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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 16, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
August 16, 2013

Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji) Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally near Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji)


Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong complex. After seven rounds of negotiations, the shuttered Kaesong complex, closed for months following a period of particularly high tensions, is set to be reopened, though there is no timetable yet. The complex was a major source of hard currency and jobs for North Korea until it was shut down, and it is one of the few symbols of cooperation between the two Koreas. The agreement includes a pledge from both sides to prevent any future shutdowns, an agreement to try to attract foreign companies to the complex, and permission for South Korean managers to use the Internet and mobile phones.

2. Abe avoids Yasukuni Shrine. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, instead sending an offering. The compromise was meant to satisfy his conservative, nationalist base while not inflaming regional tensions. A number of Japanese lawmakers still visited the Shinto shrine, which honors all of Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals. In response, the Chinese government summoned Japan’s ambassador to protest the visit, while South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement denouncing the visit. As an annual occurrence, however, the anniversary will likely pass without further incident as it has in the past.

3. Oil regulator in Indonesia arrested in bribery investigation. The Corruption Eradication Commission of Indonesia detained Rudi Rubiandini, chairman of oil and gas regulator SKK Migas, for allegedly accepting bribes of more than $700,000. Two men later identified as representatives of Kernel Oil, an oil trading company, were at Mr. Rudi’s home at the time of the raid and were also arrested. The arrest comes as Indonesia prepares for the 2014 elections, where government corruption is likely to be a major campaign issue. Indonesia was previously a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a net energy exporter, but its annual oil output has halved since the 1990s.

4. China to change organ donation system. A senior Chinese official has said that starting in November, China will no longer take organs from executed prisoners, who account for as many as two-thirds of transplant organs in China. Though the number of executions in China are a state secret—estimated at 3,000 executions in 2012—this number has reportedly decreased substantially in the past decade. The current organ donor system will be replaced over time by a voluntary donor system.

5. Tourism to China falls in 2013. Between January and June of this year, tourism to China fell by 5 percent, and travel to Beijing fell by 15 percent. The China National Tourism Administration blames the drop on China’s strengthening currency, the outbreak of H7N9 bird flu, and dead pigs floating near Shanghai’s rivers. Worsening levels of pollution—January’s “Airpocalypse” being one such example—are undoubtedly also a factor. Said one travel agent: “All the news which is coming from China concerning non-touristic things are bad, frankly speaking.” China is the world’s third most visited country for tourists after France and the United States.

Bonus: Chinese zoo under fire for disguising dog as lion. The People’s Park of Luohe in Henan replaced zoo animals with common species, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. The zoo was caught in the act when an “African lion” began barking. The zoo also labeled two coypu rodents as snakes, a white fox as a leopard, and a dog as a wolf.

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