Reuters blog archive
By John Foley (The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)
The greatest achievement of Kim Jong-il was to keep North Korea cut off as the rest of the world joined up. The Dear Leader, who died on Dec. 17 according to state media, didn't manage it perfectly - the "hermit state" imports energy and food from China, and until lately the odd bottle of French cognac. But North Korea's quest for self-sufficiency has left the people in ignorance of the modern world and created grinding economic hardship. Kim's successor, likely his youngest son Jung-un, will struggle to lift that heavy burden.
Despite waves of famine and a botched currency reform, Kim preserved the essence of his father's autarkic command economy. The regime survived thanks to a bizarre personality cult, nepotism, mass mobilisation and heavy repression - North Korea spends around a quarter of its GDP on the military. Like Soviet Union premier Joseph Stalin, Kim died peacefully and in power.
The country's near-total seclusion should keep Kim's death from disrupting much of the world, even though South Korea fears military attacks, and China frets over hordes of defectors crossing the Yalu river. It's quite a contrast with the euro zone, where politicians and regulators are struggling to keep financial connections from spreading toxic effects.
from Photographers Blog:
By Lee Jae-won
South Korea is surrounded by the sea on all sides but one. The country is virtually an island as it is bordered to the north by reclusive North Korea.
There is only one place, called a truce village, where South Koreans and visitors can see the border and soldiers from the secretive state.
from Global Investing:
Emerging central banks that sold billions of dollars over the summer in defence of their currencies might soon be forced to do the opposite. Japan's massive currency intervention on Monday knocked the yen substantially lower not only versus the dollar but also against other Asian currencies. The action is unlikely to sit well with other central banks struggling to boost economic growth and raises the prospect of a fresh round of tit-for-tat currency depreciations. Already on Monday, central banks from South Korea and Singapore were suspected of wading into currency markets to buy dollars and push down their currencies which have recovered strongly from September's selloff. The won for instance is up 6.9 percent in October against the dollar -- its biggest monthly gain since April 2009. The Singapore dollar is up 4.5 percent, the result of a huge improvement in risk appetite.
Despite the interventions, the yen ended the session more than 2 percent lower against both the won and the Singapore dollar, and most analysts reckon Japan's latest intervention is by no means its last. That's bad news for companies that compete with Japan on export markets and will keep neighbouring central banks watching for the BOJ's next move. "Asian central banks are likely to play in the same game, and keep currencies competitive via regular interventions," BNP Paribas analysts said.
from Oddly Enough Blog:
It's not that I don't think you know what you're doing, but we hired you to spiff up our military honor guard with some great new moves, and I'm just not sure about your plan.
Okay, I'm sorry, what was your name again?
Okay Lamar, so as I understand it, the honor guard marches up, stops, and everybody just hurls their rifles straight into the air, is that it?
The opinion on Turkey’s unorthodox monetary policy mix is turning as rapidly as global growth forecasts are being revised down.
Earlier this month, its central bank was the object of much finger-wagging after it defied market fears over an overheating economy by cutting its policy rate. It defended the move, arguing that weaker global demand posed a greater risk than inflationary pressures.
from Photographers Blog:
With almost seven months atop a crane, a 51-year old woman trade unionist is staging a solo protest to end layoffs at a shipyard in South Korea.
Kim Jin-Suk, 51, climbed the 35-meter tall crane in the Yeongdo shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) in Busan, the hub of South Korea's shipbuilding industry on January 6 this year and has been there ever since to protest against what she says are "mass layoffs" at the country's former biggest shipbuilder.
The White House could face the embarrassing possibility of President Barack Obama hosting the annual APEC leaders summit in November without managing to win approval of free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Administration officials say there is every reason to expect the long-delayed trade deals can still be passed in September, a good two months before Obama welcomes South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and 19 other APEC leaders to Honolulu.
At age 62, Ha Yu-soo had begun to feel his mortality, wondering about the timing of death's soft tap on the shoulder. But why wait, he thought. Maybe he could take a test run. Ha donned a traditional yellow hemp robe, lay down inside a casket and felt at peace -- until the somber, dark-suited attendants placed a lid on the coffin. Then Ha realized his worst fear: the eternal darkness had finally come.
More than five years after South Korea's scientific reputation was shattered by a cloning research scandal, the country has approved medication from adult stem cells in the form of a treatment for heart attack victims for the world's first clinical use. South Korea all but put stem cell research into the deep freeze after a pre-eminent scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, was found guilty of fraud for his work in the field in 2005.
Many South Koreans concerned about the country's increasing religious polarisation are haunted by a single image - their president on his knees. While attending a national prayer breakfast in March, President ??Lee Myung-bak knelt to pray at the urging of Christian leaders.