Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Korea's chaebol crackdown.
As South Korean President President Park Geun Hye tries to fashion a more creative economy, few tasks matter more than reducing the dominance of the chaebol. Those family-owned conglomerates helped Korea rise from the ashes of war into Asia's fourth-biggest economy. Now, they stand in the way of developing smaller and more innovative startups. Here from Bloomberg's Sharon Cho and Kyunghee Park is a timely look at how markets sense change is finally coming to Korea Inc. Let's hope investors are right.
Japan's immigration loosens a bit.
Shinzo Abe took an important step toward internationalizing the Japanese economy: exempting Indonesians from some visa requirements and relaxing others for Filipinos, Indians and Vietnamese tourists. Prime Minister Abe needs to open the labor market to overseas talent as Japan's population ages and shrinks. But big changes in Japan often begin with a trickle. One wonders if today's move is such a moment.
Australia's wobbly two-speed.
Count Glenn Stevens among those who's confused about the true nature of Australia's economy these days. Throwing the Reserve Bank of Australia governor off is the two-speed economy, one driven by the mining-heavy western states and Queensland and the other experienced by the nation's 23 million people. The central bank says it's hard to gauge how much low interest rates will offset a drop in mining investment and tighter fiscal policy. "Those uncertainties were likely to take some time to resolve," the RBA says. Hopefully the economy won't develop a third speed in the interim.
Lost in Translation in Thailand.
The Thai junta running Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy claims they never ordered a crackdown on the illegal labor on which the nation's business community relies. They could have fooled 140,000 undocumented Cambodians, whom human rights groups claim have fled Thailand for fear of running afoul of the generals. If nothing else, the junta really needs to work on its communications skills as 30,000 to 40,000 confused people cross the border each day.
A bit of China-U.K. love.
Li Keqiang can expect smooth diplomatic sailing in Britain this week when he meets with David Cameron. In the past, Chinese premiers braced for lots of tense exchanges over human rights. But U.K. officials are assuring their Chinese counterparts that trade deals are on the discussion table, not hot-potato issues. Some $30 billion worth of them, according to this Quartz News item.
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