Geopolitics

U.S. Anti-ISIS Strategy, Cost Of Gaza War, Darth Rumor

A group of Yazidis Kurds, mostly women and children, arrive at a village in Sirnak, Turkey.
A group of Yazidis Kurds, mostly women and children, arrive at a village in Sirnak, Turkey.
Worldcrunch

Friday, August 22, 2014

PENTAGON CONSIDERS ANTI-ISIS STRATEGY
After a week that saw an escalation in the horror from ISIS, Pentagon officials are trying to develop a strategy to contain and defeat what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff described as “an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision.” According to The New York Times, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey seemed to suggest that the U.S. would have to strike the jihadist organization in northern Syria, where it is engaged in fights against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former British foreign secretary and chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, went further by saying that the U.S. and its allies should develop a relationship with Assad and join forces against ISIS in Syria.

The jihadist group has launched an offensive against an army-held military airport in northern Syria, but at least 70 ISIS fighters have been killed by the Syrian army. Read more from Al Arabiya.

SNAPSHOT
About 2,500 Yazidis — a religious minority persecuted by ISIS, now known as the Islamic State — are thought to have crossed into Turkey since the offensive of the jihadist terrorists started in northern Iraq.

GAZA OP COSTLY FOR ISRAELI ECONOMY
Israel’s ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip is costing Israel as much as $60 million per day, meaning that the total spending has already surpassed $2.5 billion, Haaretz reports. “The army’s spending demands are so big that treasury officials fear that the budgets over the next three years will be subjugated to military needs at the expense of civilian spending,” the newspaper writes. The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that more than 360 factories in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes, 10% of all factories in the enclave, and explains that it will take years for Gaza’s economy to recover.

An unnamed Gaza security official told AP that Hamas executed 11 Palestinians found guilty by a Gaza court of being informants for Israel. Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV reported this morning that 18 suspected informants were executed.

A UNICEF senior official said yesterday that 469 Palestinian children have been killed since the beginning of the offensive and that 370,000 are in need of “psycho-social first aid.”

191,369
Through April, at least 191,369 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war since it began. The figure is more than double the number documented a year ago and is probably conservative, the United Nations' human rights office told Reuters.

RUSSIAN AID TRUCKS ENTER UKRAINE
The first trucks in a Russian humanitarian aid convoy, which had been held for days on the border, have crossed into Ukraine following an order from Moscow’s Foreign Ministry, RT reports. The convoy is first heading towards the city of Luhansk, where the Ukrainian army has been battling for weeks to regain rebel-held areas. In a statement, the Ministry accused Kiev of “consciously putting the humanitarian aid delivery on hold to arrive at a situation where there’ll be just no one left to get it.” The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was not escorting the convoy, explainingthat they hadn’t received “sufficient security guarantees from the fighting parties,” adding that their team in Luhansk had reported “heavy shelling.”

A national day of mourning has been declared in Malaysia, as the first remains of 20 of the 43 Malaysian nationals killed in the shooting of flight MH17 over Ukraine returned home.

EBOLA TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
South Africa and Senegal have imposed new travel restrictions with Ebola-hit countries in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading. Senegal announced it was closing its border with Guinea and barring all ships and planes from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. South Africa, meanwhile, will allow its citizens returning from those countries to enter but not other African nationals. Read more from the BBC.

American Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted Ebola in West Africa, was released from Emory University Hospital yesterday. “Today is a miraculous day," he said.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt writes, India and Pakistan are arch enemies whose ongoing Kashmir conflict shows no signs of ending. So will the film kiss between a beloved Pakistani actress and an India heartthrob be censored? “Humaima Malick, a model and actress from Quetta in western Pakistan, seems a little worried about how audiences in her hometown are going to react when the crime comedy Raja Natwarlal opens on Aug. 29,” journalist Sophie Muhlmann writes. “Her role as a bar dancer alongside Indian heartthrob Emraan Hashmi marks Humaima's debut in Bollywood.”
Read the full article, The Bollywood Kiss Heard "Round The World.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


MORE LANDSLIDES FEARED IN HIROSHIMA
The search for survivors in Western Japan’s Hiroshima, where 51 people are still missing after massive landslides earlier this week, was interrupted as more heavy rains raised fears of new landslides, AFP reports. The confirmed death toll stands at 39, but authorities fear it may rise significantly. Four thousand people were ordered to evacuate their homes. More to the west, near Fukuoka, more heavy rains have led the authorities to issue an evacuation order for 100,000 residents. Read more from The Japan Times.

STAR WARS: A NEW HOAX
As Slate promises, “Now you, too, can spread dubious rumors about Episode VII!” Go here “to spawn more baseless speculation.”

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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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