Asia - Issue 96 - Magazine | Monocle

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High steaks

South Korea — CULTURE

Sending civil servants a generous cut of beef is common practice in South Korea during traditional holidays but now this gift-giving custom is facing the chop. Anti-corruption legislation, known as the Kim Young-ran Act, will come into effect in September, outlawing valuable gifts to government officials, teachers and journalists. Rule breakers will face three years in prison for accepting meals worth more than krw30,000 (€24) or a present worth more than krw50,000 (€40). Supporters of the law believe it will lead to a fairer society. Large businesses exercise undue influence and the line between South Korea’s goodwill and graft is often blurred.

Daily grind


In spite of years of government discussions and policies, it seems that Japanese workers are putting in almost as many hours at the office as ever. A report by Japan’s Ministry of Labour reveals that full-time employees in 2015 worked 2,026 hours a year, only 12 hours fewer than in 1995. One reason for women’s overtime is clear: those who work more than 2,300 hours are five times more likely to be promoted than those who work fewer than 1,800 hours.

Power play

Hong Kong — POLITICS

Hong Kong’s democracy is a work in progress. The chief executive, who effectively runs the city-state, is appointed by a committee of grandees whose loyalty lies in Beijing. Yet those at the forefront of 2014’s umbrella movement will have the chance to push the needle in the direction of democracy this September when Hong Kong votes for its new legislative council. The LegCo doesn’t have much power but the newly elected members could influence who stands for chief executive next year.

Embattled incumbent Leung Chun-ying plans to wait for the result before deciding on whether to run for a second term. His opponents (and Beijing) will be watching the success of several new parties set up by fresh-faced protest veterans. These young hopefuls are calling for self-determination and independence but their efforts may split the pro-democracy vote and play into the establishment’s hands.

Where’s the alms in that?


While China’s first “charity day” on 5 September aims to encourage wealthy Chinese to engage in philanthropy, a controversial new law will clamp down on foreign charities and NGOs in the country.

Me and my motorcade no. 64

Travelling light

Indonesia — JOKO WIDODO

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo often appears to be unimpressed by the trappings of the Indonesian presidency. Not long after taking office in 2014 he cut official travel budgets and took an economy seat on flag carrier Garuda Indonesia for the short hop over to Singapore. “That’s just Jokowi being himself,” says Yohanes Sulaiman, a security analyst and lecturer at Jenderal Achmad Yani University. “He doesn’t care about the pomp of the office.”

Jokowi was elected to boost opportunity in this archipelago of more than 250 million people. The 55-year-old made a name for himself as a reformist mayor of a small city in Java before a brief spell as governor of Jakarta and his elevation to the top office. He is the first president drawn from outside the military or the political establishment and his pitch is of a different kind of strongman: a recent YouTube hit saw the raw-boned president in a white singlet attempting to arm wrestle his son before dispatching a few pointers to the youngster on the meaning of strength.

Indonesia’s first outsider president is also a keen practitioner of the blusukan, an impromptu walkabout to shake hands and shoot the breeze with constituents when officers from the Paspampres, the president’s security detail, keep a keen eye on proceedings. Some trappings are unavoidable, nonetheless. The president’s Mercedes is not an uncommon sight in the capital and the country’s first presidential jet, Indonesia One, is likely to clock up air miles early this month. The president of Southeast Asia’s largest economy flies to Hangzhou for the 2016 g20 meeting before jetting to Laos for Asean and East Asia summits – the only world leader likely to be an official attendee at all three.


Indonesia One: Boeing 737-800
The air force took delivery of Indonesia One for official visits after years spent borrowing a jet from Garuda Indonesia. The plane arrived in early 2014 with something of a hard landing: a few flag-waving types grumbled that the blue-and-white colour scheme of the 737-800 should have matched the red and white of Indonesia’s Merah-Putih flag.

Super Puma
For more than two decades the Super Puma military helicopter assembled by PT Dirgantara Indonesia has taken presidents to many of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. In December Jokowi said he favoured cancelling a planned upgrade to Augusta Westland aw-101 helicopters due to costs.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Indonesian police have become experts in parting some of the world’s worst traffic to make way for Jokowi’s ri-1 plated official car.

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