How should Korea address the Constitutional implications of new technology?

Policy on new technology, automation, digitalization, the Internet and the use of the private information, photographs and videos obtained from internet transmissions, CCTV cameras, and other monitoring devices.

Dr. Emanuel Pastreich, President of The Asia Institute Washington D.C., Seoul, Tokyo, Hanoi

The Republic of Korea has been swept by a mania for technology which is not natural but rather promoted by the commercial media for reasons of profit. The result has been the sweeping implementation of radical shifts in policy that are being undertaken in every corner of our society with little, or no concern for its impact on the constitutional rights of our citizens, who are identified as sovereign by the Constitution, or for its negative impact on the economy, on society, on the lives of individuals, and on the functioning of the human brain. 

Citizens are never consulted concerning the possible negative impact of technology before its implementation. 
A fundamental restructuring of our society is being carried out by for-profit corporations without our permission, often in complete secret. All such shifts in the environment we inhabit and work in must be debated by citizens and be subject to an open transparent scientific review of its long-term impact on our citizens. 

We take the following stance regarding these dangerous developments and we demand that all figures in government office respond to these demands concretely and immediately, or face the charge of conspiring with a massive criminal conspiracy to disenfranchise the citizens of their constitutional rights.

New technologies are being implemented all around us without any concern for how they may destroy, degrade or undermine existing jobs, personal relationships, community exchanges, or the functioning of the brains of our citizens. Although the Republic of Korea claims to be a “democracy,” the citizens have not been consulted, or even informed, of the shifts taking place around us in terms of automation, AI applications, information harvesting, shifts to online platforms and the outsourcing of services to other countries.

Moreover, many technologies, and entertainment and advertising platforms, are inherently damaging to the human brain and the subtle forms of stimulation that they systematically employ so as to induce addiction, compulsive behavior and narcissism in citizens undermine our ability to think rationally or objectively. 

The devious stimulation of the brains of our citizens by these new media technologies undermines the ability of people, especially youth, to think for themselves, to be creative and to form bonds and friendships with others that are essential for them playing their constitutional role as citizens. 

Addiction to short-term stimulation is the explicit goal of many search engines and social networks because it increases profits. Destroying the ability of citizens to concentrate, to remember, to engage in complex discussions on politics and society and to relate to their peers is a blatant attack on our rights as citizens, a covert operation to reduce us to passive animals in violation of the constitution. 

All new technologies must be evaluated by ethical experts who have no financial interests in the implementation of those technologies and the long-term impact on our society must be taken into account before they are implemented. 

We must ask: 
Do these technologies stimulate the brain in an addictive manner, induce superficial thinking, or inhibit person-to-person interactions in a manner that is damaging? 

Do these technologies make the Republic of Korea more dependent on fossil fuels or other dangerous sources of energy that make us less secure (because they are imported) or that pollute our environment?

Do those technologies displace jobs, or degrade the value or the meaningfulness of existing jobs in a manner that destroys the lives of citizens, or undermines their constitutional rights?

Does the broad application of these technologies create a society in which a stoppage in the supply of energy would bring our society to a standstill? 

If any of these risks are increased by the implementation of the new technology, or system for the use of technology, there must be extensive research conducted before the technology is implemented. In addition, technologies used by corporations in public spaces for advertising or for communications spaces which our citizens must pass through as part of their daily work, or their movements in their living environment, must be approved in a public and transparent manner by the government with full access of all related information for the citizens.


Corporations, investment banks, and the super-rich that control them have launched dangerous campaigns recently to radically automate the workplace. Intellectuals, labor organizers, and the vast majority of public intellectuals, whether subject to soft bribes and sweetheart deals or explicit threats, have been virtually silent about this criminal operation. 

Although some level of automation can be helpful, most automation involves greater dependence on imported fossil fuels or imported uranium, and it also increases environmental pollution. In many cases it destroys jobs, is used as a means to threaten the livelihood of citizens, and otherwise renders neighborhoods as deserts inhabited by strangers. 

Government offices, subways, hospitals, and even cafes and restaurants that were once run by actual government employees or citizens of the Republic of Korea, have been replaced by computers, sensors, monitors and robots that are run by multinational corporations and that are unaccountable. Tragically, this dangerous and reckless trend is promoted in the media as progress as part of a “fourth industrial revolution.” 

The process of automation also subjects sensitive private information that should be held by the government to harvesting by the third parties to whom the management of information has been outsourced as part of this move to make systems “smart.” 
In accord with the Constitution, the government must be run by people and it is blatantly unconstitutional to transfer those powers to computers and other technological devices.

In many cases, it is better not to automate or put online many administrative or information management tasks so as to assure that documents are secure, that jobs are preserved and that the ability of citizens to think clearly and rationally is assured. This point is equally true for the government, corporations, and for universities and research institutes. 

Automation destroys needed jobs in every aspect of the economy and it degrades and demeans work by making it less human, less environmentally friendly, less accountable and less transparent.
Corporations are systematically implementing automation as a strategy to undermine the economic foundations of working people and to make them dependent on electricity for common tasks that they were previously capable of carrying out themselves. 

Automation policy for government and corporations must be reviewed openly in constant dialog with informed and aware citizens and all policy formulation must be conducted in a transparent process. Policy on automation formulated by corporations that have an interest in making profits from the process must be rejected from the policy debate. Media sources that rely on advertising income from corporations that make their money from automation must also be excluded from that debate, as must input from think tanks and research institutes funded by such corporations.  

In many cases, previous automation policies must be reversed because they are a direct infringement on the rights of citizens according to the Constitution. The promotion of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” by corporations as if it were a scientific fact, rather than a political move to consolidate power for the rich and powerful, must end. Such dishonest and misleading promotion of the convenience of automation by corporations (and now by the government) as a means to disenfranchise the citizen is blatantly illegal and unconstitutional. Citizens must be informed of the dangers of such policies. 

Digitalization and the move of all interactions to an online format

It has become commonplace to promote the move of many human activities online, such as education, economic exchange, communications and debate or interactions with the government, corporations or other entities. Such policies are promoted, even demanded, as part of a supposed step forward that is described, incorrectly, as a necessary step for progress. Such steps are dangerous for society, they undermine our constitutional rights to freedom and independence and they increase risks for the Republic of Korea by making us dependent on a supply of electricity generated in a manner that increases imports of fossil fuels and damages the environment. 

In many cases, digitalization makes our country weaker, more easily infiltrated by powerful financial and technological forces from abroad and it destroys jobs and lives in the process. The situation is now so bad that one is required to use a smartphone or computer in order to go about daily life. The COVID19 crisis has been hyped up by the commercial media as a means of making normal interactions difficult or impossible so as to increase our dependence on online platforms that are controlled by multinational corporations. 

These policies destroy jobs, reduce the quality of the jobs that survive, force people to interact with computers rather than other people, and have a negative impact on our citizens’ ability to think clearly, concentrate and comprehend complex issues. 

All digitalization and the move of services online must be subject to extensive scientific review of its long-term impact on all aspects of society and the environment. These studies must be open and involve citizens and experts who are not tied to corporate interests. 
In cases in which it is found that current policies of moving services online are detrimental to our citizens, they must be reversed. 

The citizen must be assured his constitutional right to evaluate the value of such policies through objective materials, not promotional materials created by corporations and distributed through the corporate media. We will not allow corporations and investment banks to fundamentally alter society without the full and informed consent of citizens. There is no scientific or ethical basis for the push to move human activities online and the so-called “smart cities” encourage both superficial thinkings by citizens and tyranny by corporations by their promotion of dependency on technology. 

The Internet

The Internet can serve as a valuable platform for linking up with people throughout Korea, and across the world, for communication and for cooperation. Yet, although the Internet has become so central in our daily lives, it is not administered in a democratic or transparent manner. We are forced to agree to the conditions for its use dictated by corporations and cannot make any demands or requests for how it is administered or improved. In many cases, programs, search engines, news sources and various forms of entertainment online are specifically designed to prey on human weaknesses for instantaneous gratification and they do tremendous damage to the lives of our citizens. 

The Internet must serve as a means for citizens to communicate with each other, first and foremost, and all Internet policy must be made in a transparent manner by the government in consultation with citizens to serve that purpose. If we must use the internet for communication, it becomes the property of the citizens who use it and not that of the corporations who develop it using massive financing to which ordinary citizens are illegally denied access. 
The algorithms employed by search engines, by social networks, and by other services offered on the Internet must be determined in a transparent manner by the citizens who use it, and never by corporations or banks or other financial interests dedicated to the pursuit of profit, rather than the true interests of the nation. 

The use of the private information, photographs and videos obtained from Internet transmissions, CCTV cameras, and other monitoring devices

It is no secret the lives of Koreans are tracked 24 hours a day by cameras in public and private locations without their permission or consent and that this information is sold off to private concerns who then use it to manipulate us, to subtly influence our activities, or even to intimidate or threaten us. The same process takes place for information from email and other communications via social media. The private collection of information in this manner is unconstitutional and must stop immediately. 

We must carefully regulate how information gathered is employed in the future. The regulation of the collection and use of such information is such a critical field for human rights that the Korean constitution must be expanded to address information issues explicitly. 

It is entirely appropriate for the government to undertake this process of stopping the misuse of such information, but only in that, the government itself is run in accord with constitutional and ethical principles in a transparent manner. That means that accountable government officials must carry out the monitoring of this process directly and not outsource the work to private companies. 

There are legitimate reasons to use CCTV recordings, but we need to make sure that such cases are handled by an accountable and transparent agency. Any private corporation that could possibly benefit from the misuse of information should be barred from the collection, retention and circulation of such information. The same applies to private information exchanged by email, social media, smartphones or other media. 

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