Despite economic isolation North Korea finds myriad ways to finance its regime. One of these revenue streams is a budget hostel in the centre of Berlin. The Cityhostel sits on the site of the former embassy of North Korea and makes €38,000 a month from travellers. But German government officials announced this week that they would tighten economic sanctions against North Korea and ban it from leasing properties that belong to its embassy. This puts an end to the country’s side-business in the German capital (which also includes a conference centre) and it’s about time: the United Nations banned such leasing arrangements in November after Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test. But this will be particularly frustrating; it occupies a prime piece of real estate just a leisurely stroll from the Brandenburg Gate.
The impact of US cable TV news is often overstated. Fox News may be loud and angry but even its prime-time slots only pull in about three million viewers. Yet with a TV president in the White House, Fox is sometimes seen to drive the political agenda. While it remains the dominant cable channel – despite the recent sex-scandal controversy – tongues were wagging this week about a potential power shift: right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group has struck a €3.7bn deal to obtain dozens of local TV stations by purchasing Tribune Media. The deal would bring 200 channels under its control but what does Sinclair plan to do with its new clout? A conservative counterbalance to the dominant Fox, while the chips are slightly down, could make for an interesting face-off.
Asian economies should learn from Japan’s experience of a rapidly ageing population – that’s according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which this week published its latest outlook for Asia-Pacific. Commenting on the “remarkable” speed of ageing in the region, the report says that “parts of Asia risk becoming old before becoming rich”. Population growth is due to hit zero in Asia by 2050 and the combined forces of an increasingly geriatric demographic and some of the world’s lowest birth rates threaten future economic health. Last year Singapore announced a €2bn Action Plan for Successful Ageing but more could be done. The bright spot in the IMF report was that, overall, “the outlook for the Asia-Pacific region remains robust – the strongest in the world, in fact”.
When Canada’s then prime minister Stephen Harper ordered the closure of the country’s embassy in Tehran in 2012 – citing Iranian support for the Assad regime – it slammed shut the diplomatic door between the two nations. Justin Trudeau pledged to reboot relations as part of his campaign and the Canadian foreign-ministry team is in Tehran this week amid murmurings of a tentative thaw. The focus of the visit is on Canadian citizens entangled in Iran’s legal system, highlighted by the recent plight of Canadian-Iranian academic Homa Hoodfar, who was imprisoned (and later released) last year following accusations of espionage. There remain hurdles between the two countries. But it’s also election season in Iran and the visit will put extra pressure on incumbent Hassan Rouhani to show that he can still make good on a promise to bring the country in from the cold.