blog

Greek Cash Withdrawals, MERS In Thailand, Obama Slip <div></div>

Greek Cash Withdrawals, MERS In Thailand, Obama Slip
<div></div>

FAMILIES MOURN AFTER CHURCH SHOOTING

Photo: Curtis Compton/ZUMA

Mourners in Charleston, S.C., flooded the town’s churches yesterday while prayers were held across the country in memory of the nine people killed at the Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night. Photos onThe Post And Courier’s website show tearful people praying in front of the church, as mourners bring flowers to honor the victims.

  • President Barack Obama renewed calls for tougher gun laws, saying the massacre happened “because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
  • Federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. Killer Dylann Roof’s past suggests his support for white supremacist ideas, and the 21-year-old has a history of drug use, The Washington Post reports.

GREECE SEES MASSIVE CASH WITHDRAWALS

The Greek economy is degenerating by the day, with reports that citizens withdrew more than 1 billion eurosfrom their banks yesterday alone, and more than 2 billion euros over the past three days, Reuters reports. Capital flight has been ongoing for months but has dramatically picked up pace amid failure to reach a deal to avoid Greece defaulting on its debt and to spare the poor more austerity measures. Talks in Luxembourg ended yesterday without agreement and with IMF chief Christine Lagarde saying that negotiations required “adults in the room.” A new “last chance meeting” is planned for Monday. Read more from E Kathimerini.


13%

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index has had its worst week since 2008, dropped by 13% today, fueling fears that a bubble may be about to burst.


SAUDI ARABIA-RUSSIA SIGN NUCLEAR DEAL

Oil giants Saudi Arabia and Russia signed a series of energy agreements in Saint Petersburg yesterday, including “the peaceful use of nuclear technology,” the Saudi-owned pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiyareports. The agreed legal framework might include the development of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, the RT reports. Meanwhile, the Gulf monarchy is trying to secure Moscow’s backing in its war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with the Saudi ambassador to Russia highlighting Moscow’s “important” role in “maintaining stability and security in the world.”


ON THIS DAY


Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed 62 years ago today for treason after spying for the Soviet Union and passing on atomic secrets. Time foryour 57-second shot of history.


MILITANTS SAY BELMOKHTAR NOT DEAD

Islamist group al-Mourabitoun has denied reports from the exiled Libyan government that its leader, the infamous Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last weekend. According to The New York Times, al-Qaeda’s north African branch also released a statement denying Belmokhtar had been killed, saying he was “still alive and kicking and wandering the land of God.” If true, the claims would mean that the man behind the deadly 2013 gas plant attack in Algeria has once again cheated death.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

In Bijie, an impoverished rural area of Guizhou Province, children are dying, some in ghastly accidents, some by their own hand. “It's as if the place is cursed,” Song Shinan reports for Caixin. “There is a Chinese nursery rhyme called ‘Our Motherland is a Garden.’ For the left-behind children of Bijie, home is a wasteland, a place where they can be suffocated, crushed by vehicles, raped, or even kill themselves because they can no longer bear the loneliness and poverty.”

Read the full article, China, Where The ‛Left-Behind Children‛ Turn To Suicide.


MERS SPREADS TO THAILAND

Thailand announced its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the virus that has already killed 24 people in South Korea. The patient is a 75-year-old man who traveled from Oman Monday, and 59 other people are being monitored as potential carriers, The Bangkok Post reports. North Korea claimed today that it had developed a “strong immune activator” made of ginseng extracts that can prevent and cure MERS.


MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD



EXTRA!

“The Losers' Triumph,” today's headline in the Danish tabloid BT reads. Yesterday’s elections demonstrate a shift to the right in the Scandinavian country. While the Social Democratic Party of current Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt won the most seats, her center-left coalition lost to the right-wing opposition.

Read more in our Extra! feature.


VERBATIM

“Little slip of the tongue there,” President Barack Obama told a laughing crowd at a Hollywood fundraiser hosted by Tyler Perry, after this Freudian slip: “We should be reforming our criminal justice system in such a way that we are not incarcerating non-violent offenders in ways that renders them incapable of getting a job after they leave office.” Read more fromUSA Today.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ