Geopolitics

How The Jewish School Killings Could Turn France’s Presidential Election Upside Down

A campaign that was focused on economic struggles and personality comparisons may suddenly shift to the topic of crime and security, which could benefit President Nicolas Sarkozy. There are echoes of the campaign of 2002, marked by a brutal shooting just

Celebrating Hollande's victory (romytetue)
François Hollande meets with members of the Jewish community after the shooting (euronews)
Aurore Gorius

In schools across France on Tuesday, students and teachers observed a rare national moment of silence following the murders of three children and a religion teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse. The entire nation is filled right now with both sorrow and indignation.

Meanwhile, a manhunt has been launched to track down the perpetrator, suspected of also being responsible for the murders last week in the same region of three French soldiers, two Muslims of North African descent and a third of Caribbean origin.

The shootings come less than two months before France goes to the polls to elect its president, and have raised serious questions concerning the idea of "vivre ensemble" (living together), an unofficial motto that accompanies every election in France.

While the candidates had been largely focused on the economy, and even spent time talking of lighter matters and exchanging personal jibes, suddenly the very present issue of security returns to center stage of the campaign.

On Monday, France's national security alert was updated to "Scarlet", its highest level, for the first time since 2001. Eight hundred riot policemen were dispatched in the Midi-Pyrénées region, and France's Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, temporarily moved his office to Toulouse.

The presidential campaign has officially been suspended until at least Wednesday, when two of the three soldiers will be buried. But is it really possible to put a presidential campaign on hold?

So far, the candidates have refrained from exploiting the event – and let's hope it stays that way. Still, several of them decided to go to Toulouse, before attending a memorial ceremony at the Nazareth Synagogue in Paris. Being seen before the cameras at such a crucial time is particularly important for all the challengers to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

A change in political climate

And yet even as it is suspended, the presidential race has hereby switched both gears and tone. The frantic pace will give way to a slower rhythm, as security questions are likely to move to the center of the political debate. But for how long?

It all begs the question: Is this French presidential election going to repeat the end of the 2002 campaign? Ten years ago, towards the end of March, 33-year-old gunman Richard Durn opened fire at the end of a city council meeting in Nanterre, in the western suburbs of Paris, killing eight members of the council.

A couple of days later, as we all remember, far-right wing candidate Jean-Marie le Pen finished second in a crowded field, qualifying for the final round of the presidential election. (He was ultimately defeated by Jacques Chirac)

One should always be careful when comparing different presidential campaigns. But this year's race is edging toward terrain where the right is traditionally more comfortable. As a candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy was in trouble, struggling to regain ground in polls; now he has been able to put his presidential hat back on, taking over the reins of the country just forty days before the election. And at the same time, some people still have difficulty imagining François Hollande, Sarkozy's main opponent, as head of state.

The spotlight will be on Sarkozy for the next couple of days, presenting himself as the defender of a Republic weakened by the recent attacks on two of its pillars – education and the military. The names of the seven victims on Liberation"s black cover speak for themselves. In an anti-foreign, anti-Islam context largely fed by Nicolas Sarkozy and his UMP party, this situation will be just the latest paradox of this presidential campaign.

Read the original article in French

Photo - euronews

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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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