Geopolitics

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

The lead story in Al-Shams newspaper, the official daily of the Libyan Information Ministry: "The Brother Leader of the Libyan Revolution welcomed young members of the Zintan living in Tripoli.

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie

REGIME DAILY SCOOP

*The lead story in Al-Shams newspaper, the official daily of the Libyan Information Ministry: "The Brother Leader of the Libyan Revolution welcomed young members of the Zintan living in Tripoli. During this meeting the young people expressed their solidarity with the Brother Leader and their commitment to the protection of the law and the protection of the Great Revolution. They confirmed their willingness to defeat the enemies' and traitors' conspiracy, whose accomplices are seeking a return of colonialism which was undone by the Revolution along with the destabilization of security and safety of the Libyan people.

FACEBOOKED

*A Saudi facebook group is calling for a "day of rage" in the kingdom on Friday despite government warnings that no public rallies will be tolerated. The group has more than 33,000 members and begins to describe itself with the cry heard around the Arab world, "the people want the regime to fall." Group administrators posted a list of bullet points that includes direct elections, "a fully independent judiciary," "freedom of expression and assembly," "the lifting of restrictions on women" and "the abolitions of special privileges and immunity for anyone."

BUTTER, NOT GUNS

*On the heels of King Mohamed VI's announcement of political reforms, Moroccan paper Al Alam reports that the government announced it would create 3 million jobs in the next decade. The move follows a demand by the General Union of Moroccan Enterprises. The government expressed its "full readiness' to implement the union's proposal to create employment, a proposal which will presumably keep union members off the streets…for now.


LIBYAN LIFTING

* Syrian-Brazilian doctor Fabio Nakkash spoke to Al Arabiya by phone about his trip in 1994 to Libya to perform a hair-implant surgery on Muammar Gaddafi at his compound in the southern suburbs of Tripoli. Nakkash got the opportunity from Dr. Elisar Ribeiro a well-known plastic surgeon from Rio de Janeiro who went with Nakkash to Libya to perform a facelift on a then 55-year-old Gaddafi. "Make me look like a man of 28," Gaddafi told the doctors, insisting that he wanted both procedures done at midnight, without any anesthesia.

March 10, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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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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