Geopolitics

Crackdown On Gay 'Propaganda' In Russia

A law introduced in the Russian Parliament this week aims to punish "homosexual propaganda" aimed at children. Critics are worried this is just another way to outlaw homosexuality.

Gay Pride in Moscow. The sign reads
Gay Pride in Moscow. The sign reads

MOSCOW- Russian lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would punish "homosexual propaganda" directed at minors. This comes on the heels of the recent adoption of similar legislation in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in the country, that makes " homosexual and pedophile propaganda" punishable by fine, in amounts ranging from approximately $170 for individuals to $17,000 for corporations.

The law introduced on Thursday in the Russian Parliament, the Duma, will essentially make the St. Petersburg law national.

A memo explaining the proposed law proclaimed, "Homosexual propaganda has spread widely in modern Russia. This kind of propaganda is distributed both through the mass media, as well as through events that promote the homosexual lifestyle as a normal behavior."

The authors of the legislation also declared: "This is especially dangerous for children and youth, who are not yet capable of thinking critically about the avalanche of information they see on a daily basis." According to its authors, the goal of the law project is to protect the younger generation from the effects of "homosexual propaganda."

Defining what constitutes "propaganda"

Thebill's sponsors insist that the proposed legislation has nothing to do with individual sexual orientation, only with the dissemination of "propaganda."

The problem, according to Tatyana Glushkova, a lawyer for a civil rights organization, is that the laws, both in St. Petersburg and the one proposed in the Duma, do not define either "propaganda" or "propaganda directed towards minors."

"Practically any action that is connected to homosexuality in any way could be construed as propaganda," Glushkova says. "Basically, saying anything positive or even neutral about homosexuality in front of children would be forbidden."

Homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union until 1993, but continues to be widely stigmatized in Russian society.

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations.

Read the full article in Kommersant in Russian.

Photo - Dedd

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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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