FIRST QUARTER MOON - Jan. 26 - Feb. 2

(March 21 to April 19)

Professional connections developed last week now turn out to be winning options. A positive phone call or reply comes your way around Jan. 30. It is a good time for work, which will dominate your sky in this lunar cycle — but this doesn’t mean emotions are to be forgotten. Your desire to love and protect is high, and it will grow over the next few weeks. If you are facing confusion, especially if you are in a secret relationship, my advice is to let things happen naturally.

TEMPO: allegrissimo trionfante

(April 20 to May 20)

You have the situation back in hand. If January was a tough month, especially at work, now is the time to look for support elsewhere — or to change strategy. Even your money situation, which has been the biggest cause of stress recently, seems to be taking a turn for the better. In love, new relationships thrive and singles are curious about recent exciting encounters. Dialogue returns to stable couples, but it’s best to wait a while before making future plans.

TEMPO: marcia con brio

(May 21 to June 21)

Your need to escape has put you on the road of no return. This is particularly valid for anyone who has been living in emotional crisis in recent times. If you have been rather tame the last few weeks, now is the time to strike out and to risk rocking the boat. In some cases, it is your partner’s choices which you find unconvincing or which make you nervous, especially if they concern their career or life plans. Your worklife is not satisfying you and it is important to evaluate this without making a wrong move.

TEMPO: lento mesto

(June 22 to July 22)

This is a good sky for lonely hearts, especially for those who, after a difficult breakup, have decided to open up again. The combination of Venus and the First Quarter Moon, both in splendid form, strengthen the desire to love and to meet new people. On Saturday or Sunday, you will see the first suggestion of better times to come, composed of alliances — but also enemies.

TEMPO: allegro affettuoso

(July 23 to August 22)

This period of reflection continues. Jupiter and Saturn maintain a kindly alliance, but this week you will have to face up to a change at work. This may concern a new colleague, task or — in some cases — a change of location. Don’t go overboard on the criticism and aim to work with what’s happening around you. Love is on hold for singles or part-time lovers; external stress and breakups for couples in crisis.

TEMPO: adagio lamentoso

(August 23 to September 22)

The enormous workload of last week rather stressed you out. I hope you took my advice to get a massage or visit a spa. Things are looking a lot better now, although this is also because you are accepting what has to be done and looking for solutions which balance your personal life and external responsibilities, like work and family. If you are having problems in your love life, right now is almost definitely not a good time to talk about them. One thing at a time.

TEMPO: andantino affaticato

(September 23 to October 23)

Work is back on track! But as with all new starts, your ideas and methodology need careful organizing — especially if you are navigating unknown waters. It is definitely a positive and productive week for you. There are just a few questions to resolve with your boss or a colleague who is imposing their own opinion. Others are not quite sure about the path they have chosen. Thursday and Friday will help clarify things. It is a good time for love, albeit in second place.

TEMPO: marcia grandioso

(October 24 to November 20)

Scorpios who have recently started a new relationship may begin to see the first differences. I recommend that solitary souls, for several reasons, think carefully before throwing themselves into a relationship. That said, from Jan. 27, Venus will offer heightened emotions and reconciliation for couples facing problems. At work, you are dissatisfied and need a change. Your finances are not shining too brightly, but a chance to find alternative solutions will emerge.

TEMPO: andante incalzando

(November 21 to December 22)

From Jan. 27, Venus is not making things easy for lone wolves. Relationships that do start are part-time and lacking in energy. This First Quarter Moon distracts from emotions and brings tiredness and worry to the workplace, especially on Thursday. Recently, many people have enthusiastically chosen a new path or a new project. But it is likely that this week there will be a lot to do or that someone stands in your way.

TEMPO: andante moderato

(December 23 to January 20)

This sky will definitely inspire new projects and lead you to explore new things in the workplace. We are not talking about anything stable or definitive yet. But around Jan. 28, a promising phone call or confirmation will bring order to your finances. This is also a good time for lonely hearts looking for certainties and for couples that are planning to move in together, get married or have children.

TEMPO: vivace cantabile

(January 21 to February 21)

If last week’s New Moon restored your strength and enthusiasm for your future revolutionary projects, this First Quarter Moon calls you back down to earth and the many responsibilities that family and work lay on you. But you’ll stay calm and cool-headed, mainly because lucid Mercury is on your side. A splendid opportunity arises on Thursday, a day to dedicate to your partner or to the hunt for a romantic interest.

TEMPO: adagietto rallentando

(February 22 to March 20)

This is the week to speak clearly and face up to problems which you have been having with your partner or your boss recently. In both cases, the issue is about money and the possibility of developing a long-term project. I don’t believe the problem will be resolved immediately, but you can at least establish a common path ahead. Venus in your sign brings back the need to love: Feb. 1 looks promising for single Pisces.

TEMPO: allegretto deciso

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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


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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