The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 2 June 2017

Governance

Image: Getty

Fight’s over

South Korea’s new president announces plans to end conscription into the police force.

Bad news for those South Korean conscripts who thought policing was a soft touch next to actual soldiering: the new president Moon Jae-in has vowed to dissolve the practice of having conscripts in the police force. South Korean men over 18 do 21 months of national service and a posting in the police service was perceived as easier compared to life in the barracks. But these often ill-prepared recruits became increasingly relied upon for keeping the peace amid protests and suppressing demonstrations during the rule of the impeached former president. Many South Koreans say this was unconstitutional exploitation of the young men and the conscripted police force is due to be dismantled over the next five years.

Hospitality

Power grab

As an Austrian hotel chain is snapped up by a Thai property firm, it’s hard to ignore the country’s increasing clout in Europe.

It’s no secret that Thai investors are on a global acquisition streak and this week Austria’s largest independent hotel chain, Vienna House, was acquired by a Thai commercial property company. Vienna House runs 32 hotels across eight countries from Austria to France and the deal with U City PCL will inject fresh thought (and cash) into the business, all while keeping the chain’s Viennese charm alive. “In this way we remain one of the last independent European hotel companies, a fact we are very proud of, and can focus on our growth targets,” says Rupert Simoner, chief executive of Vienna House. The growing Thai influence in Europe’s retail and hospitality sector can’t be overlooked: two years ago, Thai Central Group purchased a majority stake in three German luxury department stores, including Berlin’s historic KaDeWe.

Media

Image: The Detroit News

Reading matters

Newspapers struggling to pick up new readers could do worse than look to Detroit’s local paper for inspiration.

Newspapers must fight hard to keep sales figures up in the face of online news but there is still one safe terrain for dailies: airports. Given that travellers look to pack a little extra reading material before a flight, a new bricks-and-mortar shop in Detroit’s North Terminal puts local news front and centre. Detroit News, named and branded after the city’s newspaper, is run by a company called Delaware North that collaborated with the paper to create a shop that’s both a traveller’s pitstop – with plenty of shelf space for the actual paper – and a celebration of the city (there are local jams on sale and fridge magnets featuring iconic headlines). A week on and it remains to be seen whether the paper will see an uptick in sales but it’s an undeniably powerful piece of branding.

Branding

Clean and lean

Muji’s minimalist travel accessories now come with a typographic twist.

Muji is making a rare departure from its rule of being a brand without branding (Mujirushi in Japanese) with the launch of a capsule collection in collaboration with Parisian graphic-design studio Be-Poles. Dedicated to travel, the ‘Muji to Go’ series takes stationery and cosmetics from existing Muji collections and decorates them with French words that describe the function of the object. Each features the familiarly elegant typography of Be-Poles but Muji purists fear not: removable labels mean that those who prefer to go without can simply peel them off. The collection is currently available in limited edition in Muji’s Parisian flagship shops and Colette and will eventually arrive in Japan.

From Monocle 24

Toronto’s music venues

The Urbanist

Rising rents and the breakneck development of Toronto have forced many of its music venues to close their doors. How does the city balance its current construction boom with its storied cultural offering? Monocle’s bureau chief in Toronto, Tomos Lewis, talks to Anthony Greenberg, an urban planner who has been vocal in the campaign to keep the music scene alive.

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