의 창조경제’를 위한 조언을 들었다.


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