Terror in Europe

After Nice, Jihadist Campaign In Europe In Full Force

Following attacks in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, and now Nice, Europe must unite to combat the Islamist terror campaign.

A French police officer in Nice the morning after the Bastille Day attack
A French police officer in Nice the morning after the Bastille Day attack
Maurizio Molinari


TURIN â€" France attacked on the night of July 14th, the country's national holiday, Bastille Day. It was not by chance that terrorists chose this night to strike, when millions of French citizens were celebrating the storming of the Bastille 227 years ago, when hundreds thronged the Promenade des Anglais on Nice’s beachfront. The terrorists' choice reveals an intent to humiliate France on the night when the country is at its strongest, when it remembers its historic revolution and celebrates its prized liberties, on the glamorous Côte d’Azur that symbolizes France’s unique charms.

The jihadists are well aware of the identities and national calendars of the countries they attack, using them as a tool to inflict even greater terror â€" to have citizens “fear death even when they sleep,” as once promised by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). Thursday night in Nice, their weapon of choice was a large truck used to plow through unsuspecting crowds. This tactic, used in the past by “lone wolf” terrorists in minor French cities, also bears similarities to the so-called “Car Intifada” launched by Palestinian insurgents against Israel.

If the deadly shootings in Paris last November heralded the beginning of a long campaign of terror attacks on Europe, and the bombings in Brussels and Istanbul this year revealed the existence of a vast network of sleeper cells, then the massacre in Nice implies the terrorists’ offensive is now in full swing. If the nations of Europe are to face down this threat, they must come together to integrate their security services and fashion a new doctrine for collective defense.

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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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