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…

US-Japan Defense Accord Upsets Seoul

The front-page picture in Korean newspapers told the story of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. South Korea's President Park Geun Hye, looking frosty and gazing in the opposite direction, ignored Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing next to her at the Oct. 7 APEC in Bali. The two leaders barely exchanged greetings, according to…

South Korea: New Beacon for Refugees

Near South Korea's main international airport, the national government is constructing a type of building never seen before in this country -- a large complex capable of accommodating more than 1,000 refugee applicants. As South Korea becomes more developed and better-known, with its TV shows and pop music appreciated around the world, the country is…

South Korea Between China and Japan

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December of 2012, promising to reinvigorate the long-moribund Japanese economy, he famously proposed an economic strategy composed of what he called "three arrows." One of those arrows appears to have made a direct hit on the economy of South Korea, which depends for half of…

Laos Wins Refugee Bidding Game

The competition for influence between North and South Korea in Southeast Asia played itself out last week in Laos, when Seoul announced plans to more than double no-strings development aid to the Laotian government, to 4.84 billion won (US$4.83 million), more than twice the W2.04 billion from this year. Analysts say that increased generosity appears…