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Reading Obama, Rising Oil, Doubting David

Reading Obama, Rising Oil, Doubting David

SPOTLIGHT: SHOULD OBAMA APOLOGIZE IN HIROSHIMA?

When Barack Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima tomorrow, the ceremony will include hibakusha, survivors of history’s only nuclear attacks. No doubt, each victim of the 1945 bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will have their own expectations of the American president, and depart with their own feelings. Obama, for his part, has already made it clear to the Japanese he wouldn’t make a direct apology.


But why not? The U.S. president who vowed soon after his election to strive for a world without nuclear weapons could find the words to turn the tragedy of the past into a permanent reminder for the future. Still, as The New York Times writes, Obama’s primary concern is a more present American realpolitik. While an apology would likely be welcome in Japan, it could also be misinterpreted in other Asian countries for which Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent not just the end of World War II, but also the close of years of brutal Japanese rule.


“Apologies tend to be the exception and non-apologies the rule,” Adam Taylor writes in The Washington Post, explaining that the logic behind this “is not moral but rather political.” It should be noted that this is the case for most countries, with the notable exceptions of … Germany and Japan. Or perhaps, the unwritten rule of history is simply that only the losers must apologize.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • G7 world leaders in Japan discuss the global economy, amid security and Brexit fears. Follow live updates from The Guardian.

    Photo: Elysée's official photographer François Lafite via Instagram

  • President Pranab Mukherjee of India meets with President Xi Jinping of China, hoping to spur more Chinese investment in South Asia’s biggest nation.


STRIKES BRING FRANCE TO A STANDSTILL

The wave of protest against a controversial labor reform in France is looking increasingly like a general strike, as all of the 19 nuclear power plants join the country’s oil refineries, which stopped work days ago, rising fears of a potential power shortage, L’Obs reports.


â€" ON THIS DAY

From Dracula to Michael Jackson, here is your 57-second shot of history!


$50

The price of a barrel of Brent crude rose above $50 today for the first time in seven months, up from a 13-year low in February when it went below $28.


CLINTON’S EMAIL SCANDAL WON’T GO AWAY

Hillary Clinton broke State Department rules when she used her private email server while Secretary of State, making sensitive material vulnerable to hackers, an audit has found. Read more from USA Today.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Exhausted by almost three years of shortages and inflation, the Venezuelan population lets its impatience pour out with ever more violence, rekindling familiar fears, Samy Adghirni writes for Folha de S. Paulo: “Looting has taken place across the country, including in Caracas, the capital. Everyday, social media are filled with new images of people invading markets and warehouses, or attacking food trucks. This week, one video even showed people attacking fishermen as they were about to unload sardines they'd just caught off Margarita Island.”

Read the full article, In Real Life, Venezuela Is A Ticking Time Bomb.


UNICEF SLAMS CHILD EXPLOITATION IN PARIS

Hundreds of foreign minors are being exploited in prostitution, begging and stealing in Paris and its region, according to UNICEF and local associations. The report, published in Le Monde, also mentions cases of forced labor.


INDONESIA TOUGHENS CHILD RAPE PUNISHMENT

In a presidential decree signed yesterday by Joko Widodo, Indonesia approved the use of chemical castration for child rapists and the maximum sentence for such crime now includes death penalty, The Jakarta Post reports. The decision came one month after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl on her way home from school.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Back In The Saddle â€" Copenhagen, 1976


CAMERON IS REALLY IN FAVOR OF BREXIT, SAYS FRIEND

Despite a public stance to the contrary, British Prime Minister David Cameron is privately in favor the UK leaving the European Union. Or at least, that’s what a former adviser and close friend of his claims in The Times.


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

OBAMA’S NEXT HOME

It’s no White House, but the Obamas’ next home, a nine-bedroom mansion in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, looks cosy enough.

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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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