News in Asia

Hello my fellow Persephoneers,

I hope the weekend was a good one and that your holiday went well if you celebrate. There was some major happenings in Asia over the last few days, including North Korea declaring war on its southern counterpart and freaking everyone out because, you know, long-range nuclear weapons.

Over the last couple of days, North Korea has cut all of its tenuous ties with South Korea and openly declared war with it’s neighbor. The blame was placed on the U.S. after two nuclear-capable bombers were flown over the border in a show of force and support for South Korea. The North has aimed some missiles at U.S. military bases in the south (one of which was in the city I was living in until a month ago). My informal survey of friends still living in South Korea tell me that people are not panicking yet, especially the younger generations. This isn’t the first time that their neighbors to the north have rattled their sabers. They severed the military phone line between the north and the south in 2009.

It was a strange picture when during a military demonstration, Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was seen sitting among prominent generals. Given that the regime kept her under house arrest for 15 years. The inclusion of Kyi is a symbol of a new partnership with the military as Myanmar begins to move towards becoming a democratic state. In another sign that the nation is relaxing previously harsh restrictions, the Associated Press became the first news organization to open a full-time bureau since the reformist government took power two years ago.

Another tragic consequence of U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan is that many civilians along the Afghan/Pakistani border are fleeing their homes as the military is targeting Taliban militants in the area. Villagers living in the Nangarhar province are angry over a drone strike that killed five suspected militants and leveled a school. The villagers dispute that the men killed were associated with the Taliban.

In related news, U.S. forces handed over control of the troubled province bordering Kabul to Afghan forces after abuse allegations against the American military caused President Hamid Karzai to order all U.S. forces out of the area. The handover is seen as a microcosm of the issues that will face the country after total U.S. withdrawal in 2014.

Buddhist monks attacked a Muslim-owned clothing warehouse in Sri Lanka, inciting a crowd of over 500 people. Reports say that the police stood by and watched and journalists trying to cover the story were attacked. Muslims kept a low profile during Sri Lanka’s civil war, but hard-liners are increasingly targeting Muslims because of their lifestyle and calling for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses.

It seems that getting an education is the most dangerous thing you can do in many parts of the world. Two men attacked a school in Karachi Pakistan with hand grenades and guns, killing the headmaster and injuring five or six students, including several girls. The students had gathered to find out the results of an examination.

A landslide in Tibet buried 83 miners outside a gold mine and rescuers are losing hope of finding any survivors. The sheer volume of sand and stone are making the rescue efforts difficult.

Finally, if you are at all familiar with Asian history, you know that South Korea and Japan have a contentious history and a delicate relationship now. While the two nations have common economic goals, the tension born out of the past shows itself in disputes over rocks in the ocean and now over pop culture. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Japanese culture made inroads in the West by means of the art forms of anime, manga and Japanese pop stars. Today, Korean culture is beginning to make headway in the West with the popularity of K-Pop stars like PSY and the rise of Samsung as a global brand.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

4 replies on “News in Asia”

The tension in North Korea and South Korea worries me. Having grown up in Japan and Taiwan I worry about the road they are heading down on. With the N.Korean ruler having to show his strength, he might talk himself into a position he can’t back down from.

I worry about that too. Like, I said, most S. Koreans and ex-pats aren’t concerned. To them, it’s just more of the same, but I stil have good friends in Korea, not to mention the students and teachers I worked with and I can’t help but worry.

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