How South Koreans Hold Their Corrupt Leaders to Account

South Korea is the only country in the world where all living former leaders (six in all) have either been convicted of corruption offenses, or are being tried or investigated for such crimes, including two former dictators from the 1980s and 1990s. Just last year, one of these leaders was unseated following what may have been the largest peaceful mass demonstration in modern history (and which received support from the legislature and judiciary). Three deceased leaders have also been touched by posthumous corruption scandals or investigations.

Observers once noted that corruption was a “feature rather than a bug” of Korean politics, yet the Korean people — less than two decades into being an full fledged democracy — are doing everything possible to change that. This isn’t to say that these actions are totally free from political self interest and the like — although it is worth noting that the vast majority of Koreans support these actions regardless of their political affiliation.

Korean voters have since elected, Moon Jae In, a refugee from the Korean War who was once jailed for protesting against South Korea’s dictatorship, and was a human rights lawyer before he went into politics. He is so famously “clean” that he avoids having any private or professional meetings with friends to avoid even a hint of corruption. He is subsequently one of the most popular leaders in the world, with over 70 percent approval.

Source: The Economist

The World’s Most Canny Politician

Running an emerging global power and vibrant democracy would be hard enough without having one of the world’s most oppressive, erratic, and brutal states next door.

Yet South Korean leader Moon Jae In, less than a year into his presidency, has not only governed his prosperous country fairly well (if his stellar approval ratings are any indication), but he’s pulled off an amazing feat virtually no one though possible (much less any world leader): getting North Korea to tone down its bellicose rhetoric, suspend its nuclear program, and express willingness to participate in an historic summit between his nation and the North’s archenemy the United States — the two nations are even setting up a direct hotline between their leaders, which will not only mitigate the likelihood of an escalating conflict, but is a big symbol of the potential for normal relations (and one would hope, eventually reunification). Continue reading

Liquor Consumption By Country

I’m a sucker for charts, graphs, and maps, especially those that explore global trends and attitudes — no matter how seemingly trivial or mundane. Often times you learn some pretty surprising things about other cultures and societies. For example, take a look at who the world’s heaviest liquor drinkers are, courtesy of a chart from Quartz (a great source for such infographics).

Note that the chart is also measuring the change in average consumption over the span of a decade, beginning in 2000. Some countries remain largely flat in their liquor consumption (such as Austria, Belgium, and Muslim-majority countries like Egypt and Indonesia) while others have grown (the U.S. and especially the Philippines) and still others have declined (Brazil, Ukraine, and Greece).

So I know what many of you must be thinking: how are South Koreans, not exactly well-known for their hard-drinking, ranking so incredibly high? We’re talking 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average, followed by Russians and Filipinos at less than half that amount (6.3 and 5.4 shots per week, respectively). Well, the Quartz piece offers a simple explanation:

South Korea’s unparalleled liquor consumption is almost entirely due to the country’s love for a certain fermented rice spirit called Soju. The South Korean liquor accounts for 97 percent of the country’s spirits market.

Like most countries where alcohol consumption is high, South Korea is combating the subsequent social and public health consequences, an approach that accounts for the decline or stagnation of liquor consumption in famously hard-drinking countries like Russia, Ukraine, and the U.K. Of course, when the particular spirit of choice is so culturally and historically ingrained, it can be a pretty difficult battle.