The Other Side of Korea

Your Friday author likes to avoid cynicism where possible, but the twists and turns in the North Korean “denuclearization” saga make for a formidable challenge.


For example, Kim Jong-un has made remarkable progress in recent months on improving relations with China and South Korea, North Korea’s most important sources of food, fuel, cash, and other forms of help. He has done this by smiling broadly and talking about peace with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump. Yet, we’re no closer to knowing how Kim defines “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and how long he’ll play this game before making new demands that infuriate Trump.

And yet…

This week, dozens of families from North and South Korea, separated by war, were reunited for the first time in more than 65 years. One hundred people from each side were chosen by lottery to attend, though some dropped out when informed the relatives they hoped to see were no longer alive. In the end, 89 South Koreans and 83 North Koreans took part.

A woman, 86, and a man, 75, met their 89 year-old sister for the first time in decades. Sisters, 72 and 71, wore traditional dress to see their 99 year-old mother. A woman, 92, saw her now-elderly son for the first time since he was four.

South Koreans, many of whom brought medicine, clothing, and food for their relatives, were allowed to remain in the North for three days, but only spent a total of 11 hours with family. Visits were supervised. There have been 20 such reunions involving different families during brief moments of improved relations over the past 18 years.

This is not denuclearization. It’s not a peace treaty. Very few people are able to participate. But this is the last time these people will see their sisters, brothers, parents, and children.

The bottom line: Cynicism aside, these reunions are a good reason to try to improve relations among governments.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

More Show less

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

More Show less

Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:

Will the new audit of Facebook civil rights practices change the way the company operates?

Yes. It came under a lot of pressure from civil rights activists who organized an advertising boycott. And then an internal audit on Facebook's effect on civil rights came out. It was quite critical. Those two things, one after the other, will surely lead to changes at the company.

More Show less

The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.