from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of October 28, 2016

October 28, 2016

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South Korea


Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Suicide attack in Pakistan leaves sixty-one dead. Late Monday night, three masked terrorists breached a police training college outside of Quetta, Pakistan, and fired on unarmed sleeping recruits. After a five-hour gun battle with security forces, during which one of the terrorists was shot, the remaining two detonated suicide vests. In total, more than sixty—mostly cadets—lay dead and over one hundred were injured. Though the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack, one Pakistani general told reporters that security officials believed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based terrorist group with links to al Qaeda, to be actually responsible. Some suggest that the operation could be a signal of a new alliance between IS and jihadist factions in the country. Earlier this month, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif publicly rebuked his country’s military for its failure to combat terror groups, which has led in particular to a recent deterioration of relations with India.

2. South Korean President Park Geun-hye publicly apologizes amidst growing scandal. In a nationally televised broadcast on Tuesday, President Park Geun-hye made a public apology in the midst of a growing scandal revolving around a close associate of Park’s. Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of Park’s late mentor, has been charged with using her relationship with the president to pressure corporations to donate millions to foundations that Choi allegedly used as a personal ATM. President Park has also been accused of giving Choi, a person with no government job or official public role, a high level of influence in Park’s politics. A recent report by a South Korean media network revealed that an old computer hard drive belonging to Choi, which contained classified documents sent by Park’s office, sparked Tuesday’s public apology. In her apology, the president did not make any direct mention of the allegations against Choi, stating that she had sought Choi’s help with public outreach when she was running for president in 2012, and apologized only for having caused “public distress.” Domestic reaction to her apology has been mixed, as many of Park’s critics have derided her apology as perfunctory and insincere, and public furor over the scandal has continued to grow, with more civic groups, university students, and professors denouncing President Park over the scandal.

3. Bridges between the Philippines and the United States still aflame. A week after announcing his country’s “separation” from the United States—a comment that was quickly softened—Rodrigo Duterte told Japanese officials that his trip to China was purely for discussing economic matters, strongly affirming that Japan will continue to be an important ally in his independent foreign policy. He followed up on his remarks by calling for the removal of foreign (American in particular) troops in the Philippines within “maybe two years,” even if he needs to “revise or abrogate” existing treaties, though such an actions may prove to be domestically unpopular. The realignment has certainly not gone unnoticed by neighboring nations, and China in particular must plot a delicate course.

4. Afghan opium production skyrockets. According to a new report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, opium production and land use for poppy cultivation in the country rose by 43 and 10 percent, respectively, between 2015 and 2016. Officials attribute this drastic increase to a deteriorating security situation hampering eradication efforts, whose success (measured by amount of crops destroyed) fell by 91 percent. Afghan opium is the source of 90 percent of the world’s heroin, and a major source of income for the Taliban, which now controls the most territory since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Most of the crops are grown in militant-controlled areas where authorities have faced logistical and security challenges, including attacks from local farmers who do not want to give up their lucrative cash crop. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov believes the report signifies a “worrying reversal” in worldwide efforts to combat illicit drug production, and the agency hopes that greater international support toward Afghanistan’s sustainable development will help alleviate the problem.

5. Chinese drone maker to go public. Nanyang Technology is purchasing a portion of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation that manufactures Caihong drones. Since Nanyang is already a public company on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the acquisition will allow Caihong to go public as well. The deal suggests a greater willingness to accept outside funding among China’s defense companies at a time when Chinese military and commercial drones are also making inroads into global markets. China is now the third-largest exporter of arms in the world and the Iraqi military has used Chinese-made drones in past strikes. One of Caihong’s most well-known drones is the Caihong-4 (CH-4), which bears many similarities to the MQ-9 Reapers used by the U.S. Air Force. While the Caihong drones are viewed as somewhat technologically inferior, they nonetheless appeal to many nations because of their lower cost and have been sought out by certain African and Middle Eastern governments.

Bonus: More women in Japan fight to keep their surnames. Obstacles abound in the face of growing demand by women in Japan to use and keep their own surnames after marriage. Despite the Japanese constitution’s affirmation of gender equality and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s emphasis on a Japan where all women can “shine,” many Japanese women say this is hard to do when they cannot even keep their own surnames after marriage. Under a century-old Japanese law that dates back to the Meiji era, all married couples must use one surname. Theoretically, a couple may choose to use the wife’s surname, but in reality, 96 percent of Japanese women adopt their husband’s surname after marriage. An increasing number of Japanese firms permit women to use their given surnames professionally. Yet, Japanese law has yet to catch up to professional norms: last December, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that the surname law did not place an undue burden on women or violate the constitution. Recently, a Tokyo District Court rejected a high school teacher’s request to use her original name at work. With this lack of legal formalization, it is unsurprising then that Japan ranks quite low among developed democratic countries on gender equality in terms of health, education, economics, and politics. And if these recent court rulings are any indication, true legal parity for Japanese women, at least regarding their surnames, seems a far-off fantasy.