eyes on the U.S.

Joe Biden And Paul Ryan Duel To Lively Draw In VP Debate



Joe Biden and Paul Ryan battled through a tough vice presidential debate Thursday, with commentators largely suggesting that the result was a draw.

Immediate polls showed that voters were split on who won the debate with CNN putting Ryan at 48% and Biden on 44%. CNBC also swayed toward Ryan, with 50% of respondents, to Biden's 36%, while CBS gave 50% to Biden and 31% to Ryan.

As the only showdown between the vice presidential nominees, the debate Thursday featured a wide variety of topics, but wound up largely dominated by foreign policy, with Biden and Ryan sparring over Iran, Afghanistan and Syria.

The global emphasis seemed to play into Biden's hands, with the Vice President and former longtime Senator repeatedly alluding to his vast experience in foreign affairs. Still, the 42-year-old Ryan, who has focused mostly on domestic issues during his 13 years in Congress, managed to hold his own.

Biden was on the attack last night, after President Obama's somewhat lackluster performance last week, mentioning Romney's now infamous "47%" remark. However, many have noted Biden's techniques of smirking, grinning and interrupting Ryan as an attempt to belittle the Republican nominee.

For those brief moments you don't see a #BidenSmirk on my face, know that I've got a #BidenSmirk in my heart. #VPDebate

— Biden Smirk (@BidenSmirk) October 12, 2012

Pundits are shocked at Joe Biden's laughing and eye rolling. What? They should be shocked at Paul Ryan's blatant distortion of facts.

— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) October 12, 2012

At one point, Biden quizzed Ryan on his and Romney's plans to cut tax bills of the wealthy, and after his response, quipped, "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey."

Biden is hitting in one answer all the things Obama left out in the entire first 90 minute debate

— Bill Maher (@billmaher) October 12, 2012

CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen said: “Overall on substance, I think it was a draw. Each side will draw a lot of encouragement from it.”

“But I did want to make a point: On style, I think Paul Ryan won the debate. And that is, Biden, the dismissive laughs, the interruptions, the sort of shouting — I think that Ryan was calmer and frankly more presidential. On style, not substance, I think it was a Ryan victory. On substance, I thought it was a draw,” Gergen said in the Daily Caller, a Washington D.C. based news and opinion website.

What most seemed to agree upon was the praise for moderator ABC News' Martha Raddatz, who remained calm and articulate throughout:

Somehow at this debate, Paul Ryan came in third.

— Philip Bump (@pbump) October 12, 2012

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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.

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