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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

Monthly archive

January 2015

A Needed Inquiry: Interview with The Hon Michael Kirby

in Asia/Human Rights/Interviews by

Note: The following interview was published in the Yonsei Journal of International Studies Vol. 6 Issue 2 and can be found online at their site. The Commission’s full report can be found at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A NEEDED INQUIRY Interview with The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Established in 2013 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has provided new and valuable information to those concerned with the situation inside North Korea. Through the conducting of public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington D.C., the commission collected information and released a report in February 2014 which detailed many crimes that had occurred within North Korea, including crimes against humanity. The Hon Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, was appointed to lead this inquiry. During a recent visit to Yonsei University in Seoul, Editor in Chief Eric Watson was able to interview The Hon Michael Kirby. Eric Watson: How did you become involved with the commission? Michael Kirby: I was at a…

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US Amb. Lippert’s Statements and the State of US-ROK-JPN Relations

in Asia/Diplomacy by

Earlier today, January 27th, the Korea Times reported that the US Ambassador Mark Lippert reaffirmed the US’ support for the Murayama statement. The Murayama statement, released in 1995 by former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing for Japanese actions towards its Asian neighbors, is often pointed to as the official apology for Japan’s wartime aggression. Lippert’s remarks follow recent statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe seemed to indicate in a recent interview that on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of WWII his statements may differ from the wording used by past Japanese prime ministers. At a time when the relations between Japan and Korea are as poor as they ever have been since establishing official ties, Abe’s remarks immediately drew the attention of the US. A close ally to both, the US relies on both countries for its presence in Asia and has so far preferred to avoid applying any direct pressure to the two countries in regards to their territorial and historical disputes. Lippert’s statement appears to be an indication of a heightened sensitivity to provocations that would threaten the uneasy relationship between the two democracies. Lippert seemed to try to preempt others from drawing this conclusion…

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Chasing Innovation

in Business/Technology by

Urbanization has been the engine of modernization in Europe. For most citizens today, every event from birth to the grave including education, marriage, work and leisure, occur in cities. Cities are mirrors of cultures and regimes. McKinsey’s report entitled “Urban World: The Shifting Global Business Landscape” predicts the changes of the major cities in the next decade. According to the report, there are 8,000 companies that account for 90% of the total world GDP and third of those companies are located in 20 major cities that generate 40% of their revenue. McKinsey’s forecast shows that by 2025, there will be 15,000 companies to have headquarters in 330 cities, and 40% of these companies will be located in emerging economies. Additionally, according to UN’s estimations, between 2010 and 2050, over 40% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Other studies, such as the UN Habitat: State of the World’s Cities 2012/2013, present a prosperity framework which tries to achieve equitable distribution; where poverty is reduced, minorities have rights, genders have equal participation, energy is used efficiently and the quality of environment is increased. The UN also presents some facts regarding the rise in productivity with urbanization and they find two general categories…

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A Tantalizing Glimpse of the Social Web in the Future; When Everything is Connected

in Business/Technology by

Imagine yourself chatting with your home before you leave the office. Your home control panel will immediately communicate with an oven and a cooktop to prepare dinner and activate the washing machine before you arrive home. Your vacuum will check the condition of your carpet and clean it. When you are stood up on a date, your home will respond and recommend you food. Your home appliances will gear up for a warm welcome to cheer you up. Once you walk into the house, your favorite music and TV program will already be on along with a welcoming message. This is what Ericsson believes is the upcoming society. In years to come, wireless communications will progressively become part of the fabric of everyday life. Tiny communication chips and sensors will be embedded everywhere, weaving themselves into dense digital meshes. Internet-enabled objects will chat with one another by transmitting massive volumes of data; which once collected, will be processed and analyzed in real time for a variety of applications, creating seemingly endless opportunities for business. This may sound like a futuristic movie story line, but evidence demonstrates that this blue-sky dream is becoming real. A group of university students in Korea,…

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Coping with Demographic Realities: The Case of Kawane Village

in Asia/Politics by

Trends in urbanization are often accompanied by even more significant trends of depopulation in rural areas. Japan presents an extreme case in population changes as in addition to being an incredibly urbanized state; it has one of the lowest birthrates in the World. As a consequence, the care of the elderly who remain in rural areas is of growing concern. Efforts from the Japanese government to date have revolved around consolidating the small rural hamlets into larger administrative units. While this drastically improves the efficiency in fund allocation from a governmental standpoint, the services provided to the residents of these hamlets, who are overwhelmingly aged and vulnerable, has significantly decreased. Previously, funds were allocated to each individual hamlet and decisions on utilization were done on the basis of personal connections. After consolidation, the increased geographical distance of the officers from the citizens meant that those residents who needed services were often unable to promptly or adequately receive them. Consequently, self-organization has become a trending topic of research. Significant difficulty exists in implementation of self-organization however, as trends in urbanization have led to severe depopulation in rural communities. As a result, to date, successful examples of this self-organization in Japan have…

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How to Design a Truly Smart City

in Politics/Technology by

For hundreds of years, people have been flocking to cities where jobs, ideas, and wealth are generated. Cities have been perceived as a symbol of opportunities for success, attracting millions of youths and ambitious individuals every year. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050, the urban population will rise to almost 6.5 billion, and 64.1% of the developing countries and 85.9% of the developed countries will be urbanized. In response to rising urban population, some countries, such as China and India, have been spending heaps of money to build new cities for the accommodation of mounting city dwellers. Growing urbanization has caused several problems (e.g. environmental degradation, excessive energy consumption, and traffic congestion). City planners have selected Information Technology (IT) as a solution to some of the urbanization problems as well as a means to promote economic growth. Smart grids, for instance, have been installed to reduce the peak demand of electricity and to conserve energy. The Economist introduced a calculation, which states that if America’s power grid were only 5% more efficient, it would save the equivalent of the greenhouse-gas emissions of 53 million cars. Thomas L. Friedman also claims in his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, that…

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Wheels Falling off the WTO: Is it high time to write an obituary for multilateralism?

in Economics by

Multilateralism was believed to have returned from the grave, when delegates to the World Trade Organization (WTO) bragged of the Bali deal, the first fruit to be reaped out of the long-deadlocked multilateral trade negotiations in December 2013. The resurrection of the Doha round of international trade talks was indeed quite a surprise to those who already promulgated the end of multilateralism. Doha negotiations, initiated in 2001, were suffocated owing to the conflict of interest among WTO members in intractable issues such as agricultural subsidies, intellectual property rights and trade in services. They also experienced the collapse of talks in 2003 and 2008. In 2012 however, the flame of multilateral negotiations was rekindled as the WTO endeavored to simplify the agenda and channel the focus of talks into “trade facilitation”, i.e. the cutting of red tape in customs procedures, which was predominantly supported by the members. When the Bali package was signed in late 2013, a rosy future of multilateralism was sketched out with optimistic economic estimates—for instance, the Peterson Institute for International Economics forecasted that trade facilitation would generate 21 million jobs, particularly in less developed nations, and could increase developing countries’ annual output by $523 billion, tilting the…

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Space Law: A New Frontier

in Law by

“Space law”, contrary to how it sounds, does not entail any notions of space sheriffs hunting bandits in lunar canyons. In reality, the body of international laws and customs that govern human activities in outer space is what is properly referred to as space law. Before the first human ventures into space, such as Sputnik, there was no clear agreement or conceptualization of what rules and customs should be applied to the new frontier. The US and the USSR both had little reason to extend airspace laws further up as they both would be repeatedly violating each other’s airspace through their space missions.  Scholars discussed some concepts, such as terra nullius, which borrowed from traditional international law. States that were able to venture into outer space had little reason to challenge these developments. The current foundation of space law is built on the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, or as it has more commonly come to be referred to as, The Outer Space Treaty. Key highlights of this treaty are the promise of no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in space,…

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Testing Theories of American Politics

in Economics/Politics/US by

While not an altogether new phenomenon, the nature of the US’ democratic system in terms of its responsiveness to the needs of its citizens has been given considerable attention in recent years. Coinciding with this is the emergence of new challenges to the existing system. The Occupy Wall Street movement was an example of citizens protesting the actions of the US government in handling the financial crisis. Riots, such as those in the wake of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri speak to the racial tension existing there, but also have the political element of expressing anger at the government’s inability to provide necessary access to due process, life, and economic security. Internationally, the US’ democratic system, and the intertwined capitalistic policies has been recently scrutinized with groundbreaking works such as “Capital in the 21st Century” by French economist Thomas Picketty. Testament to the change in dialogue, US domestic discourse now regularly features phrases including “the 1%”, the “one-percenters” or similar terms to emphasize a separation between the average citizen and those who are seen to hold power. In particular, this article will analyze and contextualize a recent peer-reviewed publication that has generated considerable debate in the US. “Testing Theories…

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Technological Advances in M-health

in Technology by

As smartphones and wearable gadgets cascade into every crevice of life, the prospect of technological advances in mobile health (m-health) that will usher in a transformative era of healthcare has appeared. M-health refers to the practice of medicine supported by mobile devices. Particularly in developing countries that have experienced a sharp rise in mobile penetration, a flurry of innovative experiments have been under way to revolutionize their ill-equipped healthcare systems and provide life-saving services to those who need them the most. For instance, Dr. Andrew Bastawrous and his colleagues have developed Peek, the portable eye exam kit comprised of a mobile app and a clip-on scanner added to a smartphone that can perform a wide range of ophthalmic tests, such as a cataract diagnosis. With this smart toolkit harnessing wireless technology, his team was able to diagnose eye diseases at an early stage and prevent a host of people in Kenya from becoming blind. The example of Peek epitomizes one of the features of m-health technology, i.e. remote monitoring and diagnosis of patients. This technology allows doctors to remotely monitor patients, systematically analyze vast amounts of health data and effectively provide treatments in a timely manner. Another technological achievement in…

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