The World Today for March 09, 2018



Us Too

The global reaction to #MeToo has been mixed.

The French have been decidedly skeptical of women calling out men for sexual harassment, USA Today reported. In Pakistan, the rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari in January triggered a wave of “#MeToo-style declarations,” wrote Slate. In China, the movement is weaker, but a #MeToo campaign forced the removal of a university professor from his job after he was accused of multiple instances of misconduct, according to the Washington Post.

But the #MeToo movement has arguably been most successful in South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in has called on authorities to take seriously and investigate accusations of sexual harassment, assault and exploitation. Beyond that, he also used the bully pulpit of his office to grant legitimacy to #MeToo.

“I actively support the MeToo movement,” said Moon, the Associated Press wrote late last month. “We should take this opportunity, however embarrassing and painful, to reveal the reality and find a fundamental solution. We cannot solve this through laws alone and need to change our culture and attitudes.”

A female prosecutor went public about allegations of sexual harassment in the South Korean Ministry of Justice. The woman said she spoke out because she saw what happened to abusers in the United States. In a culture where shame is a powerful force, women are overcoming enormous pressure when they step forward, University of California at Los Angeles Professor Suk-Young Kim, a specialist in Korean culture, told Billboard.

“I think it’s one true kind of example about how global feminism kind of works, almost simultaneously, without too much time lapse,” said Kim. “I personally think there’s more of a global dimension than uniquely Korean one to Korea’s #MeToo movement.”

But the biggest #MeToo stories have been in South Korea’s entertainment industry, argued the Hollywood Reporter. Lee Yoon-taek, a bigwig at the National Theater of Korea, popular actor Cho Jae-hyun and (formerly) esteemed film director Kim Ki-duk, rapper Don Malik and a host of others have been implicated. Some have left projects or record labels and lost other affiliations.

The scandals are changing the country.

The chat app Blind has developed a venue where people can anonymously discuss sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. While some believe that could lead to irresponsible accusations, others say it’s an important tool in a country where corporate culture discourages such talk, a banker who uses the app told Reuters.

South Korean officials also created resource centers at the Pyeongchang Olympics for anyone who might have suffered sexual harassment.

About 20 people reported a problem, according to Mic. But, importantly, even those few reports showed that attitudes are evolving.



Frankenstein’s Monster

The trade deal originally designed to combat China’s growing dominance has morphed into a bulwark against US President Donald Trump’s drift toward protectionism.

On Thursday, 11 nations including major US allies Japan, Canada and Australia signed a rejigged version of the erstwhile Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Santiago, Chile, in a bid to continue the global push for free trade, the New York Times reported.

The deal was originally designed to counter Beijing. But now China has been invited to join the pact – which drastically slashes tariffs as President Trump establishes stiff duties on steel and aluminum. Notably, the American president pulled the US out of the deal soon after he assumed office.

China has shown signs that it might join now the US is out, and there have also been indications that the US might come back if “we did a substantially better deal,” as Trump phrases it. But the bloc’s impact could increase from a projected $147 billion boost to global income per year to a whopping $449 billion without either one – if Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand sign up.


One Way or the Other

Hollywood actors aren’t the only ones talking about equal pay.

This week, France proposed a bill to fine companies caught paying women less than men unless they correct the discrepancy, the BBC reported.

If passed by the parliament, the measure will come into effect in 2020, whereupon implicated firms would have three years to eliminate the pay gap, or face fines amounting to as much as 1 percent of their total wage package.

Currently, men are paid on average 9 percent more than women in France despite equal pay laws going back 45 years, the BBC said.

France, of course, is not alone. Eurostat says the average pay gap across Europe is 11.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum found that the income gap – a different but related measure – actually increased for the first time in the history of its index in 2017, Quartz reported. On the WEF index of income parity, France had the fourth-best ranking, behind Slovenia, Norway and Sweden, with women earning 73.9 percent as much as men – compared with 64.8 percent in the US.


Demobilized, Remobilized

Iraq formally inducted the Iran-backed Shi’ite militias collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) into its security forces, promising the fighters many of the same rights enjoyed by the Iraqi army.

According to a decree issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday, militia members will get equivalent salaries to those members of the military under the Ministry of Defense’s control, Reuters reported. They will also be subject to the laws of military service and will gain access to military institutes and colleges.

Coming two months before Iraq’s general election, the move is expected to win votes for Abadi, as the PMF enjoys the support of the country’s majority Shi’ite population. Some 60,000 strong, the PMF proved vital in the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq, where they are still deployed in many predominantly Sunni areas.

The US would prefer to see the militias disbanded, as their leaders are close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).


Call it a Comeback

A much-reviled hairstyle of the 1980s has made a comeback in the small town of Kurri Kurri, in New South Wales, Australia, where organizers of the town’s first “Mulletfest” attracted contestants and much-needed tourism dollars from around the globe.

Participants sporting the renegade hairstyle – known for being “business in the front, party in the back” – paraded in front of a panel of judges, who picked a winner in each of the festival’s five categories: best everyday mullet, grubby mullet, the “ranga” or redhead, the female mullet and the junior mullet.

The winner among those finalists was Australian Shane “Shag” Hanrahan, who hadn’t cut his waist-length mullet since 1986, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Local pub owner Laura Johnson and her friends settled on holding the festival just six months ago with hopes of reviving the town’s ailing economy. Many businesses went bust after the local aluminum smelter closed down.

“There’s no business in the town that is immune to that kind of financial hardship,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Just like the versatility of the avant-garde hairdo, locals hope the festival showed another side of the town that could attract tourists in the future – the festival is already expected to return next year.

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