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FIRST QUARTER MOON - May 25-31

This week is backed by good energy and great enthusiasm — which doesn't always correspond to an adequate ability to plan. Until next month, it's necessary to proceed with baby steps at work. Mercury's retrograde can be confusing and can compromise your capacity to make yourself understood. Couples should pay attention to dialogue — especially towards the end of the week, when a word out of place could ignite tempers.

TEMPO: allegretto con cautela


Work progresses and in many cases is improving, but this "hiccuping" way of functioning is getting exhausting, especially for those who work on a freelance basis. Working hours are often overshadowed by the benefits: Though you are working today, you've been rolling with the punches for too many months now. But you have to bite the bullet because a new Golden Age is coming. In love, the second half of the week will be pleasantly surprising.

TEMPO: andantino squattrinato


Mercury and Mars are in your sign: It's time to rethink many aspects of your life, especially professionally. You must be cautious, and weigh projects and proposals better. Trust less people — only those who deserve it. Be rigorous and selective, and then you will be less exposed to looters and profiteers. Keep it up: You're on the right track towards recovery. There's an air of expectancy in love too — wait for Venus to arrive in the summer when even the sleepiest of hearts will awaken.

TEMPO: energico di rifondazione


This week will flow under the wonderful influence of Venus in your sign, which bestows inner light, harmony and charm. Mercury and Mars in Gemini may make you feel "suspended" — unsure of how to proceed. If I were you I would try to shake off this lethargy as this week is full of gifts and surprises. You can grasp some small chances in love or at work. Everything will be fine.

TEMPO: andantino tentennante


You discover outbursts of energy and enthusiasm, while the world seems to proceed at a reduced speed. Especially if you work on a freelance basis, the answers are coming in slowly and there will be some unexpected tests for your patience. Look around you as much as possible: You must renew friendships and seek new allies to expand opportunities and deliver new solutions. Love awaits the arrival of Venus, which will light up the sky with shooting stars for the entire summer.

TEMPO: andante grintoso


Work anxiety and stress are part of the sky this week — accomplices of the quadrature of Mars and Mercury in Gemini. But this week ends with an extra gear, as the Moon comes in your sign and Venus seems finally ready to smooth out the edges and soften dialogue. For lonely hearts, love can come from the sphere of friendships. It's worth being seen out and about and extending your circle of acquaintances.

TEMPO: allegretto addolcito


This week is a bridge to a beautiful Sun in Gemini, which slows the "crazy" carousel that has been going round and round for a while. You're back in business with added enthusiasm. Lately, you've been dealing with commitments and deadlines at an exaggerated pace, but now you can breathe a sigh of relief. And, between promotions and substantial rewards, you can now enjoy some satisfaction. Love is still in the background, but Venus' long sextile is coming up, which will put your heart back on track.

TEMPO: presto con fuoco


This is a week of recovery with a beautiful trine of Venus from Cancer. This will awaken the desire to achieve a goal or take new roads, especially for those who have been fatigued from long-distance relationships. Everything begins to appear possible. You are finishing a journey of profound metamorphosis that has lasted almost three years. The snake sheds its skin, rebuilding new surroundings and certainties. Work is about to take off from the end of the summer, sustained for a full year from Jupiter's sextile. You'll go back to flying high …

TEMPO: allegretto di rinascita


Because of Mercury's retrograde and Mars' opposition from Gemini, your patience and tolerance will be tested. At work, your closest collaborators won't always understand you, hence some friction. Mind you, the working sky is well-protected by good transits from Jupiter and Uranus, and indeed some will receive important commissions, awards and economic incentives — though accompanied by new responsibilities and additional loads of stress. Keep calm, everything will be alright.

TEMPO: rondò nervosetto


This week may prove decisive for work, provided you do not repeat certain assessment errors from the past and make bigger investments than you can handle. Especially for contracts and freelancers, it is sometimes better to go it alone than in bad company. It's good to remember — and evaluate well — who you are dealing with before you make agreements that will last for some time. In love, some chickens are coming home to roost and it's time to free them once and for all.

TEMPO: lento revisionista


There's a battle on two fronts to express your creativity. On one hand, a family commitment consumes your free time; on the other, there is a much more formidable "enemy": Your ideas get twisted, like a confused vine. There are those who write one line, then the next minute erase half of it. This fog will soon lift and the exhausting transits of May will give way to June, when everything flows better — even in love, where you have forgotten your soul in some remote drawer.

TEMPO: adagetto affannato


There's some concern coming from family or home that prevents you from concentrating on your projects as much as you would like to. The middle of the week is the most anxious; it would be better to appeal to your patience and the beautiful trine of Venus in order to save your partner some discontent. Lonely hearts can rely on a sky that blesses new meetings.

TEMPO: adagio irritabile

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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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