New Zealand First Asia-Pacific Country To Legalize Gay Marriage



WELLINGTON – New Zealand has become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Parliament voted 77-44 late Wednesday to amend the 1955 Marriage Act to describe marriage as a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexuality or how they choose to identify their gender.

People were queuing in the rain outside Parliament, reported broadcaster TVNZ, to witness the groundbreaking legislation.

The line has already started to get into parliament and watch a little history #MarriageEquality

— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) April 17, 2013

Crowds are spilling onto K Rd footpaths as they gather to watch Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality Bill #MarriageEquality

— Morgan Tait (@morgtait) April 17, 2013

Member of Parliament Louisa Wall, who introduced the bill, started the session with an emotional speech, saying “In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” reported Fairfax NZ News.

“Having Parliament recognize and address injustices and unfairness matters to those affected by it. It’s the start of a healing process,” TVNZ quoted Wall as saying.

“Excluding a group in society from marriage is oppressive and unacceptable,” said Wall, who later thanked her partner for "sharing this journey." “There’s no justification for the prohibitions of the past based on religion, race or gender.”

“Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill,” she concluded, receiving a standing ovation and rounds of applause.

Watch her full speech here.

The bill passed after months of emotional debate, parliamentary submissions and passionate protests from both sides of the issue, reported the New Zealand Herald.

MP Louisa Wall in Parliament on Wednesday:

So pleasing to see #marriageequality trending above #thatcherfuneral. It's what she wouldn't have wanted.

— Patrick Strudwick (@PatrickStrud) April 17, 2013

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

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


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!