Campaigning officially kicks off today in South Korea ahead of the presidential elections on 9 May. The frontrunners, centrist Ahn Cheol-soo and liberal Moon Jae-in, are polling neck and neck, while the candidate for impeached president Park Geun-hye’s conservative party is stumbling behind in single digits. The arrival of US vice-president Mike Pence in Seoul yesterday could steer the debate towards South Korea’s relations with its northern neighbour but the domestic issue that concerns voters more than any other is the cosy relationship between business and government. “Park is expected to be indicted today,” says professor Alexis Dudden, an East Asian expert at the University of Connecticut. “Most South Koreans want to see her in prison garb doing the perp walk.”
Another major Asian retailer will be opening its doors in Vancouver this year. Tokyo-based Uniqlo has officially announced that it will be setting up shop in the city this autumn. The announcement comes just a few months after Muji confirmed that it would be opening not one but two major shops in Vancouver – their largest in Canada – by the end of the year. Yet the city is determined to attract more than just retailers: an initiative by the federal and provincial governments called HQ Vancouver was created in 2015 to persuade Asian firms to set up headquarters in the city, capitalising on its large Asian population. Since the initiative launched visual-effects company Sony Pictures Imageworks has opened offices in Vancouver, while China-based airlines Beijing Capital and Xiamen Airlines have also opened up offices here.
The podcast boom has been slow to take hold in France. But a new independent company, Nouvelles Écoutes, hopes to change that. Launched by two young journalists, Lauren Bastide, formerly of French Elle and Canal+, and Julien Neuville, once of Le Monde and L’Equipe, the firm has generated more than 300,000 downloads with its first two programmes in just three months. “Podcasts are probably the most powerful way to inform in depth, with nuance and at length,” says Bastide. “We were absolutely convinced that the French audience was ready for this – and we were not wrong.” The two shows could not be more different: La Poudre is a one-on-one interview with an exceptional woman, while Banquette focuses on the world of football. A third show about politics, Parti Pris, will be launched next month to coincide with the second round of the French presidential elections.
One of the biggest take-homes from April’s Milan Design Week was that Italian furniture brands are still industry titans, even in spite of the nation’s faltering economy. Barring China, Italy’s furniture-export trade balance is the world’s most positive and its brands continue to make strides. B&B Italia, headquartered just north of Milan, has been particularly active in the past year. Originally produced for its 50th anniversary, the brand that brought us the Up armchair released its documentary “B&B Italia: Poetry in the shape. When design meets industry" to the public to mark its 51st birthday. While Italian furniture brands continue to be recognised for their past achievements, looking at the optimism and global ambitions in the sector today it’s clear that the nation has plenty more design stories to tell.
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