The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 28 May 2018

Defence

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Rise of the robots

South Korea’s plan for protecting its border has taken a decidedly mechanical turn.

School boys in South Korea hoping that national conscription would come to an end with a denuclearised north would have read Donald Trump's letter to Kim Jong-un with a tinge of sadness. But a new, more predictable saviour could be at hand. Under president Moon Jae-in, one idea to boost the military’s battle-readiness has renewed momentum: robots. The hardware is expected to run the gamut from surveillance drones and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles to self-shooting howitzers. They could be sent on patrol along borders, used to detect and disable mines, and dispatched to eliminate the threat of biological, chemical and possibly even nuclear weaponry. Much of the equipment is slated to start seeing action from 2025, eventually replacing some 37,000 frontline troops and technicians.

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Spending power

Bricks-and-mortar shops may be struggling in other parts of Europe but in Italy they’re positively thriving.

The struggles of malls and department stores in the US and UK have been well-documented over the past few years. Just last week UK retailer Marks & Spencer made headlines when it announced that it would close 100 outposts by 2022. However, Italy’s retail sector is showing promising signs of growth. Here 16 shopping centres are set to open across the bel paese by 2021, including retail giant Westfield’s international expansion to Milan. Good old bricks-and-mortar shops are proving resilient in this country: more than 350,000 sq m of new retail spaces were inaugurated last year with just as many expected to open this year.

International relations

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Breaking the ice

Canada and Denmark are working to resolve a territory dispute but are they stuck between a rock and a hard place?

If any two countries have a shot at resolving a border dispute amicably then the smart money would be on Canada and Denmark. Ottawa and Copenhagen have announced the formation of a joint task force that will try to resolve the status of Hans Island. The barren rock lies in the Arctic waters that separate northern Canada and Greenland, a Danish territory that enjoys self-rule on all issues outside of foreign affairs and defence. Both governments are framing the announcement as a breakthrough, although observers of Arctic diplomacy won’t be expecting any sudden resolutions of the stalemate; Hans Island first became a sticking point in 1973 when Danish and Canadian diplomats began plotting their 2,685km maritime border. Four decades later there may also be a much bigger Arctic rock at stake, as a consensus builds in Greenland about holding an independence referendum.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Historical significance

A new museum courtesy of China is opening in Hong Kong. A lovely present or an ominous presence?

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam will attend a groundbreaking ceremony later today for the Palace Museum, a controversial partnership with the historic Beijing tourist destination that is otherwise known as the Forbidden City. When it is completed it will show ancient artefacts and relics on loan from the Chinese capital. Some consider it a cultural coup; others, in a city often eager to spot nefarious Chinese intentions, spot a vehicle for mainland propaganda. Lam raised suspicions last year when she suddenly announced it as a surprise gift from Beijing. The Palace Museum will join a host of new institutions – including the M+ contemporary-art museum – that are under construction in the city’s flagship arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District.

From Monocle 24

Andy Warhol’s ‘Interview’

The Stack

‘Interview’ magazine announced its closure this week. Here we delve into the history of the iconic title with James Hyman, keeper of the world’s largest magazine collection, The Hyman Archive.

From Monocle Films

Retail special: stationery shops

A new generation of stationery entrepreneurs are preserving and reviving the art of writing. Monocle Films travels to Prague, Vancouver and London to visit three shops that share a love of paper.

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