Pesek on Asia: Korea's Leadership Challenge

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Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

The human element amid Korean ferry tragedy.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye arrived at the site where a ferry sank yesterday to take in the harrowing search for any last survivors. Here, from my Bloomberg News colleague Heesu Lee, is a heartbreaking account of calls from high schooler Park Ji Yoon made to her grandmother as the vessel went down, including one where she said: "Grandma, I think I'm going to die." Since then, not a word. This piece offers a glimpse into the heart-wrenching human dimension as almost 300 people remain missing of the 462 on board the "Sewol."

India's Modi says kill me if I did wrong.

It is, in the annals of curious defenses, a fascinating approach that Narendra Modi is taking toward allegations about his involvement in sectarian riots 12 years ago in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Rather than apologize for any missteps he might have made as the state's Chief Minister, the frontrunner to become India's next prime minister offered critics this defiant retort: "If there's any truth to the allegations, I should be made to stand in the crossroads and hung." Life would be easier for India's 1.2 billion people and their allies around the world if Modi just explained himself and his actions. Fat chance there.

China's first Internet-rumor conviction.

Not satisfied with having its way with cyberspace and bringing the West's biggest tech companies to heel, China has its eyes on a new Internet-era prize: ending rumors. A court in Beijing sentenced Qin Zhihui to three years in prison for supposed defamation and causing a disturbance, whatever that means in Communist Party circles. No one is saying that trolling and picking fights on the Internet is all fun and games, but expect this ruling to chill online banter even further in China.

Indonesian titans battle.

With an election looming, Jakarta is abuzz with political intrigue as the current president and a former one feud in plain sight. This Wall Street Journal story fleshes out the tensions between Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leaves office this year, and Megawati Sukarnoputri, president from 2001 to 2004. As the Journal concludes, "this is the strongest sign yet that two of the nation's largest parties are unlikely to link arms ahead of July presidential polling." It also raises the specter that the candidate that Megawati's party intends to nominate for president, Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, might not be the shoo-in political analysts think.

Do financial-center rankings matter?

In this Project Syndicate op-ed, former Bank of England official Howard Davies ponders how Hong Kong and Singapore "have played their cards astutely" in gaining on New York and London in consultancy Z/Yen's latest Global Financial Centers Index. Do these rankings really matter in the age of constant connectivity and high-frequency trading? In some ways, they matter more than ever. What's more, Davies says, the future for Asia's finance hubs is only getting brighter. "The combination of an Asian market with strong Chinese connections and a system of English law and property rights continues to provide a powerful competitive advantage," he concludes.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Willie Pesek at

To contact the editor on this story:
Nisid Hajari at