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from Global Investing:

Japan fires latest FX wars salvo; other Asians to follow

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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.

But the race to the bottom has been underway for some time.  After all central banks in the West have cut rates, as in the euro zone, and embarked on more quantitative easing, as in the UK.  One bank, Switzerland's, has gone as far as to effectively establish a ceiling for its currency.  And in Asia, Indonesia surprised markets with an interest rate cut this month while Singapore eased monetary policy. Many expect South Korea's next move also to be a rate cut even though inflation is running well above target.  Analysts at Credit Agricole predicted this week's G20 meeting to yield no fruitful discussion on what they termed "currency manipulation". "This lack of co-ordinated policy could trigger an escalation in ongoing currency wars," Credit Agricole analyst Adam Myers told clients. That would in turn lead to a renewed acceleration in central banks' dollar reserves, he added.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Catching bayonets, what could go wrong?

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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.

Trust me, I know what I'm doing.

Okay, I'm sorry, what was your name again?

Lamar.

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?

from MacroScope:

The thin line between love and hate

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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:

Seven months atop a crane

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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.

from MacroScope:

APEC Summit looms as US trade pacts lag

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.

from FaithWorld:

“Well-dying course” in South Korea includes test run in a coffin

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(A woman, donning a traditional yellow hemp robe, lies down in a coffin during a "well-dying? course in Seoul July 4, 2011/Truth Leem)

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.

from FaithWorld:

South Korea back in stem cell spotlight with new adult cell treatment for hearts

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(A researcher uses a microscope during a photo call at an aseptic room of the FCB-Pharmicell laboratory in Seongnam, near Seoul, June 28, 2011/Jo Yong-Hak)

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.

from FaithWorld:

South Korea’s religious harmony put to the test by Christian president

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(South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential Blue House in Seoul June 9, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak)

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.

from Photographers' Blog:

Luxury dog care open for business

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Affluent South Koreans have just about every fashion accessory imaginable from designer clothes to handbags and the latest trend in Asia’s fourth biggest economy is small dogs.

Just like their well-groomed owners in the ritzy suburbs of the capital Seoul, pets are now big business for groomers, healthcare businesses and even mood music, helping to create a whole new service industry.

from Photographers' Blog:

Outspoken South Korean singer taps populace sentiment

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On June 13, 2002, when South Korea, Japan and the rest of the world were captivated by the 2002 FIFA World Cup, a 50-tonne U.S. army vehicle crushed two South Korean schoolgirls to death during a drill in Yangju, north of Seoul. The girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-seon, both 14, were on their way to a friend’s birthday party.

Wearing traditional funeral clothes, a protester holds a picture of two South Korean girls recently crushed to death by a U.S. military vehicle, at a rally near U.S. embassy in Seoul December 5, 2002.  REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Thousands of South Koreans protested for several months to demand then-U.S. President George Bush apologize directly for the incident and hand over the U.S. soldiers involved to South Korean court.

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