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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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The Business of Death

in Asia/Business/Economics/Politics by

The Chinese life insurance market has grown exponentially since the start of the millennium. Now the fifth largest life insurance market globally, sales have risen from 98 billion yuan in 2000 to 994 billion yuan in the first half of 2014. What perhaps makes this feat more impressive is not only the speed at which the market has expanded, but also the success of being able to market such a product in a culture where discussing death used to be completely taboo. To understand what exactly happened here, we need to rewind the clock a bit, and add a little contextual color. Just as the phrase “to have a good life” can mean multiple things, “a good death” is equally as ambiguous. In the west, Christian cultures in particular view death as a promise (or threat) of an afterlife, depending on how you act during your earth-bound existence. In China, where Confucian values are heavily embedded into culture, the subject of death is rarely discussed mainly due to its ambiguity, and it is almost always negatively portrayed. As if mystifying it wasn’t enough, Taoist beliefs measure how good a death is based on its timing and nature—anything other than dying…

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Bringing Football to Asia

in Asia/Business/Europe by
manchester united china fans

Chinese president Xi Jinping has set his country’s national football team three targets to aim for: qualify for the FIFA World Cup, host it, and win it. Football has even been made compulsory in national schools, and projects for the construction of sports grounds have been passed swiftly to ensure the country can achieve its hat trick. As amusing as it may sound, Xi is by no means in the minority when he expresses his obsession and hopes for the sport. The hype over football has reached new heights, especially since the commercial success of January’s Asian Cup, a strong indicator of the game’s popularity across the continent of 4 billion. When the national teams aren’t playing however, the majority of attention is given to overseas European football rather than local teams. Worldwide interest has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half due to weekly coverage in mass media and on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, connecting fans on both national and international levels to these teams. But why is European football especially popular in Asia? For the English Premier League alone there are an estimated 820 million supporters in Asia, according to sports research company Repucom.…

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Anger Across the Water: Parallel Trading in Hong Kong

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics by

The conflict between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people doesn’t seem to have an end in any sense. After the influential pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong, another protest against Mainland Chinese traders buying up goods to make a profit back home took place recently, and is still going on at the time of writing. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents have gathered to demonstrate against visitors from Mainland China. Hong Kong people are angry with these so-called “parallel traders,” who come to Hong Kong to stock up on lower-priced goods, including food items, luxury goods and electronics only to sell the goods for a profit across the border while dodging tariffs. The outrage has also spread to normal tourists, shoppers, cross-border buses and passersby with suitcases and trolleys from Mainland China. Social media has been awash with videos showing the activists attacking normal visitors from Mainland China, including old people and children, causing great rage and inciting another round of war online between Hong Kong people and Mainlanders. Parallel trading in Hong Kong has a long history. The number of parallel traders from Mainland China grows each year and the problem has become even more serious since 2008, when tainted supplies…

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Can We Deploy THAAD Now?

in Asia/Security/Technology/US by

South Korean defense officials let out a collective groan on May 9, 2015, as North Korea reportedly conducted a successful test-fire of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). International news websites and security blogs were inundated with photos released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of a proud Kim Jong-Un personally overseeing the test launches. The dramatic photos also show the moment the SLBM exited the water. Bukgeuksung-1 (북극성-1), presumably the name of the missile, is seen painted on the side. Though still in its nascent stages, if the reports are accurate, an operational SLBM is alarming for a number of reasons. First, it shows the speed of development of North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts were aware that North Korea was working on SLBMs, but not many suspected that flight tests would be conducted so soon. With each incremental step, North Korea’s missiles will become harder to track, detect, and intercept. Second, it shows that Pyongyang has no intentions of slowing down, let alone changing the course of its policy of belligerence and brinkmanship. Testing the SLBM violates at least four UN Security Council Resolutions (1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094). Lastly, North Korea is one step closer to a…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

in Asia/Economics/Human Rights/Politics by

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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Rising Challenges for Urban Refugees Under Thai Military Junta

in Asia/Human Rights/Politics by

Images of elephant rides through the jungle, bustling markets, and sipping a Singha on a white sand beach are often what come to mind for tourists in Thailand. However, a growing number of foreigners are arriving in the country due to persecution rather than pleasure. Last year, the number of asylum seekers in Bangkok quadrupled. The majority of new arrivals are Christians and Shiite or Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan who have fled targeted religious and ethnic attacks. In addition, a growing number of Syrian and Palestinian war refugees are choosing Thailand as a first country of refuge. Bangkok’s burgeoning asylum seeker population combined with stricter regulations of undocumented persons under the military run government has created an increasingly dire situation for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Most urban asylum seekers arrive in Bangkok with a desire to gain official refugee status and then move on to a third country such as the U.S., Canada, or Australia. Thailand is a popular destination due to the relative ease of entering the country, the higher living standards compared with neighboring countries, and because it is home to the regional UN refugee agency headquarters. While life in Bangkok may be considered a…

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+3 — Regionalism in Northeast Asia: Integration vs. Cooperation

in Asia/Security by

Northeast Asian Integration is a term often used recently among regionalists and/or European scholars to sell the prototypical European model as panacea for the prevailing conflicts in Northeast Asia. The European model, besides continuing debates over virtually everything, sure is a success in Europe. Embodied in this model is the prevailing notion that any European argument is better solved in a parliament in Brussels than in a trench in Verdun. It was not by chance that the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. What proponents of a 1:1 application of the European model to Northeast Asia fail to see is the differing inherent geopolitical and historical exposition of Europe and Northeast Asia; it is not the cultural and linguistic similarities or differences among European or Northeast Asian nations that enabled union building here or inhibited it there. The omitted variable in the constructivist equation is the unilateral security architecture within Europe in form of NATO —provided by the United States— since the 1950s and lack thereof in basically all of East Asia. In Northeast Asia there was, instead, a political and ideological division with American backed,…

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What Goto’s Murder Means for Japan and East Asia

in Asia/Diplomacy/Middle East/Security by

On January 31st, various news outlets reported that a video showing the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto had been released by the Islamic State (IS). A similar video had been released a week earlier purportedly showing the murder of Goto’s friend, Haruna Yukawa. These events followed negotiations between the Japanese and Jordanian Government’s with the IS over the release of prisoners. Negotiations between Japanese officials and the IS are currently being reported to have broken down following demands for a US $200 million ransom. In the video released, a member of IS addresses the Japanese government, saying: “Because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.” Within Japan, government officials have begun to debate the nature and role of Japan’s international activities. The result of these debates among interests holding contrasting views of Japan’s role internationally come at a time when Japan’s identity as a nation is itself in flux. Abe and other nationalist politicians have struggled to convince the Japanese public of the need for changes to Article 9 of the constitution, where the country has renounced war and…

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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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