KIM JONG-UN RAMPS UP NUCLEAR THREAT
Raising his belligerent rhetoric again, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the national military to prepare its nuclear warheads â€œto be fired at any moment,â€ Pyongyangâ€™s state-run news agency KCNA reported today. The comments were made as Kim supervised military exercises involving newly developed rocket launchers that were said to have South Korea within range, Reuters reports. Kimâ€™s statement came one day after the United Nations Security Council approved tougher sanctions against North Korea, aimed to undermine its ability to further develop its nuclear and ballistic missile program. KCNA referred to the unanimously adopted resolution as â€œunprecedented and gangster-like.â€
CHINA BLAMES U.S. FOR MILITARIZING SOUTH CHINA SEA
A spokesperson for Chinaâ€™s National Peopleâ€™s Congress accused the U.S. of raising tensions by its â€œmilitarizationâ€ of the South China Sea, China.org.cn reports. The comment comes in response to a similar accusation earlier this week by the U.S., which said China is militarizing a disputed area in the Spratly Islands. China warned the U.S. not to interfere in the dispute, stating there is no need to act as international judge, but the U.S. has already dispatched several ships and an aircraft carrier to the region, The Washington Post reports. The Chinese spokesman stated that most of the advanced aircraft and warships passing through the South China Sea belong to the United States. "Isn't it militarization?," she asked. "If the United States is really concerned about regional stability and peace, it should support negotiations between China and neighboring countries.â€
CHINESE TV CENSORS
Meanwhile, in China, passions are also running high, following the release of new rules and regulations for those producing television programs. Among the no-nos: homosexuals, one-night stands or anything â€œweird.â€
ON THIS DAY
Sherlock Holmes, Antonio Vivaldi and Chicago â€" they are all in today's 57-second shot of history!
EU TO ECONOMIC IMMIGRANTS: STAY AWAY
European Council President Donald Tusk has warned economic migrants not to come to Europe. â€œDo not come to Europe,â€ he said. â€œDo not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing.â€ Tusk made the appeal yesterday to â€œall potential illegal economic migrants,â€ and also asked Turkey â€" already hosting more than two million Syrian refugees â€" to help Europe by keeping them away, Le Monde reports.
GOP V. TRUMP
Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, fended off attacks yesterday, both from his opponents at the latest televised debate â€" and from the 2012 party nominee. Mitt Romney condemned Trump as a â€œphonyâ€ and a â€œfraudâ€ at a speech earlier on Thursday. Read and see more from CNN.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
OSCAR PISTORIUS â€œLAST DOORâ€
Our Friday edition of a global newspaper front page is from South Africa.
At 79, Frank Serpico, the former New York police whistleblower immortalized in 1973 by Al Pacino is still a rebel at heart, as cranky and idealistic as ever. Interviewing him in the unlikely cafeteria of an organic supermarket on the outskirts of Hudson, two hours north of Manhattan, Albertine Bourget writes for Le Temps: â€œHe doesnâ€™t regret any of his whistleblowing, even if the NYPD â€˜never forgaveâ€™ him. â€˜I can say I contributed to civil rights,â€™ he says. â€˜If you toss a stone in a pond, you get ripples. With a good stone, you get good ripples.â€™
From the depths of his countryside, where he bought a wooded plot of land when he still wore a uniform, he closely follows the worldâ€™s travails. The controversies linked to police brutality, especially against young black people, enrage him. â€œ... Theyâ€™re not trained and theyâ€™re given a license to kill! If you tremble in the face of a mouse, how are you meant to do your police work correctly?â€™â€
Read the full article: Serpico, Iconic Cop Whistleblower On Snowden And Ferguson
Photo: Nick Martin via Twitter
Franceâ€™s historical theme park Puy du Fou acquired Joan of Arcâ€™s ring for 297,600 pounds (about $420,400), French daily Le Figaro reports. The ring had been in English possession since Bishop Cauchon took it from her during her trial in 1431.
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.
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
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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