Pesek on Asia: Bangkok's Latest Casualty
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Bangkok's rising death toll.
“Terrorist acts for political gains." That's how Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra described an explosion that killed three people in Bangkok’s main shopping district, bringing the death toll from four months of political unrest to 20. Savage acts of violence are the latest wrinkle in Thailand's standoff between Yingluck and anti-government forces. The carnage is scuttling even the frailest of hopes for Thailand's economy: The country grew at the slowest pace in almost two years last quarter as unrest hurt local demand and tourism. Clearly it's time to add the economy to the casualty list.
China to embarrass Japan in Germany.
Germany can't be looking forward to Xi Jinping's visit, not with the Chinese president hoping to exploit his host's postwar record to embarrass his Japanese counterpart. What should be a feather in the German government's cap -- kudos for its thorough efforts to atone for past atrocities -- has become for Xi a cudgel with which to continue beating Shinzo Abe's supposedly unrepentant Japan. Berlin wants no part of this squabble. Not only would Chancellor Angela Merkel rather talk about the future than the past, she has no interest in being goaded into criticizing the Japanese Prime Minister. Let's see if she can get Xi to hold his fire.
The Macau-ization of Asia reaches Japan.
For years now, the Tokyo government and a growing number of national lawmakers have been angling to allow casinos in Japan. What's the holdup, considering pachinko is already one of the nation's largest industries? Casinos would boost tourism and tax revenues as the workforce ages. Legislators have long stymied such efforts, fearing gambling would fuel organized crime and provide little benefit to the broader population. But Sheldon Adelson's plan to invest $10 billion in Japan, projected to be Asia’s second-largest casino market, could be game changer. Place your bets!
U.S.-Korea war games begin.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Pyongyang as Kim Jong Un watches Washington and Seoul carry out their annual military exercises. The joint maneuvers come almost one year to the day after Kim threatened to fire nuclear missiles to retaliate against the last set of war games. Given that Kim recently signed off on some family reunions between North and South, perhaps he'll take this year's exercises more in stride. Then again, who really knows what's in that guy's head?
Future of Kim Yuna Inc.
South Korean figuring skating sensation Kim Yuna got robbed in Sochi, where sports observers cried foul over her loss to a Russian competitor. Will coming home with silver rather than gold crimp Kim's earning potential? Doubtful, given the ubiquity of the 23-year-old, who's become an industry all her own. In case you missed it, this Atlantic piece explores the financial trajectory of a woman Forbes says netted $14 million last year. Bottom line, there's not a dull blade in her future.