MERS’s Best Friend is Ignorance

MERS’s Best Friend is IgnoranceThe full story of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is yet to be told. Would South Korea now be in the grip of one of the disease’s largest-ever outbreaks if more had been done sooner to unravel its mysteries? So far, 175 cases have been reported in South Korea, 27 persons have died, more than…

Crucial Nuclear Debate in S. Korea Nonexistent

Crucial Nuclear Debate in S. Korea NonexistentThe Fukushima nuclear accident, precipitated by the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, has had a dramatic effect globally, shattering the myth that it is the safest and cheapest source of energy. Germany, Belgium and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power and France, the most nuclear-reliant country in the world, said it would…

South Korean Democracy: Crisis Coming?

South Korean Democracy: Crisis Coming?South Korean democracy is a paradox. Unlike many other young democracies in Asia and other parts of the world, it is characterized by relative stability, a working judiciary and, with a few striking exceptions, respect for human rights and civil liberties. Korean governments have become responsive and accountable to the public. Moreover, the idea of…

Is Korean Unification Possible?

Is Korean Unification Possible?The outset of 2015 has seen a spate of new developments on and around the Korean peninsula. However, the interests of Washington and Seoul are subtly out of synch. The Sony hacking was a major watershed in the history of cyberwarfare: a highly-destructive attack on an iconic Japanese company operating on US soil. The Obama…

South Korea’s Press: The Illusion of Freedom

South Korea’s Press: The Illusion of FreedomOn the surface, South Korea’s media appears to be thriving and even serves as an example to a region where liberal democracy is the exception rather than the norm. The country’s peaceful transition to democracy in the late 1980s promised journalists a newfound freedom to report without fear or favor.  But reporting without fear or…

South Korea: Headwinds and Crosswinds

South Korea: Headwinds and CrosswindsSouth Korea today faces economic and political headwinds as strong as any country in Asia, with faltering domestic consumption and struggling exports in the face of slowing Chinese demand from Korea’s formidable export machine. Abenomics’ latest tactics to weaken the yen are giving Seoul’s export sector even more problems.  The government, headed by Park Guen-hye,…

South Korea’s Alpha Women Myth

South Korea’s Alpha Women MythRecently in South Korea the term ‘alpha girls’ has been used to describe women who are extremely successful in their work, accomplished and ambitious in pursuit of career advancement. This icon, and the discourse surrounding it, has emerged thanks to the rapid growth in the number of women in high-powered professions that had formerly been…

China and South Korea: ‘Like Mouth and Tongue’

China and South Korea: ‘Like Mouth and Tongue’Beijing is losing patience with its troublesome client state North Korea, demonstrated by Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul at the start of this month before ever stepping on North Korean soil so far in his presidency or extending an invitation to Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-un to visit Beijing. In a telling exchange, Tian Guoli, chairman…

Some North Koreans Head Home

Some North Koreans Head HomeThe number of North Korean refugees reaching South Korea is on the decline. The South Korean government says it’s due to tougher border security, enforced by their ruler, Kim Jong-un. But advocates say there’s also been a rise in the number of North Korean defectors who want to go back. Son Jeong-hun is one of…

Abe’s Yasukuni Visit Escalates Asian Tensions

Abe’s Yasukuni Visit Escalates Asian TensionsVisits by Japanese prime ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead (including convicted Class-A war criminals), have repeatedly caused tensions in Asia over the years. Yasuhiro Nakasone created controversy when he visited the Shrine in 1985. Junichiro Koizumi did substantial damage to Japan’s relations with South Korea and China by visiting annually…