Tag Archives: Politics

Bittersweet North and South Korean reunions

The last time Lee Hye-gyong saw her mom was when she was 16, almost six decades ago.  Now 75, she was given the chance to reunite with her family after the 1950-53 Korean war.  Her mom is 100.

Last month, 200 families from North and South Korea, 100 from each side, were randomly selected for a rare opportunity to reunite with long-lost loved ones.  But the briefness of it all made the meetings exceptionally emotional.


“We had five reunion sessions in total, spending two hours with my sister each time, in addition to a one-hour farewell meeting,” younger sister, 62-year-old Lee Kyong-hee, said in her reunification story.  “The moment Hye-gyong entered the reunion hall, I recognized her immediately even though she looks very different from what I remember about her appearance.”

While some critics say these reunification programs are cruel because the meetings are so short and communication after the reunion is still banned, others insist that it’s a step towards reconciliation between the two countries.

Click here to watch a video of the reunions. Be warned, you need tissues for this.



Fobulous trends: Mandarin classes in Liberia

I’ve always said the romance languages are way overrated, and the language to learn is actually Chinese.  Well, looks like locals in Liberia are moving in the right direction–at least in my fobby opinion.  The newest trend in this West African country seems to be Mandarin classes.

It only makes sense, though.  China has a huge role in the economic development of this war-torn country, from rebuilding roads with funding from the World Bank, to running hotels and restaurants.  And naturally, Liberians are realizing increasingly that Mandarin is a necessity.

Liberia Chinese Class

“Traditionally, we Liberians are closer to the Americans than we are to the Chinese, but the irony is that the Chinese are more open to us than the Americans are,” 57-year-old John K. Cooper, who works for a local youth development center, and is one of 15 students in the Mandarin class that began this week, told AP.

“Americans know and have technologies, but they are not yet ready to bring them to Africa. The Chinese are doing just that,” he added.

In fact, the Chinese firm China Union recently became Liberia’s largest investor ever.  China Union signed a $2.6 billion agreement earlier this year to go into the iron ore business in a town about 30 miles north of Monrovia.  Africa’s trade with China reached more than $100 billion in 2008 and has multiplied by 10 since 2001, according to the African Economic Outlook.

I’m telling ya, everyone needs some Mandarin skillz…


Link (thanks Ed @ehoa)

Practicing perfection for China’s birthday celebration

00016c8b5de00c0eb85f0dIf you thought Beijing’s 2008 Olympics was impressive, get ready for October 1.  In less than three weeks, China will be celebrating its National Day, marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China.  Since May, thousands of performers have practiced eight hours a day, marching through rain or shine, to perfect each crisply synchronized step.

Officials have actually quartered off their A-list performers at a rural outskirt of Beijing so that they can properly focus on their daily drills, and the troops have not been let off the base once!  Talk about dedication.

As Senior Colonel Guo Zhigang, deputy head of the training camp, said, “No matter from which angle you look, there should always be uniformity, so that the formation looks like a steel panel.”


Steel panel indeed.


P.S. Thanks to my brother (and Beijing connection) for this link!

New government in Japan ends former’s half-century rule

I know you guys might find politics boring, but I just arrived in Tokyo, and this is a pretty big deal here.  So just FYI, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won by a landslide yesterday, ousting the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) 54-year reign. DPJ leans slightly more towards the liberal end, and LDP is more conservative.

From my own observation, it seems that Japanese people tend to keep mum about their unhappiness and shrug off their discontent. Maybe people were really fed up with the way LDP ran things. NHK said 70 percent of eligible voters came out to cast their ballot, the most in two decades. It’s  not clear if the public is really gungho about DPJ or if they are just sick of the old government. I guess Japanese people are looking for a change.


Read more here

Burmese photographer scores grand prize at Nikon photo contest

Congrats to Maung Maung Gyi for his work, “Cave of Hope,” a dramatic photo featuring a young monk in prayer, snagging the highly coveted grand prize for this year’s Nikon’s International Photo Contest.  Results for this contest were announced last week.  I stumbled upon this beautiful shot while doing some research for work on Nikon, the camera technology company founded in Japan.


In light of this week’s saddening verdict on Burmese pro-democracy heroine Aung San Suu Kyi, this picture, to me,  served as a poignant reminder for us to maintain hope for Burma’s future despite the country’s ongoing political dissent.



Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Today marks 44 years of independence for Singapore, the country where we three fobs–Emily, Amy, and I–grew up.  27,000 people attended the National Day celebration at Marina Bay, and at 8:22pm, people all around Singapore stood still and recited the national pledge.


As a kid, I remember watching all those awesome/cheesy national song sing-a-longs on TV, and Emily will attest to recording each year’s National Day Parade on VHS.  Deep down, there’s only one place we really mean when we say we’re “going home.”

Majulah Singapura!



Two’s okay: China tweaks one-child policy

Starting in Shanghai, the Chinese government is now encouraging couples who have no siblings to have two kids.  After 30 years of enforcing the one-child policy, the government is now coming to terms with increasing social pressures–the rapidly growing elderly population, shrinking workforce and forced abortions.

The one-child rule has always been lenient on minorities and qualified rural residents. But, until recently, urban residents have been subjected to strict family planning laws.  Shanghai’s city officials will start visiting homes, slipping leaflets under doors and “offering emotional counseling and financial incentives,” the New York Times said.


When I lived in Shanghai for a year, I did an in-depth sociology project on the local views of the country’s family planning policies.  My interviews with both rural and urban residents revealed a general consensus that while population control was important, the financial strain of supporting both one’s grandparents and parents was often overwhelming.  Looks like the government is finally responding to the concerns voiced to me during my study.


(Thanks Emily for referring me to this link)