The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 24 January 2017

Image: Getty Images

Extreme makeover

About five years ago South Korea’s ruling Grand National party saw its approval ratings plunge due to a slew of corruption scandals. So what did the struggling conservative party do? It changed its name to Saenuri, or “new frontier” in Korean. Now Saenuri party officials are looking to rebrand again, this time to distance themselves from president Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last month. Political parties in South Korea adopt new names, logos and colours so often that it’s hard to keep up. The conservative party has had more than 10 rebrands, while the left-of-centre opposition Minjoo party – formerly the Democratic party – has changed its identity at least a dozen times. Back in 2012 Park said that “changing the name is important but how we conduct affairs after the change is more important”. Whether voters will back the Saenuri party under a new name is debatable.

Image: Max Sher

Congenial Kazakhs

The thermostat has stayed below minus 10C in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana this week, providing a suitably frosty atmosphere for the second day of Syria peace talks brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition have come together at the Turkish-owned Rixos President hotel and, though the outcome remains uncertain, the talks have cast the Kazakh capital in a diplomatic light. Over the past few years the city has spent big on readying itself to receive the world by beefing up its hospitality sector – with a new Ritz-Carlton and a St Regis hotel due to open this year – and an entire “covered city” ready for the World Expo in June. It may not be Geneva just yet but the Kazakhs are keen to cast their city as a new neutral hotspot, positioned only a little further east.

Image: Getty Images

Failure to launch?

Over the weekend UK prime minister Theresa May confirmed that she would be the first foreign leader to meet US president Donald Trump post-inauguration. A welcome clean bill of health for that oft-mentioned but at times sickly-looking “special relationship”, the meeting should lift British hearts ahead of looming negotiations with Europe. The prime minister travelled to Warrington in Cheshire yesterday to unveil her much-anticipated “industrial strategy” but her speech in the northern town was overshadowed by a controversy that centred on an alleged government cover-up of a botched nuclear-warhead test last summer. Diplomats will hope that it’s not an omen for May’s trip to the White House on Friday, where she hopes to advance talks leading towards a new trade deal between the US and UK. Such an agreement would be good for both countries: it would strengthen May’s hand in Brexit negotiations and would be an early foreign-policy victory for Trump to trumpet at home.

Image: François Cavelier

Back on top

Tradeshow halls may look the same wherever they are in the world but location is still fundamental to a show’s success – and locations don’t get much better than Paris. For the past two seasons security fears – leftover from the attacks of 2015 – had kept certain overseas visitors away from the French capital and deprived Maison & Objet of some of its most interesting attendees, particularly Japanese brands. Thanks to an influx of top-notch designers and manufacturers the latest edition, which wraps up today, has shown that the city has regained its influential position in the industry. Noteworthy was the presence of brushmaker Takeda, foldable step-ladder brand Lucano and jewellers Su and Simmon. But it’s with debuts such as Sebastian Conran’s Gifu Collection – artisan objects made in collaboration with 10 companies from Japan’s Gifu prefecture – that the fair really pulls its weight.

From Monocle 24

Image: Gianfranco Gallucci

La Repubblica

Robert Bound speaks to our Milan correspondent, Ivan Carvalho, about his story in the February issue of Monocle focusing on Italian daily newspaper ‘La Repubblica’.

From Monocle Films

Residence – Nishinoyama House

Home to a diverse creative community, architect Kazuyo Sejima’s housing complex is designed to enlighten residents with its sense of serenity.

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