Wednesday. 20/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / James Chambers

Catching the wave

Having just touched down in Jakarta on my first trip beyond Hong Kong’s borders in more than two years, the most noticeable difference since my last visit (in 2019) is the explosion of K-culture. The influence of East Asia’s plucky powerhouse is everywhere you look in the Indonesian capital, from the many Korean chicken restaurants at swish new shopping malls to adverts featuring BTS plastered all over subway stations.

While riding the MRT yesterday, I stood next to a young Indonesian man watching a K-drama on his phone with subtitles in Bahasa. This Hallyu (“Korean wave”) is not new, of course. It’s just far more in your face than before. South Korea is moving beyond movie screens and making a physical mark on the Indonesian landscape too. Hyundai just opened an electric car plant to the east of Jakarta, bringing in much-needed manufacturing jobs with no belts or ties attached. A timely reminder that countries and their cultures can aspire to be well regarded abroad without needing to shell out on expensive inducements.

The one troubling trend I noticed is the explosion of “aesthetic” clinics, offering plastic surgery and skin-lightening, such as the one that has opened next door to my usual hotel on Jalan Gunawarman in the Selong district. On the whole, though, South Korean culture feels like a positive force in the neighbourhood. Indeed, while Washington and Beijing try to split the region into opposing camps, Seoul is proving that soft power remains a handy tool for winning friends and influencing people.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor and bureau chief. He is based in Hong Kong.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / Iran, Russia & Turkey

Eastern promise

Yesterday, Vladimir Putin made his second trip abroad since the invasion of Ukraine, travelling to Tehran to meet Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi (pictured, on right, with Putin) and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Official talking points included the war in Syria and global food supplies, with the meeting also offering Putin a chance to improve relations with Iran, a country well versed in withstanding Western sanctions. Turkey, meanwhile, continued its balancing act as a Nato member with close ties to Russia. “These kinds of meetings, where Turkey can be a major player on the world stage and be that bridge between the West and Russia, are what President Erdogan is looking to benefit from,” Istanbul-based journalist Ruth Michaelson told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “But at the same time each of the parties involved is trying to see what they can get from the others.” Putin’s visit came hot on the heels of Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East. The Russian president’s wish was undoubtedly to demonstrate Moscow’s clout in this pivotal region.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Scandinavia

Up in the air

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and pilots’ unions agreed a new wage deal yesterday, following a strike that grounded some 3,700 flights and cost the flag-carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden about €10m a day. The announcement buoyed SAS’s shares, which quickly rose by 12 per cent: welcome news for the long-struggling airline, which was forced to file for US bankruptcy protection two days after staff walked out on 4 July.

Yet the settlement comes at a high cost – largely to be paid by pilots, many of whom, despite better job security, will have to work significantly increased hours on wages cut by about 25 per cent amid a historic cost-of-living crisis. Union official Jan Levi Skogvang described it in a statement to media as a “tragedy for pilots”. A change in approach is sorely needed if the sector is to thrive in the long term.

Image: Junta de Andalucía

Transport / Spain

On the move

After nearly 20 years in the making and a 10-year delay, the southern Spanish city of Cádiz is set to inaugurate its tram network this summer. Construction has been long, arduous and expensive. Spanning 14km, the tram connects three towns in the province, and cost more than €267m to build – more than double the initial budget set by the city’s government. Even so, the overall reception of the trams has been positive.

“We expect more than three million people a year will use the service,” Pepe Aroca, a spokesman for a platform of groups in favour of the Conexión Bahia tram network, told El País. “This will get lots of private vehicles off the streets.” We’re inclined to agree. Despite the delay, the creation of new, affordable and practical public transport – particularly those that will get people out of their cars – should always be celebrated.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

Design / Denmark

Cabin fever

With parts of Europe sweltering through a record-breaking heatwave, it’s natural to long for a haven away from concrete-laden cities. Danish designer Thomas Lykke (pictured) used to stare wide-eyed at a house in Rågeleje, a former fishing village north of Copenhagen, where he would spend summer holidays. “It was very different, almost Japanese,” he tells Monocle. Built in 1973 and designed by architect Erik Berg, it’s an early example of a prefabricated Danish summer home.

But with a black and burnt-red exterior, and angled roofs covered in grass and succulents, the house is a far cry from a traditional cottage. About a decade ago, Lykke returned “and put a letter in the mailbox saying that if the house was for sale, I’d like to buy it. Two weeks later it was mine.” He has since made additions that include a Japanese-style bathroom annexe and a garage to house his 1986 Jaguar; both with future wide-eyed youngsters in mind.

For more stories of summer retreats, take a look at the Monocle Mediterraneo newspaper, on sale now.

Image: Paulius Staniunas

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Summer reading

Is there such a thing as a “beach read”? Susannah Butter and John Michinson join Robert Bound in the studio to share their top recommendations of new books – and to question the idea of summer reading.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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