Pesek on Asia: Japan's Yakuza Crackdown
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Japan investigates loans to yakuza
If Martin Scorsese, he of "Goodfellas" fame, is itching to do yet another mob movie, Japan may provide script fodder. Regulators are widening their probe into credit given to gangsters beyond Mizuho Financial to Japan's two other banking giants: Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui. It's about time, too. When they aren’t collecting protection money, shaking down shop owners or running prostitution rings, Japan's organized crime members are dabbling more and more in mainstream finance. Hollywood often buzzes about Scorsese bringing Robert Whiting's 1999 book "Tokyo Underworld" to the big screen. Events in Tokyo are calling out for the Oscar-winning director's attention.
Even Keanu Reeves can't beat China
Speaking of Hollywood, Reeves may have saved the world in any number of flicks -- "The Matrix," "The Day the Earth Stood Still, "Constantine" -- but the Canadian actor is no match for China's censors. To make his directorial debut in "Man of Tai Chi," which hoped to explore some of China’s darker realities, Reeves was forced curb his ambitions, not to mention do much of his filming in Hong Kong. This New York Times look at the process tells a bigger story of China's counterproductive obsession with suppressing the slightest suggestion that all isn't perfect on the mainland. As if.
Anger over U.S. spying hits Asia
It was probably inevitable, but NSA-gate has made it to Asia. While facts are still sketchy, Der Spiegel's reporting on America's surveillance activities, the ones enraging German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggests Southeast Asia and South Asia are also in the National Security Agency's sights. Count Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa among those demanding answers. Let's just say President Barack Obama's next Asia trip will be a bit uncomfortable.
The cancer coursing through India
When investors think about the cancer eating away at India Inc., politics is often the first thing that springs to mind. Dysfunction, corruption and policy paralysis are indeed afflicting Asia's third-biggest economy. But this disturbing Bloomberg News feature explores how cancer, the physical kind, is also sweeping through India, taxing its doctors and burdening a health-care system already overstretched by some of the world’s sickest people. It's home to 17 percent of the global population, but suffers from 21 percent of the toll from disease.
Is Korea stealing U.S. military secrets?
South Korea is known for borrowing American technology -- just ask the folks at Apple -- but military ones, too? This Foreign Policy piece observes that Korea's tanks, missiles, and electronic-warfare gear look an awful lot like the U.S. military's. It argues Washington "is watching closely as the South Korean defense industry shoots for a larger market share. The country is gaining a reputation for gleaning as much as it can from American advanced technology, exploiting any opening it sees." I don't know where the truth lies, but I'm figuring some very touchy meetings lie ahead for Korean and U.S. officials.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)