The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 24 August 2018

Law and order

Image: Getty Images

Greasy palms

As officials go down for abuse of power and corruption in South Korea, the country’s graft-prone culture is slowly changing.

Today the high court in Seoul is expected to rule on a case against former South Korean president Park Geun-hye who has been charged with abuse of power and bribery. She now faces a 32-year stretch in prison. With at least nine South Korean officials facing corruption charges, the country’s president Moon Jae-in is delivering on his 2017 campaign promise to stamp out graft. But while the move has been successful in punishing the political elite and prevented leaders from grasping at funds from public coffers, it affects more than just those in charge. The graft law also means that exchanging gifts between colleagues, clients and even parents and teachers can be viewed as solicitation or bribery. Small businesses such as florists have reported a decline in sales in recent years. Hitting at the heart of corruption is laudable but Seoul must be careful not to impinge on civil liberties in its efforts to drive it out.

International relations

Image: Getty Images

Friends with benefits

There is trouble ahead for Turkey’s economy and US sanctions are driving it further into Russia’s arms.

Turkey has had a tough time of it recently. A spat with the US resulted in heavy sanctions and contributed to the Turkish lira falling to historic lows. Fortunately for the country’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar averted a further crisis by pledging $15bn in investments. While there will be a few extra grey hairs in the Erdogan administration, it appears that the government is more certain of where its friends are. Today Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is to visit Russia for talks with his counterpart there. As the Trump administration continues its hard-ball approach, slapping further sanctions on Turkey and Russia, it appears to be strengthening bonds between its enemies. Earlier this week feathers were ruffled in the Pentagon with the news that Russia will deliver an S-400 anti-aircraft missile defence system to Ankara in 2019. Sanctions appear to be consolidating US rivals to work together – and encouraging Turkey to drift from Nato.

Technology

Novel idea

The Instagram generation has a new way to access classic novels – despite their waning attention spans.

Those who use apps such as Instagram will surely recognise the detrimental impact they can have on free time. Former social-media employees have gone on the record to warn the world of the dangers their apps pose; interfaces explicitly designed to trigger satisfying but brief dopamine releases to keep us from directing our attention elsewhere. It’s good news for those concerned by their Instagram use, then, as the New York Library announces a new initiative: the “Insta novel”. The library will be using its Instagram stories to tell some of the greatest tales from literature. Text from public-domain classics will be paired with eye-catching new animations and design so that an Instagram binge might prove more fruitful than before – and, just maybe, provide a gateway to a world off the app.

Architecture

Green means go

Thai architecture firms are increasingly more open to working with international colleagues – with outstanding results.

Bangkok is undergoing a development boom: international architects are partnering with local firms to create some of the city’s most inventive and recognisable buildings. The latest project to be announced is the new terminal at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which will be designed and built by Thai architecture firm Duangrit Bunnag and Japan’s Nikken Sekkei. The building will be held up by timber columns that extend to the roof in a grid-like structure that will give visitors the feeling of standing in a pixelated forest. This is no accident according to the designers, who want the interior to take inspiration from Thailand’s indigenous rainforests. The new terminal also signifies the growing influence of Japanese design in the country. With Thai firms more willing to collaborate than ever, we expect to see more audacious building projects green-lit in Bangkok in the coming years.

From Monocle 24

Image: Flickr

Urban thoughts

The Urbanist

We tour a new exhibition shining a light on Jerusalem, meet the architecture duo building libraries to bring the community together and ask: if everyone else was giving up their data, would you do it too?

From Monocle Films

Speciality retail: Verona

This Italian city has a long tradition of typography – and the business still has a story to tell. Letterpress workshop-cum-store Lino’s & Co updates old machines with 3D-printed movable type.

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