Wednesday 1 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 1/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Korea advice

Seoul is heading for a rebrand and it has been asking the public for its opinion. Yet looking for consensus among online voters might be unwise. The South Korean capital turned to the public the last time around – and the jury is still out on the result: “I.Seoul.U” has been the city’s awkward tagline since 2015.

Last December, Seoul’s metropolitan government invited citizens to pick a new slogan that would best help it to “take a leap forward as a global city”. The four epithets on offer were: “Seoul for you”, “Seoul, my soul”, “Amazing Seoul” and – surely not – “Make it happen, Seoul”.

About 400,000 votes came in and it was close enough to demand a final run-off. A choice will now be made between second place “Seoul for you” (favoured by Koreans) and frontrunner “Seoul, my soul” (the preferred choice among international voters). It’s clearly difficult to find a line that will please everyone.

But perhaps the main question is: does it really matter? Many people probably don’t know whether their cities have a slogan; those who do are usually only aware when a tagline is bad enough to attract unwelcome attention. There were howls of indignation when a plan was hatched (and promptly dropped) to saddle Edinburgh with the laughable “Incredinburgh”, while poor old Eagle Pass in Texas was lumbered with the cringe-inducing “Where Yee-Haw! meets Ole!”. Perhaps the South Korean city of Busan got it right when it launched its new branding in January. Eschewing puns and clever wordplay, the new slogan gets straight to the point: “Busan is good”.

Fiona Wilson is Monocle's Tokyo bureau chief and senior Asia editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / France

Distance learning

Emmanuel Macron arrives today in the West African nation of Gabon, a former French colony, where he will be attending the One Forest Summit on preserving forests along the vast Congo river basin. It’s part of a four-nation trip that will see him head to Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. France’s African foreign policy is in a state of flux. It is reducing its military presence after the decade-long Operation Barkhane, which was aimed at fighting jihadi insurgency in the Sahel but led to increased anti-French sentiment in the region. France won’t be closing its six African military bases. Instead, they will evolve into academies, with French troops refocusing on training (alongside African forces) and intelligence. Concerns are growing that the Russian mercenary Wagner Group is becoming increasingly active in Africa, notably in Mali and the Central African Republic. With a new phase of superpower rivalry playing out, France doesn’t seem ready to relinquish its influence just yet.

For more on Macron’s trip, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Thailand

Close contest

Election fever is about to break out in Thailand, just as soon as prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha fires the starter pistol. The former military general, who seized power in a 2014 coup, is expected to announce the dissolution of parliament in a matter of days and confirm an election timeline that will see the country go to the polls in early May. Chan-ocha would like to continue as prime minister.

But the divisive leader, whose premiership has been marked by huge anti-government protests, faces a tough battle against Pheu Thai, the party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled Thailand after being ousted by another coup, this time in 2006. It is generally accepted that Pheu Thai will win the most seats in the house of representatives, Thailand’s lower chamber. The big question is whether the party can also win big enough to form the next government and install its own candidate as prime minister.

Image: Kanton Zürich

Urbanism / Zürich

From soldiers to students

The Kasernenareal is one of the largest green spaces in Zürich and a protected national monument. It contains a 120-metre-long military barracks that runs parallel to the river Sihl and had been home to the cantonal police for about 30 years. That changed last year when the police moved out and the premises became available – giving the city and canton a massive property windfall that includes several buildings and a large meadow. Now a new masterplan has given a clue about how the space might be used.

“The largest building, the barracks, will become an education centre for adults,” says Anja Rosenberg, project manager at the canton’s building authority. “The ground floor will house cafés and shops open to the public.” With a redesign costing €181m, the first new students are expected to pull up pews by 2027. A smart move, we say.

Image: Getty Images

Space / China

Stars in their eyes

China plans to ramp up its space-surveillance capabilities by constructing a vast array of telescopes in the country’s northwestern Qinghai province. Situated on Saishiteng Mountain – one of the world’s best sites for stargazing due to extremely low levels of light pollution – the Chinese government plans to construct more than 30 telescopes.

These will include the Wide Field Survey Telescope, which aims to map the Milky Way, and the Expanding Aperture Segmented Telescope, which is set to become the largest optical telescope in Asia and a rival to Nasa’s James Webb orbiter. Local authorities have already built a €28m road connecting workers on the mountain’s peaks with the nearest town, Lenghu. Beijing’s latest mega-project is a clear sign that it hopes to compete with similar observatory sites in the US and Chile, while asserting Chinese influence over the skies.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Heat and Arthur Sleep

How did Heat secure major investment from industry heavyweights such as LVMH Luxury Ventures and tap into the all-important Gen Z audience, growing an engaged community of conscious shoppers with a “seasonless” mindset? Founders Joe Wilkinson and Mario Maher tell us about their runaway commercial success and future-proofing of luxury fashion. Plus: the founders of a bespoke shoe business explain how they plan to scale their Savile Row micro-factory.

Monocle Films / Japan

Tokyo’s colourful community bus

An electric bus service has injected a new playfulness into a borough of Tokyo in need of a revamp. We hop aboard and meet Eiji Mitooka, its creator and Japan’s foremost train designer, who explains why he puts fun at the top of his list when designing public transport. All aboard! Read more in the June issue of the magazine.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00