Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Shots fired on Korean Peninsula -- again.
Kim Jong Un sure isn't making it things easy for Park Geun Hye. South Korean leader Park spent the better part of the first quarter talking up the economic benefits of reunification with Kim's North. She's even seen Kim extend the odd olive branch, including agreeing to resume North-South family reunions. It may be all for naught, though, given today's artillery fire. North Korea lobbed shells over the two countries’ western sea border, and the South returned fire, pushing tensions to their highest in months. The good that could come from reunification is clear enough. What's not is when Kim will learn he needs to stop shooting at Park's country first.
Climate change inaction rules day.
The news out of Yokohama is decidedly depressing. Amid ample evidence of rising temperatures, melting ice caps, rising ocean levels, destroyed coral reefs and warnings about the growing list of major cities that will be underwater in 100 years, nothing has changed. Political will is conspicuously absent as greenhouse-gas emissions rise and the incidence of both droughts and floods threatens to do incalculable damage to growth rates in the developing world. Makes you wonder why the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change bothered gathering in Japan this year when a conference call would've sufficed. I cringe to think of the collective carbon footprint of all those visitors.
Inclusive growth needs a female touch.
A new Asian Development Bank report looks at labor-market dynamics in three nations with very little in common: Cambodia, Kazakhstan and the Philippines. One common thread is what each can teach economies rich or poor, huge or tiny, about the benefits of empowering female workers. As ADB project leader Imrana Jalal explains: "There is ample evidence to show that providing equitable employment opportunities, remuneration, and treatment of the sexes is important for social justice and smart economics."
South Korea's bet on China's gamblers.
Is Asia in the midst of a casino bubble? Or is the pie for gaming establishments getting bigger and bigger? South Korea's Jeju Island is betting on the latter scenario, figuring last year's 1.8 million Chinese visitors are just the beginning. Similar wagers are being made around the Asia region. Take Macau. Just a few years ago, analysts worried that tycoons from Stanley Ho's brood in the former Portuguese colony, to Las Vegas magnates like Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn were over-expanding. But exploding revenues and increased arrivals from the mainland are proving otherwise. If Asia is experiencing a gambling bubble, the industry is doing a masterful job of hiding it.
The meaning of Japan's Tanaka.
Ten years ago, Robert Whiting's best-seller "The Meaning of Ichiro" looked at the phenomenal success of Ichiro Suzuki and what it said about not just the world of sports, but the baseball star's native Japan. Here is a Whiting-esque look at the Yankees's $155 million man, Masahiro Tanaka, by the New York Times. Its exploration of the "impassioned approach of the Japanese toward America's national pastime" offers a timely analysis of culture, business and entertainment on both sides of the Pacific. It's a worthwhile read even if baseball isn't your thing.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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