Memorial Address, “Memorial Ceremony for Professor Ulrich Beck”
Date March, 17th, 2015 | Venue International Conference Hall, Press Center
Professor Ulrich Beck, it is such a pity that you left us so suddenly. I feel something is missing, as if I were a student just starting to study who has lost his teacher. I almost can still hear your clear voice.
Last summer, you visited Seoul on our invitation to discuss challenges in a risk society and Seoul’s way forward, a very timely visit. You visited when Korean people were grieving for the Sewol Ferry disaster. At the time, we were actually experiencing the symptoms of the “risk society” you had suggested. When you explained the periodic characteristics of the post-modern age, where disasters keep occurring endlessly, we were able to easily understand it even though we are not scholars.
You told us to make the place of the devastating Sewol Ferry disaster into a place for citizens to study and fix society. You emphasized that we have to predict and contemplate that the adverse effects caused by modernization will be expanded, and convert that catastrophic situation into a liberating catastrophe. I understand that your message of hope was not possible without trust in human history and a deep love for human beings.
You had a keen interest in East Asian countries that have suddenly become rich through condensed modernization. Looking back, over the last 50 years, Korea has achieved unprecedented remarkable economic growth. We succeeded in a compressed modernization through industrialization and democratization, and the Miracle on the Hangang River created a society in which per capita income has reached 30 thousand dollars.
However, you taught us the important fact that success is another name for risk. Your message is that behind the success of modern countries are a number of risks resonated with us.
In the middle of a conversation on the topic of challenges of a risk society and Seoul’s way forward, we repeated that global cities will become leaders in addressing global issues, and that Seoul could play an important role in that process. You might have been concerned about East Asia, where we have moved swiftly to a risk society, and perhaps you could have helped us understand what role Seoul can play as a global city.
In the face of the Sewol Ferry disaster, we realized that we should escape from compressed modernization and our current speed-oriented society. You brought up “reflexive modernization” and “civilized metamorphosis,” and promised to join us in an international comparative study on a risk society, the Seoul Project.
Even after you left Seoul, big and small disasters kept occurring. Whenever they happened, I was reminded of your lecture, and it gave me an impetus to attempt various changes in order for Seoul to address urban problems in the world and Asia as a global city, as you said we could. We are continuously implementing the “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” movement and strengthening the “Village Community Movement” to create a society of sharing and cooperation. More importantly, the governance of communication and cooperation with citizens that you emphasized is being steadily implemented.
Your lesson that required “metamorphosis through cathartic learning” has now become a reality. The dreams you had yet to realize at the time of your passing now remain as our responsibilities. We will give power and light to your words like “reflexive citizen,” “way of life that does not amplify danger,” and “collaborative governance;” these will not remain mere rhetorical expressions.
We will bear in mind your message that Seoul, as a global city, has the potential to detect crises and resolve them more sensitively than other cities. And we will build solidarity and shift towards a sustainable life with citizens so that Seoul can be the hub of East Asia. We promise you to continue building towards your dreams as our own dreams. We pray you will rest in peace.