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from FaithWorld:

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

(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.

"How grateful I was that this was a fake funeral, not real," he said with a sigh of relief. "There's but one step from life to death but the difference is huge," Ha, a fire protection system inspector, told Reuters.

Ha joined around 70 other people on a "well-dying" course, run by a local district office in the northeast of Seoul. The course's motto: "Don't take life for granted."

from FaithWorld:

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

(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

(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

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

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.

from Eric Burroughs:

Don’t fret about EM outflows

There’s a lot of excitement around the sharp outflows seen from emerging markets in the latest figures from EPFR Global. But this story is getting a little overplayed. Asian central banks have heard the message on the need to tighten policy, with Bank Indonesia following the Bank of Korea in surprising with a rate hike in the past few weeks. The positive response to the BI rate increase, with the rupiah rising and local bond yields dropping, show that the central bank showed the inflation-fighting resolve that investors were looking for, even if inflation is being exacerbated by food price run-ups beyond the control of monetary policy.

Higher short-term rates are inevitable, and SE Asian yield curves/swap curves have more room to flatten. Just look at how South Korea's swap curve has flattened like mad since the Bank of Korea has appeared to become more aggressive than anyone expected (let's see at this week's policy meeting). At the same time, stronger currencies will be part of any inflation-fighting response to keep from raising rates too much and attracting more hot money – yes, hot money. If anything the U.S. and euro zone markets have gotten a little too excited about higher rates, while some EM markets – look at the Philippines –  still offer chunky real yields, and those real yields are not even close to being as negative as they were during the 2008 commodities freakout. PIMCO’s Bill Gross last week reiterated the biggest bond fund’s support for EM bonds in decrying the “devil’s haircut” of near zero U.S. five-year real yields.

from Davos Notebook:

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O'Neill told the Financial Times.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fighters in the ring of the law

A lawmaker (C) from opposition parties climbs onto the parliament chairman's seat as they scuffle with lawmakers (L) of the ruling Grand National Party to prevent them from passing new bills including the new year's budget bill at the National Assembly plenary session hall in Seoul December 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

As the year winds down in Seoul, highly-educated fighters dressed in business attire gather for a dramatic showdown. A sky-blue colored dome theater is the venue, and this year, it was again prepared for the upcoming event. Chairs, tables and other office furniture are stacked up on the floor to block people from entering rooms. Police officers stand guard as they surround the domed theater to prepare for any emergency situations. There are ambulances and medics. All entrances to the theater are closed, with tight security allowing only those with prior authorization to enter.

Police officers stand guard in front of the National Assembly in Seoul December 8, 2010, while lawmakers and their aides from the ruling party and the opposition party scuffle.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

A member of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) makes his way past a barricade of furniture, created by his party to block lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party and their aides, near an entrance of the main conference hall of parliament in Seoul December 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

The match begins. Hundreds of people, who don't look like mixed martial arts fighters, gather in front of the gate of the main event room. They are defenders. They discuss and plan their strategies. Chanting “Keep the position," they form scrimmages. The opponent’s fighters roll up into the hall. The offenders also make a plan on how to break through defenders’ scrimmages. They stand ready to rush. Somebody from the attackers shouts “Let’s go.” All of the offenders including dozens of women make a dash. There’s pushing and shoving. The hall is filled with screams and shouts. Camera flashes are fired at them. It’s like a red carpet ceremony. Some fighters fall and collapse. One wounded person cries with pains. Immediately medics come and take her to a hospital.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 12 December 2010

This week the blog should be called A Week (and a few extra hours ) in Pictures as I wanted to share a couple of images that came in late last Sunday and evaded my net as I trawled through the file. Both are from Thailand and both were shot by Sukree Sukplang. The first is a strong portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he leaves hospital in a wheelchair to attend a ceremony to celebrate his 83rd birthday. The picture seems to me to mirror the respect that the Thai people have for their King. What makes me think this I am not sure; maybe its the side light which creates studio-like modelling on the king's face highlighting every detail of his appearance, the crispness of the clothes, the beauty of the ceremonial medals and the rich colour of the royal sash. Or maybe it's just the way he is looking back into the lens, his eyes full of dignity and determination.

THAILAND/

 Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej leaves the Siriraj Hospital for a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok December 5, 2010. King Bhumibol celebrates his 83rd birthday on Sunday.   REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

FIFA’s World Cup decision day — live

We'll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA's executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.

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