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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Distance Learning: Is it Working?
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Distance Learning: Is it Working?

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar, columnist, in The UB Post (April 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Distance Learning: Is it Working?

This is the first time that online lessons are being offered due to pandemic prevention in Mongolia. Students have been complaining that e-learning is not effective and some of them have asked for a refund of their tuition.

A student at the Mongolian National University for Science and Technology said: “The courses provided by teachers are ineffective, and most of the materials are searchable on the internet. We lack information on how to register our lesson attendance, when to complete assignments and ways to ask questions from teachers about the things we don't know. Everything is unclear. Provincial students cannot attend classes and drop out. Many students work to earn their tuition fee. Ineffective online lessons are a waste for them.”

A student at the Mongolian National University of Education complained: “It was not possible to attend online classes because of the poor network. When my phone connects with the slow internet, it takes a long time to load. The government's decision neglects provincial students. How can provincial students make up for lost time if they miss classes? We need to be given that opportunity.”

No one was ready for this situation. However, it is a shame that students complain that they don’t want or can't adapt to online classes. Some students are demanding too much – government stipends, free public transportation, and free access to the internet. Students need to understand that they are adults and are responsible for their own welfare. Understanding that the crisis has impacted all of us, not just them, and working with others to find the best way to resume their learning will be a much more effective attitude for achieving their goal. Distance learning itself is not the problem; it is an opportunity that has benefited millions of learners around the globe.


Regulations Out of Touch with Reality
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Regulations Out of Touch with Reality

Hurr Hee-young, Professor, School of Business, Korea Aerospace University, in The Korea Economic Daily (May 27, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: PxHere)

Regulations Out of Touch with Reality

There are two department stores standing side by side in Mok-dong ward in Seoul. The first sells products from small and medium enterprises (SMEs). When a bigger Hyundai Department Store (run by chaebol) opened next door, the revenue of the former unexpectedly tripled as the area saw increase in foot traffic. The two co-exist more in symbiosis rather than as competitors.

The newly elected Korean government promised favorable policies towards SMEs. The proposals include further regulating operating hours of big shopping complexes by increasing mandatory closure from the current twice a month to four times. However, whether such market regulations would really result in boosting the traditional markets and protecting local businesses is questionable.

First, the proposed regulations fail to understand that with the increasing dominance of online commerce, offline revenue has been in decline, chaebol-led or not. Second, restricting the operation of distribution chains will only further decrease foot traffic in the offline economy. According to the Korea Employers Federation, online shopping revenue increase by as much as 37 percent on Sundays with mandatory closures of big retail chains. Third, increasing market regulation decreases consumer benefit as demonstrated by Starfield chain of shopping malls which had a project blocked to protect local business but which over 70 percent of residents favored.

The regulation on operating hours of big retail corporations back in 2012 was aimed at protecting the SMEs and local businesses. Despite this, consumers only turned more to online shopping instead of increasing local spending. The biggest losers of the regulations were the farmers whose sales declined due to the mandatory curbs on the operations of their distributors.

The decisive force in the market is consumers’ choice, not more regulations. The key for survival in the marketplace is to understand better what consumers want and then adapt.


An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

Usman Hamid, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, and Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer, in The Jakarta Post (May 25, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Marcel Gnauk/Pixabay)

An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

The United Nations is right: It is impossible to practice physical distancing and self-isolation in an overcrowded prison. We therefore applaud the decision by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to release almost 40,000 prisoners at risk from the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet Minister Yasonna’s policy falls crucially short: Prisoners of conscience are excluded from the policy, despite the UN urging that “political prisoners should be among the first released”.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government has detained 69 prisoners of conscience (PoCs) on treason charges, a record in recent times for Indonesia. The majority of them, 54, are indigenous Papuans. All are peaceful activists who have been detained for political expression -- simply carrying flags, organizing or participating in peaceful protests, or being members of political organizations. No one should ever be arrested or detained solely for exercising their human rights.

The majority of these PoCs were arrested during and in the immediate wake of the 2019 West Papua uprising that took place from August 19 to September 23 last year. These protests against racism and for self-determination, likened to an “earthquake” of anger and hope, took place in towns and villages throughout Papua.


Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law

Kim Gi-dong, editor, in Segye Ilbo (May 22, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: MFDice)

Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law

Abandoned by her mother at age nine, and then a difficult childhood under her grandmother's care. This is a story of Hara Goo of the celebrated South Korean pop girl group Kara. Goo's suicide last November after suffering cyber bullying made tragic headlines around the world. What is less known is the scandal caused by Goo's mother, who reappeared at her daughter's funeral after a 20-year absence, to demand half of her daughter's inheritance.

In Korea, murdering and defrauding someone can disqualify a person from inheriting a victim’s wealth. But not parental negligence. Goo’s brother petitioned for the Hara Goo Law to address this unfairness. The legislation, however, failed to pass within the term of the 20th National Assembly.

South Korean society is witnessing the rise of another extreme of "filial litigation". Upon having their inheritance from their parents, the children neglect their filial duty and the parents then sue for return of their wealth. The mere fact that "filial duty legislation" (to prevent children from neglecting elder parents), was formally discussed during the 19th National Assembly shows the extent of this social issue in this Confucian country where the elderly are traditionally respected.

Today, the bulk of the baby boomer generation carries the burden of supporting the younger and older generations. For most of them, their parenthood covered their children's education, entrance to university, and initial employment. But the parents’ duty now seems never ending as they fund their children's wedding and then the rearing of their grandchildren. On top of caring for this new-normal "kangaroo generation", baby boomers are also expected to support their own elderly parents. From all legal wrangling over inheritance to the increasing burden on one generation, and now with Covid-19 complicating everything, gatherings at family holidays would seem to be gloomier these days. 


The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Cielito F Habito, economist and professor, in his No Free Lunch column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Our high school graduates appear to be making the wrong choices of college courses, as they pursue degrees that do not lead to high-paying jobs. Yet earnings are their primary motivation for getting further education or training, according to a survey of college graduates who completed their studies between 2009 and 2011. The study affirms the widely observed jobs-education mismatch in our labor market, this time from the perspective of the learners.

The survey found that 15 courses accounted for more than 70 percent of the graduates, and nearly half had bachelor’s degrees in just five fields: nursing, elementary and secondary education, business administration, and commerce. But of the graduates in BS Nursing, which was the top course choice comprising 25 percent of females and 18 percent of the males of the graduates surveyed, nearly half (47.2 percent) were not working as nurses. They ended up as contact center information clerks (11 percent), retail and wholesale trade managers (8 percent), general office clerks (6.2 percent), cashiers and ticket clerks (3.5 percent), and even police officers (3.2 percent) and other unrelated occupations.

The biggest mismatch, it turns out, is in the graduates’ lack of the core skills of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, much more than technical skills. Both employers, in many past studies, and graduates, in this one, point to these as the serious gap that could be hardest to fill. It is the neglect of developing these in basic and college education that our education reforms must seek to change, if Filipinos are to propel our economy and society into one that is competitive, prosperous and resilient.


Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law
Friday, May 22, 2020
Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law

Hidetomi Tanaka, Professor in the Faculty of Business and Information of Jobu University, in iRONNA (May 19, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law

The biggest political story in Japan in the first half of May was not only COVID-19, but also the attempt by the Abe government to revise how special prosecutors are appointed. The move resulted in huge and unprecedented backlash on social media, and plummeting poll numbers for Abe and the cabinet, forcing Abe to back away from the plan.

Take a sober second look at the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposed amendments to the law on how special prosecutors are appointed. These changes are perceived by opposition lawmakers and the public to make it easier to control the public prosecution office and make it difficult to investigate alleged government abuses. The debate surrounding the proposed amendment has been clouded by emotion rather than based on reality. Affecting the tenor of the discussion has been the slump in Abe's popularity since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in Japan in late February.

Critics of the amendment have embarked on a fishing expedition that is aimed at scoring political points instead of uncovering the truth, with facts being replaced by intuition and gut feeling about the prime minister's supposed disingenuousness and duplicity when proposing the amendments. With the help of uninformed television celebrities, the fishing expedition has snowballed into a social media hashtag campaign. The public had already made up their minds without bothering to learn about the proposed amendments.

While everyone in Japan is free to express a political opinion, individual judgement must not be based on intuition, feelings and anti-intellectualism.


Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle
Friday, May 22, 2020
Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle

Yutaka Suzuki, Professor, Laboratory of Systems Genomics, Department of Computational Biology and Medical Sciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, in Tokyo Shimbun (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle

We are not fighting a war against Covid-19. Instead, it is a marathon. Shigeru Omi, who has been on the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board since 2013 and is deputy chair of the Japanese government's expert panel on the coronavirus, has stated that war imagery should not be used as a metaphor for the struggle against epidemic in Japan.

Kaori Muto, a specialist in research ethics at The University of Tokyo, has also argued that militaristic language is problematic, because it implies there are generals who control the "battle", while there are "the weak" whose lives must be sacrificed. This is unacceptable, she says.

Health authorities are continuously struggling to find the best ways to inform and persuade the public. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, has called the fight against Covid-19 "World War III" and a "war of endurance". So, another challenge for health professionals is how to compete with government in providing reliable information.


Quarantine Vs Commemorations
Friday, May 22, 2020
Quarantine Vs Commemorations

MSM Ayub, Deputy Editor and columnist, in Daily Mirror (May 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Indi Samarajiva)

Quarantine Vs Commemorations

Is quarantine a method of punishment? That may be a good question to ask after watching police prevent Northern Province politicians from commemorating Tamils who were killed during the civil war that ended 11 years ago.

While the government was preparing to commemorate the members of the armed forces and the police who laid down their lives in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Northern politicians planned a commemoration of those Tamils, including members of the LTTE, who were killed in the war. 

The government, despite its opposition to those events, had not banned them. But the police used the public-health instructions to prevent the Tamil politicians and the Northern people from attending.  

The quarantine process was perceived as a method for isolating people infected with the coronavirus. The police warned former Northern Province chief minister CV Wigneswaran, who was heading to a commemoration, that they would punish him with quarantine if he disobeyed, even though he and his followers said that they would adhere to health requirements. 

Wigneswaran proceeded to the venue with police permission. He and his group travelled in separate vehicles, wearing face masks. Yet the police later consulted the higher authorities before they prevented him from attending the event. The government had instructed the police not to allow gatherings because of the Covid-19 threat. If he had disobeyed, they could have arrested him.

The importance placed on these events by the Tamil politicians and media indicates the vast division among communities 11 years after the end of the war. The government’s position on the commemoration of Tamils killed in the war is not clear. Is it illegal to hold such events? If so, why didn’t the government ban those commemorations under the relevant law without citing the coronavirus threat?


Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Suroto, Director, INKUR (Induk Koperasi Usaha Rakyat, or People’s Cooperative Effort), in Republika (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Danumurthi Mahendra/USAID)

Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Looking at the scheme for the recovery of the economy, I doubt if this will improve the purchasing power of the public, which the Covid-19 crisis has damaged far more than the monetary crises of 1998 and 2008. The virus has affected both upstream and downstream sectors of the economy where micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and the cooperatives operate, representing 99.3 percent of Indonesian enterprises, contributing 57 percent of GDP.

The recovery scheme envisages a leading role for major companies, including the state-owned enterprises. The role of MSMEs and cooperatives is minimal. Out of the state funding of 318.09 trillion rupiahs (US$21.5 billion), MSMEs and cooperatives get only 34 trillion rupiahs (US$2.3 billion), and that in the form of interest subsidies.

I suspect there is a hidden agenda in this program in which certain elements have lobbied for a leading role in policy. Our recommendation is for a bigger role for the MSMEs and cooperatives.


Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod News (May 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?

The public is debating whether to rescue Thai Airways from its 200 billion-baht (US$6.2 billion) debt or let it go bust. At its peak, the 60-year-old airline was the pride of the nation. But today, Thai Airways is seen as a source of national embarrassment and never-ending sinkhole of taxpayer money. Rumors have it that the airline is ready to file for bankruptcy.

Should taxpayers shoulder the burden? This is not a question of pride or no pride, but how the government should spend our money at the time Thailand is facing grave economic prospects due to the coronavirus.

Not every Thai takes pride in Thai Airways because its prohibitive prices led some to view the airline as more of the pride of the middle class and the elite. It’s an airline on which politicians and those in power feed, while ordinary people are left to clean up the mess. Perhaps the only aspect for which it can now truly be called a national carrier is that all of us taxpayers will likely have to reach into our pockets to cover the losses incurred by the airline.

Thai Airways is a shadow of its past glories. It failed to be competitive now that the aviation sector is full of low-cost rivals. Its management is bloated and ineffective, its business model a failure.

Even if one says that the government should bail out Thai Airways, there is no guarantee how long it will take before the airline comes back begging for more taxpayers’ money. Any attempt to bail out the airline must be sound, transparent and accountable to the public. Thai Airways must bite the bullet and reform. We cannot keep paying for it as long as they can’t give us a credible solution to its woes.


During Ramazan, Covid-19 is an Opportunity for Those who Pray
Friday, May 15, 2020
During Ramazan, Covid-19 is an Opportunity for Those who Pray

Nikhat Sattar, writer, in Dawn (May 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: pxfuel)

During Ramazan, Covid-19 is an Opportunity for Those who Pray

Even as the world battles a virus that has gripped the human race, Muslims observe the month of fasting with fervor and hope. Covid-19, in fact, should be taken as an opportunity for those who pray, because they can now do so in isolation and away from temptations of social gatherings. This is the time for deep introspection and developing and strengthening one’s bonds with the Creator, with no one watching.

Ramazan is very special for Muslims. It is one of the main ways God prescribes for them to work towards developing piety and righteousness. Indeed, if we do not control tendencies to anger, abuse, lying, cheating, committing other small or big sins, our fasts will be merely acts of starvation.

The main reason for the special place occupied by Ramazan in the hearts of Muslims is that the Quran was first revealed during this month. The night during which this revelation first came to the Prophet is the one every practicing Muslim aspires to search for and find. It is the blessed night during which every matter is decreed. It is the night in which, through prayer, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and mercy and blessings surround the persons engaged in prayer.

It is clear that sincere worship during this night would have considerable worth in the eyes of God. This is when angels descend to do God’s merciful bidding. This is the night of peace, consolation, warmth and compassion, bringing Muslims and the universe together into one entity of creation by God, bound to Him by virtue of this connection and hence bound to each other, called upon to establish peace and harmony, with each other and with nature.


The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War
Thursday, May 14, 2020
The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War

R Siti Zuhro, Senior Researcher, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, in Kompas (May 14, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretary of the Republic of Indonesia)

The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War

A while ago, the public was shocked by video of a regent from North Sulawesi stating that regulations from the central government regarding assistance for the public during the Covid-19 crisis were confusing and created problems for his region. The comment was understandable. As a local leader dealing directly with the public, people like this have to provide a sense of security at a time when the central government is seen as having taken too long to adopt policies.

At the central level, ministries and central government institutions have not developed the unity required to confront the crisis so it is hardly surprising that problems emerge when they should be developing synergies with local governments. Communication and coordination with local governments are critical. Indeed, leaders at the village level represent the front line in serving the public and must be involved.

The president should be the “supreme commander” in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. The assumption is that if the president is the supreme commander, decisions can be made more rapidly, with better focus and integration.


Letter to the President: Reconsider Deployment Ban of Nurses Abroad
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Letter to the President: Reconsider Deployment Ban of Nurses Abroad

Bruce Rhick Estillote, registered nurse, in Rappler (May 12, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: J De Guia/ILO)

Letter to the President: Reconsider Deployment Ban of Nurses Abroad

This open letter asks you to reconsider the deployment ban of overseas healthcare workers. We feel grateful for your intent to protect Filipino nurses from the risk posed by Covid-19. However, I believe no one understands the danger better than healthcare workers.

In the past, we sent soldiers abroad to fight for our allies, despite the fact that we were under threat of war on our own soil. The difference is that soldiers are at the disposal of the government. Nurses are not. Nurses who want to lift their families out of poverty have been singled out. This pandemic will not be gone soon. How long will they have to wait? Three or four months? Maybe a year or so?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. But a pandemic, like a war, is a threat that is never gone. Military enlistment is not best done at the brink of a war, and neither is the massive employment of nurses during a pandemic. Prevention is better than cure, says the old adage. Before we reached this point, there were not enough efforts to attract nurses to work in our country because the popular belief was that the supply was great, that there was nothing to worry about.

Had it not been for the pandemic, our nurses here would not have been seen as more valuable. Data suggests that the Philippines has surpassed other countries in terms of death tolls among healthcare workers. It seems that neither the situation here or overseas can make us feel safe. But soldiers and nurses alike know what they signed up for. At least, once abroad, we can send our families financial support to help them get by during the pandemic.


Media Malpractice: Reporting an Unnecessary Detail
Monday, May 11, 2020
Media Malpractice: Reporting an Unnecessary Detail

Ha Jae-geun, culture critic, in Dailian (May 9, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: LegoCamera / Shutterstock.com)

Media Malpractice: Reporting an Unnecessary Detail

The media coverage of the 66th Covid-19 infection case in Yongjin (in the Seoul Capital Area) is causing a national outrage. The confirmed patient visited a number of bars and clubs before testing positive for the virus. His itinerary was disclosed in accordance with the epidemic control policy. What made the media coverage outrageous was the unnecessary reporting that one of the places he visited was a gay club.

Adding this irrelevant detail was grossly problematic for a number of reasons. First, it is morally flawed. Revealing or speculating on a person’s sexual orientation without consent is a gross violation of the victim’s privacy, especially given the conservative South Korean context.

Second, what the media implies may not even be accurate. Yet the mere implication suffices in framing the victim as being part of a sexual minority. Since the initial media coverage, there has been an influx of malicious bashing of sexual minority groups, which is wrong by itself but was not unforeseeable. Knowing this, the media should have been extra careful but instead utterly failed.

Third, such coverage impedes to control the outbreak. With the public now assuming that all those associated with the confirmed patient are also members of a sexual minority, those who were in close contact with him have good reason to hide and deny any association with the incident.

In short, reporting the connection to the gay club was not only immoral but also counterproductive for society. From a public-health perspective, there was no reason for the nature of the club to have been disclosed. Irresponsible reporting turned out to be just as detrimental to society as citizens not abiding by the social-distancing rules.


A Meaningless War of Words
Monday, May 11, 2020
A Meaningless War of Words

Chao Chun-shan, Emeritus Professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies of Tamkang University, in United Daily News (April 14, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: D Woldu/ITU)

A Meaningless War of Words

During a press conference on April 8, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), accused Taiwan’s government of spearheading personal and racist attacks against him over the past three months. This accusation triggered a war of words between the WHO and Taipei.

There indeed is evidence of some Taiwan netizens criticizing Tedros for what they view is his "pro-China" stance, while using indecent and racist language. Attributing the actions of certain individuals online to the entire population of Taiwan or to the government is unreasonable. It is therefore extreme to assert that Taiwan is "racist". As an immigrant society, Taiwan is known for preserving the warm, harmonious and inclusive aspects of Chinese culture. Taiwan is also renowned for its welcoming people.

Dr Tedros may be unaware of Taiwan ’s historical relations with African nations. As early as the 1960s, Taiwan provided aid to Africa, sending to the continent a large number of medical, farming and engineering teams. Yet many African nations subsequently recognized mainland China, forcing Taiwan off the United Nations.

The Chinese government claims that Taiwan is exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to accelerate independence. These assertions are nothing more than further moves to oppose Taiwan ’s participation in the WHO. Taiwan is currently battling against the epidemic while simultaneously facing a political war of words. The coronavirus jeopardizes individuals, while political viruses endanger national security.


Education During the Pandemic
Friday, May 8, 2020
Education During the Pandemic

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, Chairman, Democratic Party, in Media Indonesia (May 8, 2020) 

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: King Fajr / Shutterstock.com)

Education During the Pandemic

Along with virtually all parents at this time, my wife and I have to accept responsibility for helping our child study at home. Like others, we have to admit that explaining various lessons and assisting our children in their schoolwork is not as easy as we thought. And it now appears that the face of education in Indonesia is going to be changed enormously because of the pandemic. 

Online education is not simple. It requires personal discipline and certain facilities. I am grateful that I am able to assist our child. But I am also aware of the complaints of many other parents and people working in the education system about the availability of smartphones or laptops and an internet connection. In simple terms, online learning has the potential to expand socioeconomic inequity. Some are facing the very difficult choice of spending on food for their families or paying for their children’s education.

The potential for students dropping out of school is high. There are already indications of higher drop-out rates in Papua, North Maluku and Jakarta, all areas badly affected by the pandemic.