[Editorial] 2023 Asia Future Forum explores how to coexist in the era of the polycrisis

Posted on : 2023-10-11 17:01 KST Modified on : 2023-10-11 17:01 KST
The 14th Asia Future Forum takes place at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul on Wednesday

The crises are connected.

The extreme conflict in Korean politics is tied to the political encroachment of populism and the far right in Europe and the US, the self-styled paragons of democracy. Gross inequality and economic crisis are worsening as communities and societies implode because of mutual hatred and distrust.

Political crises in various countries lead to fissures in the international order. Powder kegs are going off all around us as the US and China continue their hegemonic rivalry, Russia leans into its invasion of Ukraine, and Israel and Hamas wage war on each other.

This is the era of the polycrisis — multiple interwoven crises that encompass our lives.

Some of the world’s leading thinkers are coming together to analyze the causes of these complex crises at the 14th Asia Future Forum at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul on Wednesday. The theme of this year’s forum is “The Age of the Polycrisis: A Way to Coexistence.”

In particular, forum participants will be analyzing the issue of inequality, which is at the root of our political crisis, and exploring alternatives.

Jane Mansbridge, professor emeritus at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, will be delivering a keynote presentation on the topic “The Deepest Foundations of Our Democratic Crisis.”

Mansbridge warns that worsening inequality erodes our “we-feeling,” which is to say our sense of community, and tempts us to find external enemies to demonize or battle to create a feeling of homogeneity. The end result is a grave crisis in domestic politics and the international order.

Political and economic polarization and intense conflict between opposing sides on a domestic level and the approach of a new cold war on an international one are casting a disturbing shadow not only on Korea but on major countries around the world. These trends are not something that Korean society or the global community can allow to continue unchecked.

Gabriel Zucman, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will be delivering a lecture on the topic “The Price of Inequality, and Who Pays the Bigger Bill.” In Zucman’s analysis of inequality today, which is similar to levels during the Great Depression in the early 20th century, his ultimate prescription is tax policy.

That’s an argument that demands attention from South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has been simultaneously pursuing lower taxes and a balanced budget. Tax cuts benefit the wealthy, while fiscal austerity harms the poor. If the Korean government stays on its current course, inequality will worsen, with the poor left to bear most of the burden.

As polycrisis threatens lives around the world, the call to restore communities and societies, preserve peace and resolve inequality has never been so urgent. We hope this year’s Asia Future Forum will foster profound and vigorous debate aimed at finding alternative paths for Korean society.

More details can be found on the forum’s official website (www.asiafutureforum.org).

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