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Extra! Nigerian Election Still In Doubt Amidst Boko Haram Violence

Nigeria’s rescheduled March 28 presidential elections should be able to take place despite disruption threats made Tuesday by Boko Haram. But the country’s security services, such as the military, the Service Chiefs and the National Security Adviser, will have to “guarantee the sanctity of the rescheduled polls in view of the security challenges facing the country,” the Nigerian daily Vanguard reports on its front page Thursday.

The newspaper quotes the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, who addressed the Senate Wednesday on the country’s preparedness for the elections: “I kept saying consistently that INEC is not a security organization. We are an election management body. So, we rely a lot on security to be able to ensure that things are done well and that there is no disruption of the electoral process.”

According to Jega, the postponement of the elections offered the commission precious additional preparation and the hope for “significant improvement in the security situation” in the next six weeks.

In a video released Tuesday by Boko Haram, the terrorist group’s leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to disrupt Nigeria’s March 28 presidential election, which had already been postponed for security reasons from its original Feb. 8 date. “We say that these elections that you are planning to do will not happen in peace,” he said.

The video appeared as two suicide bombings killed at least 38 people and injured 20 others in northeastern Nigeria Tuesday.

But Vanguard also reported Thursday that the Islamist group suffered heavy casualties this week, as Chadian troops launched a series of assaults in northeastern Nigeria. “The offensive deep inside Nigerian territory was a first and suggested a strategy to tackle other rebel-controlled areas in northeastern Borno state, which is the group’s stronghold,” the Nigerian daily wrote.

The INEC is set to hold additional meetings on Feb. 24 and March 4 to finalize arrangements for the March 28 vote, which would be followed by the second round of voting on April 11.

ABOUT THE SOURCE: Vanguard is a leading daily newspapers in Nigeria independent of political control. It was founded in 1983.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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