The very first Karl Polanyi Institute in Asia (Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy) has opened!
The institute will be like water that extinguishes the fires of
“inequity, anxiety, and distrust” in our society.
Fires we can see can be extinguished with water,
but invisible fires in our society can only be extinguished
with innovation through communication.
We hope you stay with us
on Seoul’s journey through great transition and join its bold efforts
to extinguish such “fires” of the world.
I would like to post the congratulatory speech that I gave at the opening of the institute. Though it’s a bit long, I put my heart into it and spoke with overflowing joy.
I am Park Won Soon, the Mayor of Seoul.
First, I would like to extend my gratitude to President Alan Shepard of Concordia University and Professor Kari Polanyi Levitt, who came such a long way to congratulate us on the opening of the Karl Polanyi Institute for Asia.
I would also like to thank Professor Marguerite Mendell, although she couldn’t be here today, as well as Chairman Song Gyeong-yong of the preparatory committee, Director Jeong Tae-in, and the many others who worked so hard to open this institute.
Today is a very significant and historical day.
The first Karl Polanyi Institute in Asia has opened in Seoul, the capital and heart of the Republic of Korea. The name “Karl Polanyi” is relatively unknown in Korean society. However, now, 50 years after Polanyi’s passing, his memory has been revived.
I believe that our passion, desires, and dreams for a “new society” and a “new civilization” have brought his memory firmly back into the public consciousness.
Currently, we are confronted with grave and important challenges and crises. The gap between the rich and the poor and inequality among the people in general are standing in the way of social justice and integration. Especially, our low birthrate, aging population, and climate change are problems that threaten our very future.
Over the past year, in particular, Korean society has been engulfed by chaos, making us unable to take even one step toward a new and better future.
The rapid modernization and brisk competition that we had worshiped and so blindly pursued eventually culminated in the unprecedented Sewol Ferry tragedy.
The achievements we made by only looking ahead and rushing toward industrialization and democratization, which we accomplished faster than any other country, were nothing more than displays of our ultimate incompetence, helplessness, and impudicity, showing our lack of awareness of the value of a new society and imagination.
It was Antonio Gramsci who said, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”
And everyone, altogether, is saying that we are in a crisis.
Yet the “new” that we need to replace or change the old, has shown no sign of emerging. Since “crisis is just another name for opportunity,” we have to turn this crisis into a “great transition” to a new society and new civilization.
And Karl Polanyi gave us the motivation to develop new ideas and a new model of societal development.
He said that “human freedom is the ultimate foundation of human life” and “humans can never be subordinate to the market or products.”
He emphasized that we need to “control and guide the economy so that it works for people and our society rather than subjugates them,” and also argued that “we need to approach and understand the economy in relation to society through the concept of ‘embeddedness,’ as the economy is embedded in society.”
His insight came from his deep-rooted belief in the free will of humans and his trust in the cooperation and solidarity of the community.
It was a message born of human faith in coexistence, mutual assistance, and reciprocity.
Now, we must develop a new idea for a new community in order to courageously achieve a much-needed “great transition.”
The Karl Polanyi Institute for Asia and the City of Seoul will stand at the center of this transition, toward which Seoul is already making great progress.
“Governance with citizens” and “administration of innovation” have become the two guiding concept of this city. And the sharing economy, social economy, cooperatives, and village community movements are flares signaling the beginning of a new Seoul.
Congratulatory Speech on the Opening of the Karl Polanyi Institute for Asia (Full Text):
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