Monday. 9/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Kenji Hall

No winners

It’s a shame when a diplomatic spat spills over into everyday life but that’s precisely what’s happening between Japan and South Korea. While South Koreans will be travelling en masse later this week for the Cheosuk holiday – one of the busiest periods for the travel industry – one destination that many are avoiding will be Japan. Since July the two countries’ escalating tit-for-tat scrap has led to boycotts that have battered industries on both sides, from smartphones and beer to cars and travel. Last week South Korea’s largest tour operator, Hana Tour, said that trips to Japan during the Cheosuk holiday accounted for just 3 per cent of its flight bookings, down from 21 per cent last year. Korean Air Lines, Asiana Airlines and six other South Korean carriers have suspended flights or cut back on routes to Japan.

Given that nearly one in four foreign visitors to Japan came from South Korea last year, the ongoing dispute could undo Japanese efforts to attract its target of 40 million foreign visitors annually starting from the end of this year (from 31.2 million in 2018). Tokyo probably didn’t have this in mind when it began toughening export controls on key chemicals for South Korean technology companies and items with potential military applications.

With trust on both sides now at historic lows, even if Tokyo and Seoul can walk it back from the brink, it will likely take months to reverse the losses that businesses have been made to suffer. This is bad news for commerce, sure. But more importantly, it’s highly regrettable that a political dispute is trickling down to citizens of two nations that are naturally curious of each other’s culture. Both countries will be the poorer for it.

Politics / Russia

Undercover contenders

Russians headed to the polls yesterday for regional elections. After a summer marked by political protests often met with violence from the authorities and mass arrests, the elections weren’t ideal timing for the ruling United Russia party. Which is why many of its politicians in Moscow, as well as several more running for governor across the country, chose to appear as independents (even if their loyalty to Putin is in little doubt). But was the strategy effective? With many of United Russia’s covert candidates falling short in the final count, it seems that real Russian opposition has at last coalesced against Putin’s influence.

Culture / Toronto

Bonus features

The click-clack of camera shutters continues beside the filmstars gracing the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff) today. But a less likely bit player will be hoping to grab at least part of the spotlight: the Indian government. India’s ministry of information – along with the country’s largest business-development body – is hosting a breakfast aimed at diversifying and boosting international investment in its own movie-making sector. More than 80 countries are represented at Tiff every year so it’s no surprise that government bodies seek to capitalise on their nations’ appearances at one of North America’s most prominent festivals. It is also a nod to Tiff’s soft-power clout, which has come to represent much more than the silver screen alone.

Aviation / Beijing

Runway show

Beijing’s hotly anticipated Daxing Airport is complete and will open to travellers on 20 September, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on 1 October. Spanning 700,000 sq m, the starfish-shaped terminal is a collaboration between French firm ADPI and Zaha Hadid Architects; it’s the latter’s first airport commission. Beijing Capital, the city’s only other international airport, is the world’s second busiest airport but Daxing is still expected to handle 45 million passengers per year by 2021. This number could rise to 72 million by 2025. The €10bn project will help to alleviate air and passenger traffic across the country while nurturing the city’s bid to be seen as a modern, international hub.

Security / Copenhagen

Hold your horses

Danish authorities have been seeking to reintroduce mounted police officers to the streets of Copenhagen. But two years after parliament voted on the plan, the city is facing difficulties recruiting enough horses. The force counts seven steeds in its ranks (a public appeal on Facebook brought the number up from five last year) but critics say it doesn’t constitute a proper cavalry unit – London, for example, has about 120. Funding for the mounted division was the demand of right-wing Danish People’s party when it lent its support to pass 2018’s budget. The influence of the party has waned since an election drubbing this year: the plan has been slow to get out of the gate and could be thrown from its seat altogether in coming months.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Keeping the peace

Ending a war is far harder than starting one. That said, once a peace deal has been signed, ensuring that formerly warring parties stick to the deal is even trickier. As Colombia’s deal threatens to unravel, what have we learned elsewhere about how – and how not – to keep the peace?

Monocle Films / Mexico

Mexico City: The Monocle Travel Guide

Unconventional, ever-changing and utterly beguiling, this megalopolis is an endless parade of sights, sounds and smells.

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