WHILE YOU SLEPT

Nigerian Girls Video, Terrorist’s “Regret,” Faceless Trump

Video of kidnapped Nigerian girls gives families hope
Video of kidnapped Nigerian girls gives families hope

VIDEO SHOWS KIDNAPPED NIGERIAN GIRLS

Terrorist group Boko Haram released a video that allegedly shows some of the schoolgirls abducted two years ago today in the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok. The footage, which was apparently filmed in December, shows 15 of the 276 girls alive. Their kidnappings sparked an international online campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. But two years later, at least 219 are still missing, with newspaper Vanguard writing that “some of them may have been radicalized to become suicide bombers while others might have become mothers and victims of serial rape.” Writing in The Guardian Nigeria, a teacher and activist slams the “tribalism” and lack of “humanity” in Nigeria, denouncing “some Nigerians with a mercantile streak” for having “found voice in advocacy to make money from international donors by shouting for their release but never for the sake of those poor girls.”

VERBATIM

“Of course he has regret. Salah wants to explain himself, to apologize,” Mohamed Abdeslam said of his brother, the only surviving terrorist involved in November’s Paris attacks, in a interview with BFM TV. Salah Abdeslam, who has claimed he deliberately refused to blow himself up on the night when 130 people were killed, is currently being held in a Belgian prison and wants to be extradited to France. “He knows he’s going to spend years in jail, a long time, 30 or 40 years,” said Mohamed, who was recently fired by the Molenbeek town hall. “It doesn’t matter to him. What’s important is to take responsibility.” But German media reports today suggest that Abdeslam was considering an attack on a nuclear energy research center in Germany.

  • The New York Times reports that the latest edition of ISIS magazine Dabiq purportedly shows how Paris and Brussels attacks were planned, from Syria.

UKRAINE NAMES NEW PRIME MINISTER

Ukrainian lawmakers have chosen pro-Western Vladimir Groysman as the country’s new prime minister, days after his predecessor, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, resigned. Groysman, who was until now the parliament’s speaker, becomes Ukraine’s youngest prime minister at 38. Read more from the Kyiv Post.

RULING S. KOREA PARTY LOSES MAJORITY

The center-right party of South Korean President Park Geun-hye lost its parliamentary majority in yesterday’s elections, a result the BBC says could hurt the incumbent’s hopes for reelection next year. Party leader Kim Moo-sung has offered to resign “to take responsibility for the resounding defeat,” Yonhap reports. Discontent seems to be growing in South Korea as unemployment and household debt rise.

24.5 MILLION

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy spent more than double the 22.5 million euros ($25 million) allowed during the 2012 presidential campaign, news website Alerte-20160413">Mediapart reports. Investigators believe Sarkozy, who is hoping to win a primary later this year to stand again in 2017, splashed out a total of 45.8 million euros ($51.5 million), including 24.5 million that was deliberately left undeclared.

MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

TAX AVOIDANCE IN THE U.S.

Data from the 50 biggest U.S. companies show that they used a network of more than 1,600 disclosed tax-haven subsidiaries to place about $1.4 trillion of cash offshore between 2008 and 2014, with potentially more hidden elsewhere, Oxfam America reports a week after the Panama Papers scandal hit. The collected data also shows that they paid just over a quarter of their $4 trillion profits in corporate tax globally over the same period of time, less than average, while receiving $11.2 trillion in federal support. Or, as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof puts it: “For each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.”

ON THIS DAY

American actor Adrien Brody, perhaps best known for his role in The Pianist, turns 43 years old today. That and more in today’s shot of history.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Who is behind the smuggling of refugees from Turkey to the Greek islands? And how are these potentially deadly trips planned and organized? Syria Deeply spoke with a human smuggler in Izmir, himself a Syrian refugee. “Most of the smugglers are Syrians â€" because of their language and relationships,” says Abu Yazan. “But the actual owners of smuggling access points and the owners of the equipment are Turks. You might find some Afghans or Tunisians or Iraqis as their partners. What Afghans and Iraqis went through before the Syrians arrived gave them experience, and with their excellent relations with the Turks, smuggling became a good source of income for many of them. Also, there are Syrian and Turkish companies that purchase pockets of land close to the sea and use them as smuggling points.”

Read the full article, On Rafts And Risks: Interview With A Syrian Human Smuggler.

AN NBA NIGHT TO REMEMBER

With their 73rd victory yesterday, Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors eclipsed Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA record book. Their resounding 125-104 win against the Memphis Grizzlies takes their regular season record to 73-9, the best in NBA history. Meanwhile, in L.A., Kobe Bryant was scoring 60 points in his last-ever game.

FACELESS TRUMP

The Donald continues to inspire artists. After “naked Trump” and “boob Trump,” behold “faceless Trump,” courtesy of Greek artist Dimitrios Oikonomou.

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