Geopolitics

Foreign Eye On Campaign 2016: After Orlando, Nuke Fears, Donald Trunks

A Trump supporter in Tampa on June 11
A Trump supporter in Tampa on June 11
Worldcrunch

The worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history has proven to be a litmus test for the two top candidates in the race to the White House. When a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group opened fire at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 last weekend, the two presumptive presidential nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, were quick to issue statements. While Clinton appealed for "clear, rational discussion," Trump sought to capitalize on the threat of Islamist terror by reviving his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. While the events in Orlando seemed to give the Republican a small boost in the polls at home, his reaction set off a new wave of foreign concerns about the prospect of a Trump presidency.

As the Clinton-Trump head-to-head takes shape, Worldcrunch continues to follow foreign coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign, from all languages and corners of the globe.

Writing in Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Ali Sirmen argues that hate-filled speeches such as those spouted by Trump fuel terror. Sirmen compares Trump to Mustafa Askar, a Turkish academic who has been quoted as saying, "People who don’t pray are animals."

"It doesn’t matter where they are. Those who use expressions of hate are comrades in the same path. In light of this truth, we see that Donald Trump and Mustafa Askar are not that different. The fact that one of them uses the jargon of zealotry, and the other, that of imperialism, doesn’t change this truth," writes Sirmen.

At the end of the day, they have the same mindset as the Islamic State terrorist group, Sirmen concludes.

Carlo Rovelli, writing for Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, declared that reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf helped him better understand the rightwing mindset, which he argues is not born out of a desire to acquire power but out of a fear of losing it. "Those who feel weak are scared, don’t trust others and hunker down with their own group, based on the pretense of identity," Rovelli writes. "Those who are strong are not scared and don’t seek conflict."

Nilgun Cerrahoglu, another writer for Cumhuriyet, draws parallels between Rovelli’s comments on Mein Kampf and Trump’s speech after the Orlando shooting: "The Republican candidate based his speech on pure fear and the United States’ loss of power like the way Hitler did in Mein Kampf."


Nuclear option

Portuguese Professor Nuno Cintra Torres echoed many of the criticisms of Trump as racist and unpredictable, and criticized the Republican candidate’s call for an end to U.S.’s commitment to NATO, an alliance that Portugal is a founding member of. But the concern at the top of his mind is Trump’s role as a possible commander-in-chief of a nuclear-armed power. "Trump would have access to the nuclear codes and could, unintentionally, start a nuclear war," Torres writes in Portuguese publication Económico.


Donald Trunks

A British clothing label Slut has come up with the "make the most offensive surfwear known to man" â€" Donald Trunks. The swimwear quickly sold out and a second batch will be out soon. The bad news? The label will not be producing any more Donald Trunks "mainly because our tailors are concerned about the long term psychological effects of looking at Donald’s face for too long."

Others are taking their clothes off altogether to fight a potential Trump White House. The Tramps Against Trump Tumblr page Warning: graphic content promises to send a nude picture to those who can prove they voted against Trump.

"The main objective of the campaign is to get millennials who otherwise might not engage in the election to show up and vote," says spokesperson for Tramps Against Trump. "We are trying to use some of the things Trump hates the most against him."


The city of Belgium?

Another day, another global gaffe for the presumptive Republican nominee. "Belgium is a beautiful city," Trump declared during a rally in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday. Belgian daily La Libre Belgique wonders where exactly Trump thinks "Belgium city" is situated. To be fair, both begin with the letter "B" â€" and even more to the point, one of the last times he spoke about the capital of Belgium, back in January, Trump was downright nasty: "I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful â€" it’s like living in a hellhole right now."


Front page news

In France, Lucie Robequain focuses on Trump's unlikely political rise in the Les Echos daily and compares it to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's ascent. She notes that Trump seems more than inspired by Reagan’s life: He appears to have plagiarized Reagan’s 1980 "Let’s make America great again" campaign slogan.

The weekly magazine from Le Figaro splashed the Republican firebrand on its cover promising to take us "Inside the head of Donald Trump."

Le Figaro isn’t alone.

Over in China, weekly magazine Caixin featured another photograph of a squinty Trump on its cover with the headline "Trump: A Perfect Storm."

Although it looks like Trump got more than his fair share of global coverage, Clinton got in on some of the action on the front page of Iranian newspaper Shargh.

French paper Le Monde delved into the details of what’s happening with the Democrats by featuring a story on Bernie Sanders, a candidate who had been fighting Clinton for the Democratic nomination until last week, and has now stipulated certain conditions if he were to join forces with Clinton.

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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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