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Water fight

South Korea [business]

The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea is probably the most militarised stretch of land in the world – 248km of razor wire, watchtowers, minefields, guns and glowering sentries. However, because it’s a no man’s land, it has become an accidental nature reserve – a “Peace & Life Zone”, in official parlance – and now South Koreans have a soft drink to remind them of the fact.

DMZ Water – on sale in all good supermarkets and cafés around South Korea – claims to come from a “worldwide clean zone preserved with God blessing nature” (sic). The company behind it – Lotte Chilsung – says the water comes from an underground spring which passes under the DMZ and comes up just inside South Korea. The company had to wait for permission from the South Korean Ministry of Defence to bottle the water. It’s probably the first time the South Koreans will have benefited from the natural environment of the DMZ. It remains to be seen how the drink will go down.

The DMZ, facts and figures:

01 The DMZ delineates the frontline at the end of the Korean War in 1953, and marks the border between South and North Korea. It stretches 2km from the border in each direction.
02 There have been dozens of confrontations across the DMZ, ranging from the bloody to the farcical. In 1968, dozens died in a raid by North Korean troops during a visit by South Korean president Park Chung Hee to the zone.
03 There is one inhabited village remaining in the DMZ. The 200 or so residents of Tae Sung Dong (below) are descended from people who owned land before the war, and are guarded by the UN.

Slopes to sofas

Japan

There was more live TV coverage of the Turin Games in 2006 than any in the history of the Winter Olympics. The top 10 nations most glued to their screens were all European bar one. Japanese viewers watched twice as many hours (19 each on average) as the Italians, despite being in a very different time zone.

Tongues untied

China/India [internet]

Since the internet was invented, website addresses have been in English only. Not any more. The US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has launched a service to allow domain names to be registered in any language. For half of the 1.6 billion internet users (many of them in India and China) surfing will suddenly get easier. And a lot more people are likely to start using the web.

Squeak English

Shanghai [education]

Thousands of Chinese children are getting a Mickey Mouse education. They are learning to speak English with Mickey (watch out for lots of very high-pitched Chinese kids with very big shoes) and Snow White in a set of new Disney-run schools that are now open in Shanghai.

For Walt Disney, which has filmed movies in the country and is trying to have a theme park built in Shanghai, the schools have given new access to an enormous market. The firm is capitalising on China’s craze to learn English while also introducing its brand. Childern aged two to 12 sing, act out scenes, read and speak in state-of-the-art, multi-media classrooms, with activities featuring Disney’s best-known characters, including Winnie the Pooh and Ariel The Little Mermaid.

The company has been silent on exact enrolment numbers but says thousands of Chinese children have signed up, and several new Disney English campuses are to open in Beijing early this year alongside the seven existing centres in Shanghai. There is also talk of expansion into regional Chinese cities and, later, beyond China.

“Parents are really happy with what they see. They’ve seen a marked change in their children’s confidence and ability to participate,” says Andrew Sugerman, senior vice president and general manager of Disney English. “The language really comes to life.” Mickey Maose is the future.

Cash back

Asia [remittances]

It’s tough in the global economy but Asians abroad have not forgotten the folks back home. World Bank estimates have revealed which nationalities sent home more cash in 2009 than 2008 (one African nation sneaks in to the top five). Parents in Asia have every reason to feel proud.

01 Pakistan +$1.6bn Total 2009: $8.6bn
02 Bangladesh +$1.4bn Total 2009: $10.4bn
03 Philippines +$0.8bn Total 2009: $19.4bn
04 Nepal +$0.3bn Total 2009: $3bn
05 Lesotho +$50m Total 2009: $500m

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