Kim Hyun-kyung, Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy and Information Technology, Seoul National University of Science & Technology, in The Asia Business Daily (April 13, 2020)
Summary by Soomi Hong
South Korea has been caught up in the Nth Room cybercrime case, in which a shocking number of women and minors were subject to pornographic enslavement. Several individuals including Cho Joo-bin, now under investigation, were blackmailing victims and spreading sexually exploitative videos through the Telegram app. This case is the most recent in a series of similar cybercrimes, including the Burning Sun scandal of 2019 in which a number of high-profile K-pop stars were implicated.
Why is South Korea unable to put an end to such cybercrimes against women and minors?
First, the country has relatively lenient laws against cybersex crimes. From 2011 to 2015, out of 1,800 indictments for filming, distribution and sale of illegal pornographic content, only a meagre 5 percent resulted in imprisonment. In 2018, the average sentence imposed on people convicted of cybercrimes committed against children and minors was just two years. By contrast, child pornography in the US is a serious offense, the production of illegal content punishable by 15-30 years in prison.
Second, South Korea has not been proactive in cross-border cooperation against cybercrime. Media platforms that are often implicated in cybercrimes, such as Telegram, do not disclose server locations and do not store all their data in one place. The South Korean government must step up its international cooperation, starting by joining the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and discouraging use of uncooperative foreign platforms.
Finally, the government has not taken enough measures to address cybercrime. The government has increased monitoring of illegal digital pornographic content and applied more pressure on platform providers to take responsibility and implement controls. But such measures have been insufficient and ineffective.
Given what little has been done so far, it seems unlikely that the Nth Room case will be the last of its kind in South Korea.
Evan A Laksmana, Senior Researcher, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in The Jakarta Post (April 13, 2020)
Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Mohamad Sholeh)
Indonesia was and remains utterly unprepared to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Many have argued that the pandemic has been Indonesia’s biggest “strategic surprise” in decades. But by uncritically painting the pandemic as such an unforeseen occurrence, some analysts may implicitly or inadvertently absolve the government of any responsibility. After all, they argue, Covid-19 was a “non-natural disaster” that many states could not have predicted.
This claim is clearly wrong. Scientists, epidemiologists and global health scholars have warned about a pandemic for years. Over the past two decades, various public health outbreaks, from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to Ebola, should have driven this point home.
Despite ample warnings from dozens of countries hit by Covid-19 outbreaks throughout February and early March, Indonesian policymakers were in denial. They publicly clung to unfounded assumptions about the “saving power” of Indonesia’s temperature or humidity. Some even implied that traditional herbs or dishes could be antidotes to the virus, while others suggested that prayers would be sufficient to stem any viral tide.
Jin Keyu, Associate Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), in Caixin (April 10, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
Economists are already comparing the current economic downturn to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The main difference is that this one took just three weeks rather than three years to play out.
The notion of a mild recession and a strong V-shaped recovery has now been abandoned, and the economic outlook grows grimmer by the day. We now face a virtual complete halt to all economic activity. The question is: How long will this last? The longer the recession, the lower the long-run growth trend will be. Many jobs that have been destroyed will never come back again. No one can say anything with certainty at this point as we have insufficient information about three things:
First, whether the pandemic can be suppressed. Nobody can say with confidence if current mitigation strategies will be effective. Second, whether there will be another wave of infections in the autumn. We cannot rule this out, even in China, and this raises questions about how long borders can feasibly remain closed. Third, whether government policies around the world will be effective. The optimistic scenario assumes that all of the right policies are in place – health, monetary and fiscal policies in the major economies in the world must work in concert without any disruption.
The unlimited amounts of quantitative easing and liquidity promised by the European and American governments are absolutely necessary. They suggest governments are preparing for the situation to get worse. As such, these aggressive policies are an alarming sign of what is to come. In addition, stagflation and inflation are not unreasonable risks to expect not only in China but also around the world.
Nevertheless, these expectations can change as new data comes in. After all, it is the virus that determines the timeline, not economists.
Fanny Wong Lai-kwan, columnist, in Headline Daily (April 9, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
The government announced details of more crisis support funds. In addition to spending more than HK$130 billion (US$16.7 billion) to pay the salaries of employees of enterprises affected by the epidemic, the Chief Executive, senior government officials and members of the Executive Council will reduce their salaries by 10 percent over the next year to share the economic burden with the people.
Many in the private sector have already had their salaries cut, been forced to take unpaid leave, and even been fired. So it is reasonable for private companies to receive government support as the crisis deepens. The leaders of Hong Kong are paid well and are able to take pay cuts.
Yet members of the Legislative and District Councils have not taken similar steps. When it comes to salary reductions, members of LegCo, especially those in the pan-democratic camp, deserve cuts the most. How many days work have they put in over the past six months? How much work have they done to support the economy and job security for citizens? Think about the farce that they have staged time and again in LegCo meetings. Besides damaging the economy further, practically nothing has been achieved.
Not all members are so shameless. Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) announced that they would donate a total of HKD$3 million (US$385,000) a month to help the unemployed and those facing immediate livelihood difficulties. Five legislators have donated one month's salary to a newly established emergency fund for the unemployed. The pro-democracy camp has not followed suit.
LegCo members have a very good life. It is time for the public to let them know that they have no reason to be exempt from sharing the economic burden of the crisis.
Hu Wenhui, political commentator, in his 胡，怎麼說 (What Do You Say) column in Liberty Times (April 6, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Office of the President, Taiwan/Makoto Lin)
The world has become a battlefield against the Wuhan Virus (Covid-19). There have been 1.3 million confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 70,000 deaths. These figures are still climbing.
The whole world can see that Taiwan’s performance in the crisis has been excellent. Even though the virus will not show mercy to any person or any country, the strength of each government's epidemic controls can be compared. These are not things that can be denied by the opposition, nor can they be distorted or rejected by slanders from China.
The government's anti-epidemic team was on alert early. As a result, Taiwan has controlled the first wave of virus outbreaks from China as well as the second wave from Europe and the United States. So far, these controls have been well maintained. Taiwan, however, should not be complacent, especially after receiving compliments from international media and other governments.
In addition, the epidemic situation in neighboring Asian countries continues to rise rapidly. Taiwan is therefore still in a crisis surrounded by danger. Complacency will only expose us to the virus. Nevertheless, Taiwan must also hold on to love and empathy for all of humanity and share its knowledge and experience in controlling the epidemic with the international community as much as possible.
Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) is both useless and incompetent, Taiwan should not fail in participating in global efforts to battle the virus. While the WHO is under Chinese manipulation and consequently heartless to Taiwan, Taiwan will not be heartless to the world. Therefore, Taiwan ’s recent donation of 10 million masks and other epidemic prevention materials should be just the beginning. We must continue trying our best to help countries so that the international community knows that Taiwan's helping hand is there.
Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 7, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore)
As a world economic and transportation hub, Singapore has fought aggressively against the Covid-19 virus. As a small country, however, Singapore must strike a balance between controlling the spread of the virus and maintaining economic operations. Policy measures affect every citizen. It is only when citizens are united and prepared for the worst scenarios can we win this battle.
In the face of this crisis, we must surrender our individualism and move forward in a collective spirit. When governments introduce stricter measures, such as closing borders and cities, citizens cannot selfishly invoke their individual freedom as an excuse to ignore the ban. On a national level, implementing restrictions on the cross-border movement of people to slow and stop the spread of the virus is not the same as shutting down the country. The global supply chain must remain in operation, and the necessities of people's livelihood and medical supplies must be able to cross borders.
In addition, countries must refrain from engaging in a debate over the origins of the virus. This not only leads to discrimination and promotes xenophobia but also is not conducive to international cooperation. It also increases the decoupling of economic and trade links and fuels the risk of political conflict.
During the G20 virtual special summit on March 26, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that countries should work together on the aspects of public health, economics and scientific research needed to cope with the global challenges stemming from the virus. Leaders of all countries must work together after the crisis to rebuild domestic confidence in globalization. While the epidemic is fierce, this is definitely not the end of the world. We are all on the same ship. This ship is not the sinking Titanic, but Noah's Ark on which humanity will rise again.
Aristyo Rizka Darmawan, lecturer in international maritime law and senior researcher at the Center for Sustainable Ocean Policy at the School of Law, University of Indonesia, in The Jakarta Post (April 4, 2020)
Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Stratman2)
Tensions arose afresh between Jakarta and Beijing following a series of incidents in the North Natuna Sea last December. China’s fishing activities in the seas north of the Natuna Islands, protected by that country’s coast guard, were deemed a violation of Indonesia’s sovereign rights in the natural resource-rich maritime territory.
China has insisted on its maritime claim covering almost the entire South China Sea, known as the “nine-dash line”, which overlaps Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the northern parts of the Natuna Sea. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China and Indonesia are parties, there is no such thing as the nine-dash line. Moreover, the July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the case brought by Philippines against China stipulated that the nine-dash line had no basis under international law.
An article by Lei Xiaolu of Wuhan University that appeared in The Jakarta Post on March 11 argued that China has traditional fishing rights in waters of the Natuna Islands. On at least three counts, she wrongly analyzes the legal concept of traditional fishing rights under UNCLOS. Clearly, China’s traditional fishing rights in Indonesia’s EEZ surrounding the Natuna Islands is misleading and constitutes a misconception.
Chieko Akaishi, Director, Single Mothers Forum, in Yahoo! Japan (April 5, 2020)
Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: MIA Studio / Shutterstock.com)
The 10,000 yen (US$93) supplementary child benefit launched by the Japanese government as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic should be applauded, but it is not enough. According to a survey, more than half of households are experiencing declining income because of the economic shutdown. Their finances are worsening from month to month and will continue to do so. Some families now rely on donations of rice and can only eat two meals a day.
In addition, the cost of living continues to increase. Due to social distancing and school closures, families must spend more on educational materials for homeschooling and on food, which for low-income families is typically provided by schools.
The per-child household allowance may be topped up to 30,000 yen (US$279) per child per month, but this can only be done through an application process which may exclude some households such as those with parents who are in same-sex relationships or are freelance workers.
Does the government understand the severity of such a situation? Cash delivered to households when the parents don't have the time or information to apply. To prevent households with children from having no rice to eat today, the allowance should be at least 30,000 yen per child.
Lu San, current affairs columnist and researcher in law and politics, in United Daily News (March 17, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Victor Freitas from Pexels)
Taiwan successfully controlled the first wave of Covid-19. A second wave of cases imported from Europe, the United States and other places has seen a surge in recent days. During the first wave, the mainland Chinese government’s approach in controlling the virus successfully reduced the number of people infected in Taiwan.
However, as the virus has started to spread rapidly throughout Europe, the US and other parts of the world, the Taiwan government should apply the approaches used in the first wave to control the virus. We should not only request people from some other countries to self isolate but also consider whether to adopt the measures used in India, Vietnam and New Zealand. These countries have stopped issuing visas to some countries. If Taiwan were to follow suit, we will be able to minimize the chances of the virus coming into Taiwan. We should also stop people from the mainland coming to Taiwan as group tourists.
While this approach would be extreme, it would actually more practical and effective than other tactics. As the spread of Covid-19 in Europe and the US has not been effectively controlled so far, it is difficult for Taiwan citizens to know whether sufficient measures are being taken. While some may not support such action on humanitarian or legal grounds, it is important to recognize that other countries are already taking such precautions.
Considering the seriousness of the virus, we should not waste time worrying about whether such an approach would be legal. Above all else, we must ensure the virus does not enter Taiwan.
Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, UK and UN, in Dawn (April 6, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: UNIC Islamabad)
The global health emergency is showing the significance and impact of soft power – a country’s attributes or behavior that appeals to others and creates positive perceptions. Consider the case of China. After its success in fighting to contain the coronavirus, it has extended help to over 80 countries, setting an example admired the world over, notwithstanding the negative rhetoric of detractors.
China created a soft-power effect. By earning respect through its conduct, China managed to elevate its global position. This demonstrates how instrumental soft power can be in enhancing a country’s influence and international standing. When wielded as part of a country’s diplomatic strategy, soft power can pay rich dividends, enabling that nation to achieve its foreign-policy goals. Soft power is now an essential ingredient in international diplomacy.
Pakistan is among the bottom 10 in the Global Soft Power Index 2020 report recently released by Brand Finance. Western countries are in the top five, along with Japan and China. Singapore is the top Southeast Asian nation at number 20. Pakistan needs to step up its diplomatic game and act strategically. Nation branding is essential, and policymakers should identify and imaginatively incorporate our soft power resources into our foreign policy, engaging more vigorously in public diplomacy to shape our narrative abroad. There is no reason why Pakistan should be at the bottom of the global soft power league.
Hyun-sil Ahn, editor, in The Korea Economic Daily (April 3, 2020)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Picture credit: Korean Culture and Information Service/Kim Sun-joo)
The Covid-19 outbreak makes us reflect on the relationship between politics and science. In a pandemic, the logical response seems to be science-based action followed by a political fix. As we have seen in most countries, however, the order has been the other way around.
A full-blown global crisis became inevitable when the politicians disregarded the experts’ warning that it was a matter not of “if” but “when”. Initial political calculations outvoiced science over and over again. Only when the public health was in undeniable jeopardy did the politicians seriously seek out the scientists. Now, we hear calls for increasing funding for research and support for experts, while politicians try to take all the credit for their all-too-late measures.
According to the journal Nature, “science and politics are uneasy bedfellows. The first is built on evidence and objectivity; the second thrives on opinion and persuasion.” Politics needs science for informed governance: science for policymaking. The countries that will first overcome the crisis will be the ones with governments that quickly establish the right partnership between the two.
Blinded by the flowing international praise for its quick action to implement mass testing, the Korean government seems to have forgotten its initial failure to listen to its scientists. The government’s framing of a dichotomy between a critical domestic press and a laudatory global media only serves as further proof of its inability critically to assess its own performance. No country succeeds when the responsibility falls on the scientists but the politicians take all the credit.
Lim Tak Sing (林德成), columnist, in his 成天幻想 (Daydream) column in Sin Chew Daily (March 28, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: peakpx)
In response to the Covid-19 epidemic, Malaysia’s new government has announced a 250 billion-ringgit (US$57.2 billion) economic stimulus package. While this package is urgently needed, it is important to question where the money will come from.
With the plunge in global oil prices, government revenue will continue falling. While the Prime Minister continues to promise the implementation of large infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link, the recent distribution of emergency funds will suppress Malaysia’s fiscal capacity. Cost reduction will be one of the only options for the government to manage the country’ fiscal deficit.
With limited funds, however, the government may be forced to raise money through government-linked companies and private institutions, while also selling off government assets and land. With the potential for currency devaluation, finding a balance between "capital preservation" and "economic relief" will require skill. Both approaches will have a significant impact on Malaysia’s economy.
In spite of these measures, industry will be severely damaged, and it is unclear whether many companies can return to their original business models. The potential wave of business closures is likely to shake the country’s economic foundation.
The government has often stated that “Industry 4.0” requires the digital transformation of enterprises. This epidemic could be a turning point for businesses to adapt to the future, with live broadcasting, online shopping and online teaching all becoming necessities.
Ultimately, these economic measures can only fix the symptoms while helping buy additional time rather than address the root issues of the country’s economic problems.
Lee Jae-ouk, Vice Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in The Financial News (March 29, 2020)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: 570cjk)
Approximately 55 percent of the ingredients used in preparing meals for school-lunch programs are organic. School lunches account for an about 39 percent of the organic food consumption in the country. For many organic producers, this represents a reliable market. This sourcing practice has been praised for both the health and nutrition benefits and the support it provides for the livelihood of organic farmers.
With the coronavirus crisis, schools have been closed for five weeks and are tentatively scheduled to open on April 6. [The opening of the new school year has been delayed to April 9 with classes conducted online.] Due to the delay in the start of school, many organic farms are feeling the crunch from losing a major share of their market and have been frantically searching for alternatives.
Since early March, the Ministry of Agriculture has been actively promoting increased public consumption of organic produce in collaboration with local governments. By encouraging bulk purchases and subsidizing promotions, about 28 percent of what used to be purchased for school lunch programs has been re-allocated. This was not a bad result, but the battle for organic producers is far from over.
With a further delay in the opening of schools possible, the Ministry of Agriculture will continue its support and consider distributing free organic-food packages to people in quarantine. Korea will overcome the Covid-19 emergency just as it has weathered numerous previous crises. The public should help organic producers get through this very difficult time.
Zhu Feng, Dean of the School of International Relations, Nanjing University, in Global Times (March 30, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Number 10)
The global spread of Covid-19 virus is intensifying and threatens to trigger a global recession as well as political and civil unrest. As a result, the virus will bring major changes to global political and economic conditions.
These changes, however, will not stem from the virus itself but rather from the actions of the major nations that have been severely affected. States around the world must carefully review and learn from the way that other countries have managed the epidemic. The most important factor has been the concentration of state power. Nationalism has now become the key tool in tackling the virus.
In the post-virus era, the neo-statism that has emerged because of the pandemic will likely continue for a period of time to ensure the adjustment and development of various resources and people's livelihoods. While the system of international and regional governance will not be destroyed, it will have to adjust to this new statist approach.
While the United Nations global -governance mechanism has also been affected, its central role in international affairs remains irreplaceable. In particular, the role of World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies in formulating and implementing rules and regulations related to biosafety and public health will become more paramount.
While a global economic recession is now inevitable, the structure of economic globalization means that countries should continue to maintain confidence in the global industrial supply chains even during the severe period of the pandemic. Looking ahead, it will be crucial to reduce the structural and regulatory shocks to the global economy. The recent statement by the G20 leaders has pointed the right direction with its emphasis on the need for countries to coordinate policies and strengthen cooperation.
Watana Muangsook, politician and former government minister, in Siam Rath (March 27, 2020)
Summary by Tom Tuohy (Photo credit: Mx. Granger)
A lockdown of the country would stop almost all economic activity and increase the social distance between citizens. This will reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It would be appropriate to do this when people do not yet have sufficient awareness of Covid-19 and know how to defend themselves against the disease.
While such a measure may have a positive effect on disease prevention and control, it will have a negative impact on the country’s economy, which might collapse if the strategy is not properly pursued. We can control the disease and keep the economy going if the crisis ends within six months to even a year. But if we let our economy collapse, it will take more than 10 years to recover – and more people will starve than die of Covid-19.
So the government must provide protective equipment for medical personal and develop treatments for the disease. It should prevent panic buying of essential goods that might cause a rise in prices. There should be greater awareness that older people are more vulnerable and could require special care if they fall ill. Once these measures are taken, then the government can relax the social distancing rules to get economic activities going again.
Do not close the country beyond the point that we wreck the economy – or we may see Thais committing suicide to escape economic hardship, poverty and disease as some had done even before Covid-19 arrived.