SAO PAULO — Watch out William Tell wannabes: There’s a big group of archers training from dawn until dusk in the hopes of golden glory at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
What makes them different from any other athletes training for the Olympics? Well, just a minor detail: Until very recently, they had been wearing feathered headdresses and living in remote villages deep in the Amazon jungle. These particular athletes are young and motivated Indians who use bows and arrows on a daily basis.
This first-of-its-kind recruitment initiative was launched by a series of sporting groups and indigenous advocacy organizations. They scoured every village in the Amazon region to find the tribe with the best archery talent. They preselected 80 teenagers of numerous ethnicities, and three of them ultimately will be chosen to represent Brazil in the Olympic Games. They are all between 14 and 19 years old and have left their communities to train in Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state of Amazonas.
“They can shoot a guacamayo a regional type of parrot from 100 meters away,” the project promotors explain. “Our challenge is to mix their traditional style with the more modern Olympic sport.” With the Games approaching fast, Brazil has decided to tap its indigenous population — too often exploited in the past, as evidenced by protests among them to defend their rights. “If the Games mean that the Brazilians discover we exist, they are welcome,” says the father of one of the boys chosen to compete for the three spots.
“I hope to be one of the three athletes who will represent my country in the Olympics,” says Jardel Cruz, 16. “I would really like to win a medal, not just for me, but for my whole community.”
Other sports too
Cruz is one of the best, maybe even the best, among the 80 young Indians. The first present he was given as a child was a bow and arrow, and the coaches say he has a good chance to be chosen. The Amazonian tribes are happy that this opportunity has been given to them. As they said on national television recently, this project has been a very important step for them.
“Before, our aboriginal people were forgotten about,” Cruz’s father explains. “Today we’re observed better, from closer, and they value what we can offer them.” Marcia Lot, an archery specialist and member of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, says the initiative began in February and that the young Indians have shown “the wisdom of tradition.”
Since initially identifying the 80 athletes, there has already been a first screening. “They’ve made progress on their technical abilities, but more than anything we’re highlighting their talent,” says one of the trainers.
And it looks like this new recruiting approach isn’t going anywhere: Next year, the committees will be searching among Amazonian people for another discipline — kayaking. Athletes of the world, you have been warned.
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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