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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.
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.


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. 


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.


North-South Economic Cooperation Without Denuclearization?
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
North-South Economic Cooperation Without Denuclearization?

Lee Sang-hyun, Senior Research Fellow, The Sejong Institute, and President, Korea Nuclear Policy Society, in Munhwa Ilbo (May 1, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Cheong Wa Dae, The Republic of Korea)

North-South Economic Cooperation Without Denuclearization?

Following its recent sweeping re-election, the government has been accelerating its efforts to boost the North-South relations. On April 27, the second anniversary of the historic meeting between the two Korean leaders, President Moon Jae-in unilaterally announced four inter-Korean initiatives, including medical cooperation, a cross-border railway project, demilitarized zone (DMZ) peacekeeping, and reunification of separated family members. The government identified the restoration of the Gangneung-Jejin section of the Donghae Bukbu railway line as a priority among the four, launching it at Jejin Station.

The North, meanwhile, gave no official comment on any of the South’s initiatives. Recent speculation about the health of the North Korean leader would seem to render any possibility of significant cooperation unlikely. For any of the cooperative measures to result in major progress, the North would need to give a more concrete positive official response, with any steps taken in coordination with the international community.

Amidst the global pandemic, all talk of denuclearization is currently on hold and the North is still subject to various UN sanctions. The US has been consistent that any further economic cooperation with the North can only be taken in lockstep with measures for denuclearization.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has long past being just a Korean issue. For lasting peace and security, all cooperative steps must be coordinated among the four parties: the North, the South, the US and the international community. Despite its recent political success, the South Korean government must not rely on groundless hope that pursuing bilateral cooperation and providing material aid would somehow improve the relations and prompt the North to denuclearize.


Look Beyond the Gossip: Prepare for Reunification
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Look Beyond the Gossip: Prepare for Reunification

Park Hwee-rhak, professor of politics, Kookmin University, in Seoul Economic Daily (April 26, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Victoria Borodinova/Pixabay)

Look Beyond the Gossip: Prepare for Reunification

Lately, there has been much speculation on the health of the North Korean leader. Despite the strong denial from Pyongyang, the uncertainties surrounding Kim Jong Un’s condition remain. While there may be hopes that his demise could improve North-South relations, this is unlikely as we saw in 1994 and in 2011 when the two previous DPRK leaders suddenly died. North Korea will again secretively select a new leader and any likelihood of the new leadership having a different attitude towards peace is unlikely.

In the international community, South and North Korea are regarded as two independent countries that separately and simultaneously joined the UN. Despite the aspirations for reunification, it would be the UN Security Council rather than South Korea that would handle a sudden collapse of DPRK. There have even been reports that back in 2009 the Americans reviewing divide-and-control scenarios in preparation of a North Korean meltdown. If the North were to disintegrate, it is unlikely that our ally the US would respect South Korea’s Constitution and refrain from dividing the DPRK among China, Russia and itself.

What South Korea needs at the moment is not speculation and gossip about the DPRK leadership but solid preparation for how realistically to achieve reunification when such an opportunity might appear. According to the Republic of Korea Constitution, reunification may only be achieved through peaceful means. Only such a reunification would legitimize a unified Korean peninsula in the face of those that may prefer to divide the current DPRK territory. South Korea has a successful model: West Germany encouraged the East to choose reunification and then saw the German reunification legitimized when the East voted on the measure. If the two Koreas follow in the footsteps of the Germans, the international community would have no choice but to accept their reunification.


Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal

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

Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal

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.


When Politics Disregards Science
Monday, April 6, 2020
When Politics Disregards Science

Summary by Soomi Hong (Picture credit: Korean Culture and Information Service/Kim Sun-joo)

When Politics Disregards Science

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.


Support Organic Farmers During the Covid-19 Crisis
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Support Organic Farmers During the Covid-19 Crisis

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)

Support Organic Farmers During the Covid-19 Crisis

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.


Our Leader’s Internal Injury
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Our Leader’s Internal Injury

Kim Dae-joong, columnist, in Chosun Ilbo, (February 25, 2020)

Summary by Charles Lee  (Photo credit: cpt.kama / Shutterstock.com)

Our Leader’s Internal Injury

Until the outbreak at Shincheonji Church, South Koreans had been watching the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (known as COVID-19) in China with half anxiety and half sympathy. But now, the situation has changed. The coronavirus has become South Korea’s own conflagration.

How did it come to this? In short, it is the result of President Moon Jae-in’s complacency and pride. The fierce diffusion of the coronavirus is testing the leaders of affected countries – Xi Jinping of China, Shinzo Abe of Japan and Moon – and their failure to prevent it at an early stage and inadequate response during its spread have wounded them.

Until the spread of the coronavirus exploded at Shincheonji Church, Moon had enjoyed a 64 percent approval rating. Despite repeated advice from the doctors’ association to block the influx of people from China, Moon was optimistic, given the small number of infections, even saying flattering and humiliating statements such as “China’s difficulty is our difficulty”.

Why do our leaders, especially those on the left, become intimidated by China as if it held the key to the Korean peninsula? Do they have the DNA of historical subservience? Do they fear the economic impact? Or do they expect some sort of influence over North Korea?

What did the Moon administration hope to gain by ignoring the people’s plea and leaving the China door open? In addition to this China-propelled disease, South Korea is suffering from an internal illness called the loss of leadership.


Marketing Oscar Winner Bong Joon-ho
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Marketing Oscar Winner Bong Joon-ho

Park Lae-yong, editorial writer, in Kyunghyang Shinmun (February 12, 2020)  

Summary by Charles Lee (Photo credit: Kinocine PARKJEAHWAN4wiki)

Marketing Oscar Winner Bong Joon-ho

With director Bong Joon-ho’s film Parasite winning four Oscars, the political class is busy promoting “Bong Joon-ho” marketing. But during the previous governments of presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, Bong was placed on a cultural “blacklist”. The reason: “rigid leftist propensity”.

His movie Memories of Murder was deemed “a film that injected a negative perception of the civil servants and police by portraying them as corrupt and incompetent groups”. The Host was a film that “by etching anti-American sentiments and the government’s incompetence, nudged the national consciousness leftwards”. And Snowpiercer was a film that denied “the market economy and incited social resistance”.

The conservative MP who was senior advisor to the president on civil affairs at the time is now touting Bong as “Korea’s pride”. There is not an iota of remorse – or shame. There is no worse “parasite of the political class” than this. 


Economic prosperity vs social stability
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Economic prosperity vs social stability

Cho Hong-sik, Professor of Political Science, Soongsil University, in Segye Ilbo, (January 6, 2020)

Summary by Charles Lee

Economic prosperity vs social stability

Amidst the dire heat wave and brush fires from climate change, Australia nevertheless opened the new decade beautifully with internationally renowned fireworks. Like the colorful display across the night sky, whites and Aboriginals, Chinese and Indians, and all sorts of other people enjoyed the festivities on the ground.

Until 1970, Australia maintained a “white Australia” immigration policy but since then, has opened its doors to highly educated young talents from the world over. Thanks to this, since 1973, Australia’s population has almost doubled, and its economy has become 21 times larger.

There are two kinds of advanced economies in the world. Nearly all rich Western countries drive economic development through active acceptance of immigration. In contrast, East Asian countries, epitomized by Japan, prefer to maintain social stability by protecting their traditional ethnic identity. As a result, Japan’s population has begun to shrink each year after peaking at 128 million in 2008. At present, South Korea and China look likely to follow Japan’s stagnant path.

What choice will South Korea make in the coming decade? Will it become a forgettable fossil of a country maintaining old ethnic traditions, or will it rise again as a dynamic young country through an endless infusion of new blood?

South Korea’s fate today stands at a crossroads: between comfortable and conservative corrosion and the opportunities offered by a breakthrough transfusion of new blood. But the greatest tragedy is the fact that excellent young Korean talents are going abroad and contributing to invigorating other nations’ destinies.