Well, North Korea does not seem to be able to stay out of the headlines. Last I heard they were still having talks about having talks. Everyone still wants to get together to have these famous "six party talks" ie US, Japan, China, Russia and the 2 Koreas. Dear Leader is still procrastinating about whether to join in or not. It's not clear if the sanctions banning the export to North Korea of iPods, Rolex watches and luxury cars have made any difference to his style yet. The Americans are vaguely wittering about offering the North Koreans a peace treaty, they very graciously thought they might allow South Korea to attend the ceremony too, if there ever is one. Since all North Koreans are taught from birth to hate everything American with total dedication it's hard to see a peace treaty being first on the list of things Mr Kim is looking for. Who would they hate then?
The latest scandal is a re-insurance fraud. Some foolish English insurance companies might have taken on a few more risks in NK than they were expecting and have got some very neat and tidy accident reports which seem suspiciously too perfect. Meanwhile in Doha, Qatar the South Korean team entered the stadium for the Asian Games with the North Korean team under a special "flag of unity". And yet the medal table lists the tally of golds for the two countries separately. Not so friendly after all? But anyway the threat of Nuclear attack appears to have receded, at least that's what the president said to John Howard. Not that it stops every single newspaper article on NK mentioning the nuclear test, as if we could forget.
The three recent cases of Avian influenza have certainly put a damper on poultry farming. Inspite of the prime minister and the parliament publicly eating chicken to reassure the country that it is completely safe, the price of chicken has dropped dramatically.
Not a single Korean has died or even fallen ill from Avian flu. What the Koreans are dying from is Suicide. According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), suicide was the fourth-largest cause of death in the country for two years in a row with 26.1 out of 100,000 people killing themselves, up 2.2-fold from 11.8 ten years ago. South Korea also recorded the highest suicide rate among the OECD member countries. Searching the internet for good ways to kill oneself is becoming more common. I couldn't help but remember the theme tune to M*A*S*H having read that article. [For those who don't automatically think of the number 4077 and Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, along with Hawkeye, BJ, Hotlips, Radar and Klinger, when the acronym MASH appears, the theme tune was Suicide is Painless]
The rise is attributed to an increasing number of people in their 30's taking their lives due to the worsening economic conditions. So inspite of Korean exports reaching $300 billion this year they are still not happy!