Category Archives: Today in Korea

Mike Pompeo hears “His Master’s voice!”

Mike Pompeo is not a “secretary of state.” He is a lackey for the coal-fueled far-right Koch brothers and part of their agenda to grab North Korea’s coal, uranium and just about everything else and create an Asian Iraq. He could care less about the details of just about anything. Nonproliferation and the NPT is something he uses to wipe up after his cat throws up.

his master's voice


Pompeo’s work for the Koch brothers, and their family coal and fake science propaganda system, is described in detail in the Real News report below. It is completely accurate. Pompeo is literally for sale to the highest bidder. Have some ideas for how North Korea should be approached? Go ask your friends at Goldman Sach to put some more cash in the Pompeo fund.

Select Committee on Benghazi Report

Mike Pompeo accepted more from the Koch brothers than anyone else in Congress, and that is just the legal stuff!


The masters of the universe who are ready to lead the world into a GMO nightmare, collapsing ecosystem and world war because they are so completely deluded that their billions will save them. Here is a detailed description of how these pretty boys plan to escape. I doubt it will work.


Perhaps Iraq, a market economy nightmare dominated by big oil, is a model for a future North Korea?

Some estimate that as much as 6 trillion USD in resources, coal, uranium, iron, gold, magnesite, zinc, copper, limestone, molybdenum and graphite are beneath the surface in North Korea.


This is one reason why this time it is secret meetings of Pompeo with the top people in North Korea, and not reunions of separated families, which is getting all the attention.

Friends are saying how naive it is for the Trump administration to insist on military exercises while negotiating for normalization of relations with North Korea (and access to North Korea’s coal and uranium for the Koch Brothers, of course). Those friends are the naive ones around here. This strategy is time-honored. Dating back in Asia to the Opium Wars. It is known as “gunboat diplomacy.”


This moment is a critical one for Korea. Will Koreans let multinational banks determine their future? Will they miss the boat because they spend all their time watching games and pornography on their Samsung Galaxies? This is the moment, there can be no doubt!





The Real News Network

April 12, 2018

“What is Pompeo’s Agenda as Secretary of State? Ask the Highest Bidder”







“The rise in fine dust in Korea and the collapse of governance” Korea Times

Korea Times

“The rise in fine dust in Korea and the collapse of governance”

April 26, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich

Koreans have been bombarded over the past few weeks with non-stop news reports about the responses of former presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye to the criminal charges they face for corruption. Although those individuals should be held responsible for their actions, one has to wonder whether the personal self-serving actions of those politicians are the most critical issue for the nation, or whether we are being distracted from a more serious problem: the collapse of governance.

Over the past 12 years, starting at the end of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the capacity of government to identify national problems, to formulate solutions and to implement them effectively over the long-term has declined precipitously. We have witnessed the degradation of the political status of qualified civil servants, the empowerment of big business and the appointment of unqualified political figures to high government positions who proceeded to undercut the authority of the government officials serving under them to do their job.

The promotion of a “pro-business” approach to governance that valued short-term profits over the long-term well-being of the nation did permanent damage to the government itself. Today, politicians spend most of their time trying to promote their image and little time coming up with brave and effective solutions to real problems. The low-key and complex process of solving problems is less important than the image perceived in the media.

At the heart of this war on government is the promotion of deregulation (which means literally de-criminalization). The result of deregulation is that government officials have lost the ability to serve as a check on for-profit organizations. Today, profits for business has become the critical issue in the policymaking process and consequentially the government has lost its ability to formulate and implement long-term policies.

That problem has been made worse because deregulation has been paired with privatization so that infrastructure is run for profit. Such an approach poisons attitudes toward the community at every level.

The clearest example of the collapse of governance in Korea is the inability of South Korea to respond to the devastating increase in fine particulate matter in the air. The government is unable to identify the sources of the pollution for the public, to formulate a long-term solution or to demand that industry make the necessary improvements required to address the problem directly.
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Immigration Policy Committee at Ministry of Justice

Today I was appointed as a member of the Immigration Policy Committee at the Ministry of Justice and had a chance to meet the Minister of Justice, Professor Park Sang-ki.

Here is the certificate that I received today.

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But more interesting indeed was the odd gift I was presented with.


Here is the box.

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Wonder what might be inside?

A pen? A USB? A small electronic device?

But no… a bit of Korean humor about immigration policy.

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Much appreciated.




What happened to progressive media in Korea?

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I had the chance to pick up a copy of  Sisa-in시사인 yesterday at the train station and start ed reading it through. I must admit I was shocked.


When Sisa in was formed in 2007 by a group of journalists who could no longer take the commercialization of Korean media, it featured often extremely insightful articles on current affairs. This group of editors and reporters from Sisa Journal resigned in protest over the deletion of an article that was critical of Samsung and set out to pave the way to a new form of journalism in Korea.

Although I would not say that I agreed with all that Sisa in published ten years ago, and   I found some parts rather self-indulgent, as opposed to analytic, their writing offered a refreshing perspective on contemporary Korea, and often provided details not found elsewhere.

But when I picked up current issue and started reading it, I was immediately struck by how glossy and superficial the analysis has become. Particularly unimpressive was the repetition of positive interpretations of the engagement with North Korea of the Moon and Trump administrations without mention of the complete contempt for international law and diplomacy that has been shown by Trump Administration. Not a word about Trump’s contempt for the international community as shown in his actions on the Iran agreement or the Paris Summit.

Not sure what happened, but I offer some suggestions in my upcoming article on Korean journalism in Korea Times.

“Too good to be true” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Too good to be true”

March 13, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich



So the headlines in Seoul yesterday were splattered again with articles expressing tremendous optimism about the remarkable breakthrough so clearly represented by the agreement of U.S. President Donald Trump to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung-eun.

There was also no small amount of drivel about how thankful President Moon Jae-in is, or should be, for the tremendous consideration, and genius, shown by master diplomat Trump for this stroke of genius.

Several commentators went as far as to say Trump’s brilliant move is certain to win him a Nobel Peace Prize.

But does anyone really believe that Donald Trump ― a reality TV sensationalist, carnival barker Twitter-as-policy president ― can be trusted with anything, or that he has anything to do with the decision-making process behind this bolt out of the blue?

Maybe you should pull out Naomi Klein’s classic book “The Shock Doctrine” and see how Washington operatives have traditionally employed completely unexpected events, or economic shocks, to shove their unpopular agendas down the throats of people around the world. The purpose is not peace, but rather confusion, and Trump is the emperor of chaos.  Read more of this post

“Operation #MeToo begins” The Korea Times

The Korea Times

Operation #MeToo begins”

February 8, 2018


Emanuel Pastreich




There you have it. South Chungcheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung was accused on TV of using his authority to force himself on his secretary Kim Ji-eun and was forced to step down immediately, without any formal investigation. The media basked in the glory of serving as the leading force for the liberation of Korean women from the long sexual oppression at the hands of Korean men.

Agreement on this interpretation of events has been nearly universal in Korea. But there was something just too perfect about the process and about the timing.

Just consider that JTBC’s darling Son Seok-hee interviewed the secretary Kim Ji-eun on his show at the exact moment the Moon administration took the brave step of sending a special envoy to Pyongyang to open the door for comprehensive dialogue that the Trump and Abe administration had fought so hard behind the scenes to stop. Read more of this post

Korea Times “Why are Seoul’s grocery stores dying?”

Korea Times

“Why are Seoul’s grocery stores dying?”

March 4, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich



It does not take much digging to see a tremendous tragedy unfolding in Korean society today, yet the topic is studiously avoided not only at coffee with friends at Starbucks, but also in newspapers and in TV news broadcasts that serve to distract people from reality.

In every neighborhood of Seoul, family-run grocery stores are closing. I have seen it around me and it troubles me deeply. In our previous neighborhood, I watched a group of brave and creative people try to start a bakery. They did not last long, and the family-owned bakeries disappeared soon after. Read more of this post

Empty Grocery stores in Seoul

It does not take much digging to see a tremendous tragedy unfolding in Korean society today, and yet it is a topic that is studiously avoided not only at coffee with friends at Starbucks, but also in the newspapers, or the TV news broadcasts that serve to distract people from reality.

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In every neighborhood of Seoul, family-run grocery stores are shutting down. I have seen it around me and it troubles me deeply. I watched in our previous neighborhood a group of brave and creative people try to start a bakery. They did not last long, and later the family-owned bakeries disappeared soon after.

These stores are the last holdout of ordinary people who run their own company and make decisions for themselves about what they will buy and how they will organize the space around them. They are being driven out of business. In a sense, it is the end of democracy:  now no one in the local community has any say over how things are run.

I do not know the details of why these stores are closing down right now so quickly. I  welcome your input.

Perhaps they are being squeezed by the distribution system. Or perhaps they cannot compete with the convenience stores that have access to massive capital and can afford to go for months, or years, running a deficit in order to drive competitors out of business. That is the Amazon model, but it is also the Google model. It goes far back in history and sadly few around these days know much about how that game was played before, or how it was fought.

The result will be quite predictable: more and more people working at convenience stores or driving taxis, or working in some other job that does not allow them to make any decisions as to how the business is run but forces them to just follow rules dictated from above. The resulting poverty not only in terms of the income available to ordinary people, but also the loss of diversity in neighborhood cultures is quite clear. The cities are becoming deserts.

It is interesting to compare with the interiors of banks which are quite attractive, clean and spacious. Often there are many empty luxurious seats in the bank waiting rooms. There may be await at the bank for those of us with checking accounts trying to send money abroad, but next door there are sweet young women in the commercial section who sit alone all day long waiting for the business person, or the VIP, who comes once in a blue moon. But we should not make fun of these banks. They do at least offer some employment.

I would only warn those of the upper middle class who assumed that these massive economic rifts created by the financialization of our economy, do not assume that your career will not follow the same course. A competitive market economy driven by profit knows no limits. There will never be a day when those planning for stock market profits will sit down and reflect on how they have gone too far: complete  social collapse will come much sooner.

“Bringing the world together to respond to the East China Sea oil spill” The Korea Times


The Korea Times

“Bringing the world together to respond to the East China Sea oil spill”

February 17, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich




Last month’s oil spill in the East China Sea has produced the greatest ecological disaster to hit East Asia. The East China Sea spill is only surpassed in the history of oil spills by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a catastrophe from which the ecosystem is still far from recovering.

The collision of a Panamanian tanker, carrying Iranian petroleum, and the Chinese cargo ship CF Crystal on January 6 released almost a million barrels of condensate, an acutely toxic chemical that is highly volatile.

Condensate spreads quickly and is much harder to contain than crude. It spreads with water currents, exposing all marine organisms in its path. Never has such a large amount of condensate been released into the environment. It will kill or poison a wide range of marine animals, moving far beyond the expanding oil spill in the East China Sea.

If we combine this disaster with the degradation of the biosphere brought about by warming oceans, the acidification of seawater and overfishing, we are confronted with a catastrophe.

Yet you would never guess that anything had ever happened from reading the newspapers in Korea and Japan, let alone those of the United States and China. The overwhelming focus has been on the PyeongChang Olympics, with a few words about a nuclear threat from North Korea thrown in here and there. Even the antics of Donald Trump seem to be far more important than this devastating spill.

As of this moment, I have not seen any advisories about eating seafood products, and the governments of Korea and Japan have not established rigorous inspection regimes for marine produce.

For that matter, a keyword search of Jeju Island’s leading newspapers Halla Ilbo and Jeju Ilbo revealed almost no articles about the risks posed by this disaster. Newspapers in Okinawa and Kyushu, the regions likely to suffer the most serious consequences, had more reports, but they were incidental and not investigative.

Denial and distraction are not going to make this catastrophe go away. There is a serious risk that hundreds of thousands of people will be subject to tremendous health risks from contaminated seafood, and from contaminated water. Entire fishing communities will be economically devastated, and their inhabitants will be in danger.

We do not have much time to end this taboo. It is time for Korea, Japan, China and the entire international community to come together and to talk honestly about how we will clean up this disaster and how the ecosystem will be restored over the next few decades. That process will require close cooperation and the development of new technologies and new treatments. We will have to work together, as a team, to assure the safety and health of residents in the areas immediately affected, and to tell the region honestly how they will be impacted.

This oil spill, more than the North Korean nuclear weapons program, is shaping up to be a major security issue for the region that will require hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade or more.

It is essential that we put together a comprehensive plan to respond to this oil spill quickly and implement it rapidly and systematically. We must use scientific means to assess the dangers and to give reliable information to the world.

We need global cooperation to come up with a solution for the short term, the medium term and the long term. We must bring together players from government, research and industry in all the nations impacted to formulate and to implement a response. We also need citizens to be involved in the process, both providing information to experts and paying close attention to expert opinions and to other information related to the oil spill.

In the long term, we must strengthen regulations concerning the shipping of petroleum products. Most importantly, we must recognize that this tragedy was unnecessary and that we must quickly end the use of such dangerous fossil fuels that kill tens of thousands in Asia, not only through oil spills, but through air pollution.

This effort requires a literal revolution in the nature of government. Government around the world is increasingly weak, responding primarily to the demands of corporations, not citizens. Governments lack the expertise for analysis, and also are unable to carry out long-term plans. Politicians are only interested in the next election. Academics are forced by evaluation systems to spend their time writing for obscure academic publications and are discouraged from interacting with the public, or with government officials, who most need their help.

Citizens are distracted from facts by social media and by entertainment that has blocked out real news. We wander around blinded by a forest of electronic stimuli that induces impulsive purchases and indulges the grotesque cult of self. There is no space left for serious contemplation of the future of our Earth.

Will the United Nations handle this crisis? I would not hold my breath. The U.N. was not permitted to play a role in the clean-up after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. And it has not been able to handle much else over the past few decades. Its funding has been cut and it is made into a beggar for budgets, not a leader in ethical campaigns.

There was no power on Earth capable of telling BP to turn over its platform and clear out of the way so that the Deepwater Horizon leak could be handled by experts selected on the basis of their objectivity. The entire world watched the Gulf of Mexico destroyed, but no one could compel BP to do anything. In effect, there was no government.

So how will we respond to this threat? Will we just stare at our cell phones, slurp cafe lattes with our friends and discuss our vacation plans? Will we play stupid, as our children are poisoned by unknown chemicals in fish? Will we obsess over frivolous matters while the oceans die, forests turn to deserts, societies collapse into anomie and neighbors become indifferent strangers?

Maybe, just maybe, this catastrophe, combined with similar catastrophes around the world, will force us to reinvent the concept of citizenship, and of government. Perhaps we can start to consider ourselves as citizens of the Earth who have a responsibility to act.

Perhaps this terrible challenge will force us to work together and thereby affirm what a community is, and what a government is, in a positive and meaningful sense. Perhaps we can establish something beyond global governance, a form of “Earth management” that addresses our relationship to the entire Earth.

Governance is necessary, on a global scale, if we want to respond to the terrible damage inflicted on our planet by unlimited development. All actions must be assessed in terms of long-term impact on our environment, and our primary concern must be the well-being of the people.

The stock market should not have any impact on the formulation of policy in response to this oil spill, or to any ecological crisis. If anything, the government should be empowered to restrict the functions of the stock market so as to encourage, and to force, a rapid move away from our dangerous dependence on fossil fuel.

This oil spill is about the mistakes of the crew only in the most limited sense. The dangers of transporting petroleum, and the negative impact on our environment of emissions, have been known for decades. The solution is a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels supported by extensive funding from the government, and strict rules that will require high levels of efficiency and insulation, and demand the immediate elimination of automobiles that employ petroleum.

We need to change not only how we invest our money and plan our economy but also to reform our culture and our habits. Consumption and growth can no longer be the standards by which we determine success. The addiction to petroleum, the advertising to encourage people to purchase automobiles, and the massive investment in highways at the expense of other welfare programs must be questioned as part of our larger response to the oil spill.

Finally, we must face the painful truth that the expensive hardware that our militaries have procured is useless in addressing this oil spill, or other environmental disasters such as spreading deserts and rising seas. We must redefine “security” decisively for our age and move beyond the limited and the confrontational concept of “alliance.” We must embrace the U.N. charter in its true spirit and transform our militaries into transparent and effective parts of society that address real security threats. The foremost threat, according to scientific inquiry, is climate change.

One organization that could play a critical role in coordinating our response to the East China Sea oil spill is the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) in Seoul. The TCS is the sole organization run jointly by the governments of the China, Japan and Korea. The secretariat has proven itself to be extremely effective under the leadership of Secretary-General Lee Jong-heon and has played a critical role in coordinating policy.

This crisis, however, will take that role to a new level. We need an environmental assessment program for water and air quality, and long-term biological monitoring. But they can also work together to increase vessel traffic risk assessment and predict hazardous crossing areas. A whole range of vessel traffic control improvements and improved response protocols should be discussed.

We must enhance and organize the cooperation between governments, between research institutes, between NGOs, and between citizens in Asia to respond to this massive oil spill.

Moreover, this project can be seen not as a temporary step, but rather the next stage of Earth management aimed at the response to climate change and environmental degradation on a global scale. We will be creating new paradigms for universal application: for how to break down a complex problem into parts and assign it to experts from fields such as engineering, biology, demographics, oceanography, statistics and politics.

But we must explain what our response to the oil spill is for citizens and give them a compelling ethical motivation to contribute to the effort. That will require experts in philosophy, ethics, history, art, and literature. We will need artists to make compelling representations of this otherwise abstract disaster and writers to compose compelling phrases.

We will need to rebuild communities, to help fishermen whose communities are devastated, and to resettle people. That requires budgets, but it also requires moral courage and self-sacrifice. Let us pull the region, and the world, together to address this crisis properly and give humanity some hope.

“Cracking the Cha mystery” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Cracking the Cha mystery”

Feburary 5, 2018


Emanuel Pastreich


Korea’s mainstream media have been plastered with articles and editorials that repeat the storyline that Victor Cha expressed concerns about the so-called “bloody nose” strike on North Korea in his talks with the Trump White House and was dropped as a candidate for ambassador to Korea as a result.

But such a narrative does not hold up to even the most elementary scrutiny. Nor does the claim that Victor Cha is an urbane and highly respected expert on North Korea hold much water.

To start with, Cha has been silent over the past year as Trump advocated for an unprovoked (possibly nuclear) attack against North Korea and took numerous steps in his approach to diplomacy that have destroyed the State Department and led most senior diplomats to resign, or be dismissed.

Cha has also been silent regarding the blatantly racist comments made by Trump or other illegal uses of the Department of Justice’s authority.

But before we get into the details of what might actually be going on, let us consider the significance of this failure to appoint an ambassador to South Korea for more than a year after the launch of the administration.

Some pundits note that other ambassadorships remain open, but, in fact, the major positions in East Asia, and the world, have been filled.

Moreover, granted that Trump is talking about North Korea practically every week, saying that it is the most important security issue, the slight is obvious.

The failure to appoint an ambassador, or even to start the nomination procedures at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, should be interpreted as a major insult.

Mysteriously, the Moon administration has been silent about this Lese-majeste. The conservatives, who ought to be standing up for Korea’s sovereignty, are rather attacking the progressives for failure to be blindly loyal to the Trump administration.

In fact, it is the longest time that Korea has been without an American ambassador since Edwin Morgan was sent back to Washington D.C.

Wait a minute ― who is Edwin Morgan?

Well, the last time that we witnessed such a delay in replacing the US ambassador was when Theodore Roosevelt turned a blind eye on the Japanese absorption of the Korean Empire of Emperor Gojong and ordered Secretary of State Elihu Root to telegraph Ambassador Edwin Morgan instructions to “withdraw from Korea and return to the United States” on November 24, l905. The next US ambassador to arrive was John Muccio ― 45 years later.

Korea has not become a colony this time, but its relationship with the U.S. has clearly been downgraded by this action. Moon is being smothered in kind words from Trump about an end to “Korea passing” while Korea was all so politely kicked down the stairs and forced to act like a loyal ally even as tariffs were imposed unilaterally and demands were even made that it follow a security policy in which Korea had no voice in formulating.
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