Geopolitics

Fort Hood Shooting, New Chilean Quake, More Rob Ford-ery

In Fort Hood, Texas, after another rampage
In Fort Hood, Texas, after another rampage
Worldcrunch

UKRAINE RIOT POLICE SUSPECTED OF ‘MASS MURDER’
Twelve members of Ukraine’s now disbanded Berkut riot police have been arrested on suspicion of “mass murder” during Kiev’s Independence Square protests in late February, where over 100 people were killed, Reuters quotes a spokesman for the general prosecutor as saying. But RT reminds readers that both protesters and riot police officers were killed by snipers during the last days of the Maidan protests. Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed to have evidence that the snipers were led by ultranationalist group Right Sector.

  • Ukrainian Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko later said that then-President Viktor Yanukovych had greenlighted the operation knowingly, an accusation he has repeatedly denied. Nalyvaychenko added that he believed a group of Russian Federal Security Service employees had also taken part in the planning of the operation. Read more from AFP.

  • Meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov has demanded that NATO explain its decision to boost its defenses in Eastern Europe. “We are not only expecting answers, but answers that will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on,” Reuters quotes him as saying.

  • In an interview with AP, ousted President Viktor Yanukovych expressed his wish that Crimea one day becomes part of Ukraine again, calling its decision to join the Russian Federation “a tragedy.” As for the upcoming presidential election and constitutional reforms, he again expressed his distrust towards the new government. “You just need to recall how today’s leaders grabbed the power in Ukraine. There is and was no legitimacy or constitutionality here,” he said. Read more from The Kyiv Post.

CHILE HIT BY NEW EARTHQUAKE
The northern Chilean coast was shaken by another 7.6-magnitude quake last night, one day after a magnitude-8.2 tremor that killed at least six people and destroyed over 2,500 homes, national newspaper La Tercera reports. This aftershock, the most powerful of the 30 registered since yesterday, forced another massive evacuation. President Michelle Bachelet, who was visiting the region, was among those evacuated.

FOUR DEAD IN FORT HOOD SHOOTING
An Iraq war veteran believed to be plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing three colleagues and injuring 16, before turning the gun on himself, CNN reports. An investigation has begun to find out what sparked Army Specialist Ivan Lopez’s shooting spree, and a senior military official told reporters “there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas.” In 2009, 13 soldiers had been killed in a similar event at the Texas military base. Read more from The New York Times.

MUSHARRAF CONVOY TARGETED BY EXPLOSION
A convoy carrying Pakistan’s ex-President Pervez Musharraf escaped a powerful explosion in the capital of Islamabad, just days after he was charged with treason. According to newspaperDawn, between four and six kilograms of explosive material were placed in a pipeline near a bridge, and the bomb went off just after the convoy passed. This was the fourth assassination attempt on the former ruler, the previous three having taken place while he was in office.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Le Monde’s David Revault d'Allonnes paints a portrait of Manuel Valls, the man chosen by French President François Hollande to lead a new government. A risky choice, for many reasons: "For a long time, the comparison to Nicolas Sarkozy exasperated Valls. These last few months, he accepted it much more willingly, his team even claiming to have traveled the country nearly 300 times, more than Sarkozy when he was Minister of the Interior. Call it the ‘bulldozer technique.’”
Read the whole article here: Manuel Valls: How A "Sarkozy Of The Left" Rose To Be French Prime Minister.

“CUBAN TWITTER” A U.S. PLOT
Documents obtained by AP show that U.S. government officials, via USAID, were secretly behind the creation of “ZunZuneo,” a Cuban version of Twitter, hoping to stir unrest in the communist country. According to the report, the 1,000 pages of documents “tell the story of how agents of the U.S. government, working in deep secrecy, became tech entrepreneurs — in Cuba. And it all began with a half a million cellphone numbers obtained from a communist government.”

VERBATIM
“I guessed I pushed the wrong button,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said, after casting the lone “no” votes on resolutions to honor Canada’s Olympic athletes and the late Nelson Mandela.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

RECEIPT TATTOO, 2ND EDITION
A young man in Norway became a worldwide sensation last week when he decided to have a McDonald’s receipt tattooed on his forearm, but his latest tattoo is likely to attract just as much attention.

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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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