TAKE 5

Swipe, Pray, Fast: The 5 Top Apps For Ramadan 2016

There's an app for that!
There's an app for that!
Benilde Araujo

Ramadan is a sacred month of prayer and fasting from dawn to dusk observed by Muslims around the world. But the holy month, which this year runs from June 6 to July 5, comes with different rules and schedules (and soap operas) that must be integrated into busy modern lives. And yes, there's an app for that! Indeed, the mobile application business has been quick to respond to this opportunity linked to a religion of some 1.7 billion adherents, with apps for daily prayer schedules, connecting with other Muslims or even recording days left to fast. Here are five that are making some buzz:

1. Ramadan Legacy, launched in 2015 by a Scottish company, offers the opportunity to create a personalized Ramadan journal to help fulfill worshipping duties, and even offers encouragements to achieve those goals thanks to daily inspirational reminders.

Ramadan Legacy available for iOS and Android


2. Sawab â€" Quran Khatma is an app launched by a Lebanese company that allows the user to join 30 Muslims anytime in order to read the Koran together.


3. Muslim Pro â€" Ramadan 2016, is an app from a Singapore-based technology company: Bitsmedia Pte Ltd. that gives information on prayers and fasting schedules. It also features the full Koran with Arabic scripts and audio recitations, an Islamic Hijri calendar, and a geolocating map of halal restaurants and Mosques.


4. Sidi Romdhan is an app launched by a Tunisian telecom network, Ooredoo Tunisie SA. Especially created for Ramadan, it features prayer and TV programs schedules as well as greeting cards that can be shared on social media. There are also health tips to make it through the day without food and water.

Sidi Romdhan available for iOS and Android


5. Ramadan Fitness Challenge is focused on the physical aspects of the holy month. Fasting, avoiding physical over-exertion and feasting once the sun is down can be pretty hard on your health. The fitness app delivers daily workout challenges for those who are going through fasting.

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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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