NCCN (COR): A keynote speech of the Jeonju Slowness Forum & Awards 2017

South Korean National Network

On November 2 the Jeonju Slowness Forum & Awards 2017 was held in the city of Jeonju, Corea for the first time, and we would like to share a keynote speech of prof. bon sohn, Vice President of the Cittaslow International and Coordinator of the National Cittaslow Corea Network with you interested in the event. 

For more information, please contact at cittaslowcorea@hanmail.net.

The Gaze on the Slowness
Professor Dr. bon sohn
Department of Tourism_Hanyang University
Coordinator_the National Cittaslow Corea Network


Since 1961 Corea has experienced unprecedented high-speed compressed growth in the world's history in the last over 50 years. Corean parents have worked for 15 hours a day, and their children have studied for 15 hours a day. However they have been isolated from a good life, and even their life is harder now ever then. After the advent of the smartphone era in 2007, the world faces finally the Forth Industrial Revolution, led by the Information Technology Revolution dominated by digital development. The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices reaches over 20 billion, and it complicates increasingly situations in the sociocultural terms. In the world where everything is personalized, humans become puppets without emotion, and especially Corea does a country in friction. Throughout the process of dialectic thesis-antithesis-synthesis, there have been voices of taking a rest among Coreans from the obsession that forces them to keep seeking growth. Therefore, the lost 50 years that individualism has spread in Corean society can be seen an adjustment period of the birth of a new self, instead of thinking it negative. It spreads slowly like “Old pond – A frog leaps in – The sound of the water.” from Frog Haiku of Matuso Basho, one of the most famous poets of the Edo period in Japan. 

The logic that has dominated Corean society for half a century is the equation of ‘People’s happiness = Economic growth.’ For this, the Machine Thomas L. Friedman, an American journalist and author calls encourages businesses to “Produce, produce!” while the Market does consumers to “Consume, consume!” Moreover, after neo-liberalism planted its roots in the world in 1980s, the structural framework of global capitalism is of greater advantage gained support throughout the world in the age of globalization. This goal for growth lacked a philosophy, and it results that the nation’s GDP growth had increased to 29.6 percent the last ten years from 2006 to 2015, two times much than the growth rate of the quality of life (11.8 percent). The economic growth is more than a simple means to improve the quality of life, but our society regards it as the end to do, leading to loss of the basic philosophy of being ‘a decent man.’ Nowadays Corea enjoys material affluence 300 times much compared to 1950s, but our society sees a the income distribution disparity has widened in the last 50 years, resulting in breaking down the relationship between people, and between human and nature. According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN) the equivalent of 1.7 planets would be needed to produce enough to meet humanity's needs at current consumption rates. Unfortunately there is no more planet like the Earth that has soil on it. Capitalism has no possibility to be decent, and people make money a god to them. Corea is suffering from having put technology before spirit, and the people are well-rounded into many fields in the world while they don’t know how to be happy or touch people’s hearts. As Coreans cry for help, despite living in the affluent society, we need to get our act quickly.


It is clear that speed craze is one of crucial factors that made an important contribution to human progress. The core of capitalism is money, speed, and competition. But the problem is whether we live well in this splendid days of capitalism or not. Especially, the immense wealth and power has become concentrated on a few individuals and companies in the world, and this distribution disparity has left a bad precedent like dehumanization; speed + competition = capitalism = loss of humanity.

Constantin Virgil Gheorghiu, a Romanian priest and writer, best known for his 1949 novel, The 25th Hour, hoped that the world could avoid the tragedy of 25 hours, but it failed. Now many people has been materialized, because they follow the equation “Speed = Afflruence = Best”, saying “I am busy, therefore I am,” or “I don’t think, therefore, I am.” There is few chance to fall in love with the sunrise in the countryside or to see the sunset or stars in the sky in cities. People form a society as woods form a forest. It is one of distinctive human capabilities to love, care, and trust others, and to spontaneously build communities based on shared values. As in this day of acceleration many people are afraid of social exclusion, only the nations equipped with strong communities will be able to thrive at times like this. 17 million Coreans were untied to exert the power of the community, and finally helped impeach the president. After one of the biggest oil disaster in 2007, 1.23 million volunteers gathered to the coast of Taean to help clean up, and it is almost 100 percent recovered, and their community activities helped achieve a miracle that the oil spilt area came back to life sooner than thought.

The Gheorghius who visited Corea and Prof. bon sohn (1973)

Corea's biggest ever oil spill, and 1.23 million volunteers’ efforts for clean-up (2007)

   Machizukuri means ‘community building’ in English, and is one of representative community movements that started in Japan in 1960s. In Denmark people usually enjoy to go in small, and enjoy hygge, the coziness that brings warmth, happiness, and comfort into their life. The Netherlands is one of well-off countries, while the Dutches work for average 27 hours a week, and pay high taxes. They are free, open-minded, and reliable because the county was built by immigrants, and poor in natural resources, so they should help each other. Therefore they value ‘1 + 1 = 1,’ and chant a slogan “We are One.” Professor Eric Klinenberg of Sociology, New York University predicted the popularization of living alone in his book “Going Solo.” In 2015 Corea has a population 50 million people, and the number of single-person households was over 5 million. Also as of the end of 2015, Corea's economy had become the 11th largest in the world finally twenty years after Corea joined OECD, but the quality of life in Corea. According to the "Better Life Index" released by the OECD, Coreans are far from enjoying decent work-life balance, ranking at 36th, while Coreans had a poor support network, ranking at 37th among 38 OECD members. A civil society based on the common good can be weak in excessive competition accelerated by Neo-liberalism, and then it will weaken civil solidarity and trust, social capital. Aristotle suggests the core of the classical politics is civil solidarity and equality, and the good government can be composed of good communities. Regions are really back, and lifestyle based on local communities is perceived as hope for the future of humanity. Now the poverty of a smaller, freer, and slower region is preferred to the wealthy of a bigger, more competitive, and faster city. Small businesses that make different products in small quantities and the flexible small farming have been revived. The 20th century is called the age of the nation, while the 21st can be the age of towns. The Cittaslow Movement aims to help self-reliance of communities instead of globalization, and furthermore, seek freedom and happiness. A solution is localization, not globalization. Cittaslow means a slow town, with its symbol, a snail having good communities on his back, and the movement is a happiness movement to improve the quality of life. The Cittaslow Movement is the spirit of the time required in the 21st century, because it helps people live well at the movement. The movement can succeed with 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent theories, and 99 percent perspiration can be fruitless without the accuracy of theories. It is time to seek global understanding and cooperation on the Cittaslow Movement born in Italy, a warm and bright country.

Aristotle (right) keeping his hand down around 2,500 years ago

Martin Heidegger in 1939

Although digital recently gains influence, there will still be the power of analog that appeal to peoples’ senses and emotions, and makes people miss the deceleration. As Carl Honoré said, we need to learn Slow Fix, not Quick Fix, full of resources in emergency to solve the problems caused by Artificial Intelligence (AI), using Cittaslow Intelligence (CI) that seeks to be ‘slowly but surely,’ and ‘slowly but gently.’ Martin Heidegger, German philosopher identified the ontological difference between being (sein) and beings (seiendes). When it is applied to ‘slownesses,’ slowness is ‘a being’, a direction of our life, and is perceived as a variety of ‘beings’; inspiration, freedom, happiness, dignity, and so on. It is possible to imitate fastness by any means, but it is not easy to slowness, because it needs the change of the basic value of life. Gheorghiu said Corea is a small country, and hangs from an Asian map like an earring. However people say it is big, all the jewelry is just small. Corea experienced a lot of tragic moments of history, especially 931 wars between powerful nations like China, Japan, Russia, and so on. It can be said the first liberation that in 1945 Corea was liberated from Japan’s colonial rule for 35 years, it can be the second liberation if unification of two Coreas could take place because the peninsula was divided into two by the Corean War in 1950, like the human body was cut in two with a saw. Recently, people do internet searches more than meditation. In her book ‘Village Effect’ psychologist Susan Pinker asks everyone who is addicted to social media and the internet to stop using them, and make a face-to-face contact. This year is the 67th anniversary of Korea's division, and the reunification of our country does’t look easy, but we badly need to meditate it, and attempt the communication between two Coreas.

We must deplore the fact that in modern times the percent of human decency a man has is nothing more than one gram, equal to a drop of water. As our life is abnormal, and like a time-bomb, the modern civilization is heading in the wrong direction. Especially one of the most serious problems in modern society is that people forget how to be calm anymore. Corea had been called ‘the Land of the Morning Calm,’ that became known to the world during the Joseon Dynasty, the last kingdom in Corea. Now once again it is time to reconsider the importance of being calm and modest. Since seventy percent of Corean land is mountains, the rest of the land is crowded with people. It is expected that the Jeonju forum answers to the question of Corea, one of the most densely populated regions to find out the ways to live better from the countries that are sparsely populated, and enjoy the calmness every day. 

World asks, Jeonju answers.