Scrambling to fight recession.pdf by wangnuanzg


									               LOOKING BEYOND WHEAT AND RICE
                                          F E B R UA RY 20 - 26 , 2009

                                      A Sisyphean
                                        to fight
 US$2.50 / Bt100
 ISSN 19052650
                    05191             recession
9 771905   265009   05191
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Information correct as at 02/2007
FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • Vo l 4 N o 6

                                                                                                   AFP P H OTO

                                                                                                                                                                                                           AFP P H OTO
                                                                                                                   SPECIAL REPORT 13
                                                                                                                   BEYOND WHEAT AND RICE
                                                                                                                   India must wean itself
                                                                                                                   from dependence on
                                                                                                                   two main grains to
                                                                                                                   address long-standing
                                                                                                                   nutrition deficiency

                                                                                                                                                                                                          C H INA DA I LY
                                                                                                                 POLITICS 16                                  LIFE 26
                                                                                                                 LAW OF THE LAND                              THE LAST HuNTERS
                                                                                                                 Thailand’s lese majeste law                  An ethnic minority tribe in
                                                                                                                 has found a defender in                      China is holding on to its
                                                                                                                 Prime Minister Abhisit                       traditional way of life

                                                                                                                                                                                                     THE KOREA HERALD
                                                                                                                       L        o        v      e

  FROm INFLATION TO RECESSION                                                                                    LIFESTYLE 20                                 ARTS AND CULTURE 28
  Asian governments are reversing gear, scrambling to fight                                                      CHEmISTRY OF LOVE                            A TASTE OF KOREAN WINE
  recession                                                                                                      Falling in love is not just a                Wine-making secrets have
                                                                                                                 feeling                                      been handed down from
                                                                                                                                                              generations of aristocrats
                                             CHINA DAI LY

                                                            VIEWPOINT 7
                                                            WORLD Cup DREAm                                      TECHNOLOGY 22
                                                                                                                                                                                                           V IET NAM N EWS

                                                            Even without a strong squad                          THE TWITTER TWITS
                                                            yet, Indonesia is eyeing to                          Blogging is so last year. Find
                                                            host the world’s biggest                             out who gets the most Net
                                                            football event                                       traffic these days

                                                            PHOTO ESSAY 18
                                                            CHINA’S LITTLE NEW YEAR                              ENTERTAINMENT 24
                                                            The Lantern Festival is as                           OuTLAWING CHOCOLATES
                                                            colourful and enchanting                             Can you imagine a world                      EXPLORE 32
                                                            as ever                                              without chocolates? Japan                    RECHARGE IN LuxuRY
                                                                                                                 has a new breed of animé                     Bai Tram has it
COVER IMAGE | ILLUSTRATION BY NIPHON APPAKARN/                                                                   heroes saving the world from                 all—mountains, oceans,
ASIA NEWS NETWORK                                                                                                chocolate-haters                             breakfast at 3pm

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                                                                                                                    AFP P H OTO / T IZ IANA FABI
    Was he drunk?                         of Japan, has de-                                                          His officials
                                          manded the min-                                                          later said the
TOKYO: Japan’s finance minister Shoichi   ister’s removal.                                                         minister was un-
Nakagawa’s alleged drunken behaviour         Video clips of                                                        able to focus on
at a press conference in Rome has         Nakagawa’s ap-                                                           the text because
sparked calls for his dismissal.          palling perform-                                                         of some medicine
   Facing reporters after a Group of      ance at the Rome                                                         he had taken for
Seven (G-7) meeting of finance minis-     press conference                                                         his bad back.
ters and central bank chiefs, Nakagawa    were beamed                                                                In September
appeared to be desperately trying to      around the world                                                         2004, Nakagawa
fight off drowsiness. His speech was      and also played ad                                                       appeared at a
slurred and he answered questions with    nauseam on Japa-                                                         press conference,
great difficulty.                         nese television.                                                         reeking of alco-
   The minister later apologised, blam-      Last month,                                                           hol and with his
ing his unbecoming conduct on an          Nakagawa was                                                             hair in a tousled
overdose of cold medicine.                blasted for making                                                       state, following
   But Yukio Hatoyama, secretary gen-     multiple errors while giving a key policy              his nomination to a Cabinet post.
eral of the opposition Democratic Party   speech in Parliament.                                  — KWAN WENG KIN/THE STRAITS TIMES

    MP quits over                           charge of tourism, consumer affairs                  ment, often advancing women’s rights
    nude pictures                            and the environment, and the infor-                 and issues.
                                             mation chief of the women’s wing of                    There is talk that the pictures, alleg-
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian                      her party.                                          edly snapped without her consent or
legislator Elizabeth Wong,                     She described the distribution                    knowledge, might have been taken and
whose nude photographs                          and publication of the materials                 circulated by an ex-boyfriend.
were being circulated,                           a malicious attack on her per-                     Women’s rights advocate Chew Mei
has quit                                          sonality, a gross outrage of her               Fun said: “we are outraged by such
   Wong, a member of                               modesty and a gross invasion                  shameful acts of using women as sexual
parliament representing                               of her privacy.                            objects. It is an outright invasion of the
                        SIN CHEW DAILY

Petaling Jaya Utara, was                                   Wong is one of the                    privacy of women as well as an exploi-
also the state executive                                    most progressive                     tation of women for political use.”
committee member in                                            members of parlia-                —NEWS DESK/THE STAR

    ManCity boots Thaksin                 Eastlands.                                                 Thailand gives stimulus money
                                            ‘Frank’, as Thaksin was called, thanks
BANGKOK: Former Thai prime minister       to the similarity of his surname to ‘Si-                 BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Ab-
Thaksin Shinawatra has been removed       natra’, remains a popular figure among                   hisit Vejjajiva said some private
as Manchester City’s honourary club       many City supporters, who credit him                     firms have offered to give discount
president.                                with rescuing the club from financial                    if Thais use the 2,000 baht (US$57)
   Thaksin has been convicted of multi-   hardship and setting up the deal with                    stimulus money from the govern-
million-pound cor-                                        the new, massively rich                  ment to buy their products.
ruption and is                                            owners. However, there                      “So 2,000 baht will have more
                                                       AF P PHOTO/AND REW YATES

presently on the                                          were also fans who re-                   value,” Abhisit said.
run from the au-                                          fused to watch the club                     The offer prompted the govern-
thorities in Thai-                                        while Thaksin and his                    ment to reconsider whether to dis-
land and cannot                                           family were in control.                  tribute the money to workers by is-
even enter the UK.                                           The Guardian re-                      suing cheques or by crediting their
   The decision                                           ported the new owner,                    accounts. government officials
was reportedly                                            Sheikh Mansour bin                       would receive the gift money along
taken after high-                                         Zayed al-Nahyan, and                     with their monthly salary.
level talks over the                                      chairman Khaldoon                           He said the government would
past few weeks to                                         al-Mubarak conclud-                      also consider widening the criteria
determine what to                                         ed it would be “inap-                    for handing out the gift money.
do about the way                                          propriate” to allow                         Currently, state officials and
the former owner                                          Thaksin to continue                      members of the Social Security
had become an in-                                         holding such a promi-                    Fund are eligible for the stimulus
creasing source of                                        nent position.                           money.
embarrassment to                                                                  — THE NATION     —THE NATION THAILAND
his successors at                                                                 (THAILAND)

4                                                                                                  FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS

20 newspapers in 17 countries—covering Asia for 10 years

   W e      K n o w         A s i a       B e t t e r
                                                        Vi e w p o i n t

Destructive Spiral
The Japanese government needs to present a clearer plan to
allay fears of an economy spiralling into abyss
Editorial Desk
The Yomiuri Shimbun

               he Japanese economy appears to have strayed ures three times since summer. Those centre on ‘painkillers’
               into a tunnel of a gruelling recession the likes of amid the economic deterioration such as employment meas-
               which it has never experienced.                                ures and support for companies trying to raise capital.
                  The government said on February 16 the                         Although the economic stimulus package is sizable, to put
               country’s economy contracted in the October- a stop to the negative cycle, in which sluggish external de-
December quarter, falling at an annualised rate of 12.7 per mand dampens domestic demand, a specific type of eco-
cent from the previous quarter— the first double-digit de- nomic stimulus measure, in particular fiscal stimulus to
cline in 35 years.                                                            make up for the lack of demand, might be necessary.
   The 3.3 per cent decline in gross domestic product from                       Despite the acute emergency, Diet deliberations on eco-
the July-September                                                                                                          nomic stimulus
period was the second-                                                                                                      measures are running
largest drop in the                                                                                                         behind.
post-war period after                                                                                                          Bills required to ex-
the contraction of 3.4                                                                                                      ecute the second fiscal
per cent in the Janu-                                                                                                       2008 supplementary
ary-March quarter of                                                                                                        budget are not ex-
1974, when the country                                                                                                      pected to pass the
was feeling the effects                                                                                                     Diet until next week
the first oil crisis. With                                                                                                  or even later. Deliber-
a significant contrac-                                                                                                      ations on the bills
tion also likely in the                                                                                                     must not be dragged
January-March period,                                                                                                       out any further and
the nation’s economy                                                                                                        necessary economic
in fiscal 2008 is ex-                                                                                                       measures should be
pected to post the larg-                                                                                                    implemented quickly.
est negative growth in                                                                                                         The 2009 budget
the post-war period.                                                                                                        should also be passed
   The        Japanese                                                                                                      by the Diet at an early
economy is deterio-                                                                                                         date so that it will be
rating at a signifi-                                                                                                        implemented imme-
cant and accelerating ENDING RECESSION: The Japanese economy is deteriorating at a significant and ac- diately from the start
r a t e . T h e g o v e r n - celerating rate. A quick prescription is a must for getting the country out of the recession. of the fiscal year.
ment and ruling par-                                                                                                           It is desirable that
ties must quickly present a prescription for getting the the 2009 budget be executed earlier than originally planned.
country out of this recession.                                                Also, it is necessary to start discussions on additional meas-
   The global recession caused Japan’s engine of growth, ures with the supplementary budget to ensure constant eco-
which is fuelled by overseas demand, into reverse and the nomic stimulus.
country’s economy is nose-diving even more steeply than                          We hope that the valuable budget will be effectively used
those of Europe and the United States, where the current on growing fields in the future, including energy conserva-
economic downturn originated.                                                 tion and environmentally friendly technology, and to
   The deteriorating economies overseas slammed the strengthen safety and security, including making schools and
brakes on the country’s exports, causing production and public facilities earthquake-resistant. Projects should be
capital investment to be scaled down. The number of jobs carefully examined to prevent non-essential items from be-
being lost is surging as companies are accelerating their ing folded into the budget.
drive to cut personnel.                                                          A fall in tax revenues is certain. Therefore, it is unavoidable
   Corporate restructuring has expanded to the ranks of regu- that economic stimulus measures will be funded by issuance
lar workers, and consumption, which is the main pillar of of new bonds.
domestic demand, has started to shrink. The economy is now                       To prevent long-term interest rates from rising as a result
in a persistent vicious circle, in which falling consumption of new bond issuance, the government and the Bank of Ja-
causes a further decline in production.                                       pan will need to closely coordinate, including an increase in
   The government has compiled economic stimulus meas- the purchase of government bonds by the central bank.

6                                                                                                      FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                                     Vi e w p o i n t

Indonesia’s World Cup Dream
Even without a strong squad yet, the largest Southeast Asian
country is eyeing to host the world’s biggest football event
Editorial Desk in Jakarta
The Jakarta Post

                  ounting ques-

                                                                                                                                             A FP P H OTO/BAY IS MOYO
                  tions and criti-
                  cism emerged
                  right after the
                  Soccer Associa-
tion of Indonesia (PSSI) an-
nounced its plan to bid for hosting
the FIFA Soccer World Cup in
2022. But why don’t we just take a
chance no matter how slim the
chance may be?
   Few people welcomed the
idea while more were pessimis-
tic, if not skeptical, to hear the
news, saying it was just a dream.
Others said Indonesia, which
has never qualified for the
World Cup, should have a
world-class team first before
hosting such a major event.
   American poet Carl Sandburg
said: “Nothing happens unless          BURNING FLAME: Indonesian football fans light a flare during the Group B AFC Asian Cup 2011
first a dream.” That happened to       football qualifiers between Indonesia and Australia at Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta on January 28.
our founding president Sukarno,
who had envisioned Indonesia to be among the world’s                    First, since Indonesia has been notorious for cor-
top 10 in sports, when hosting the 4th Asian Games 37 ruption, the construction of infrastructure projects
years ago. Sukarno did not only build a landmark sports is potential for graft.
complex, named after him, but also put Indonesia in the                 Second, security has always been an issue affecting the
medal tally by finishing second after Japan.                         country’s tourism industry. Therefore, the authorities
   The 1962 Asian Games was the only major event need to make sure it is no longer an issue.
Indonesia had ever hosted. Indeed, should Indonesia                     Third, PSSI should take into account demand from
win the bid, it must begin construction of 10 new sta- soccer fans that it sets up a strong national squad. The
diums worth about 10 trillion rupiah (US$843.9 mil- association has revealed its Vision 2020 training pro-
lion) in Bogor, Bandung, Gianyar (Bali), Jakarta, gramme, which, according to PSSI’s blueprint, aims
Makassar (South Sulawesi), Medan (North Sumatra), at creating a profit-oriented soccer industry, improv-
Surabaya, Tangerang and Yogyakarta with a capacity ing international achievement and hosting the 2022
of between 40,000 and 50,000 each. These stadiums World Cup. To improve international achievement,
will compliment the existing three stadiums; Bung PSSI must first improve its world ranking, which now
Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Sriwijaya Stadium in Pale- stands at 144th. Improving the quality of local com-
mbang (South Sumatra) and Palaran Stadium in Sa- petitions—often marred with violent supporters’ brawls
marinda (East Kalimantan)—all have 80,000 seats.                     and official disputes—is another thing to fix.
   However, Indonesia must compete with the other bid-                  With 30,000 professional and amateur soccer players
ding countries of Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands nationwide joining 2,000 clubs, Indonesia has the poten-
(as co-hosts), England, Japan, Russia, Mexico, the United tial to emerge as a dark horse on the international soccer
States, South Korea, Qatar and Spain and Portugal (as co- stage, which has been dominated by European and South
hosts). To host such a major event, Indonesia has a lot of American countries. Soccer was one of eight priority
homework to do. Infrastructure—not only stadiums but sports in the school curriculum during Sukarno’s era. His
also other facilities like hotels, airports, transportation landmark and his vision are his legacy that we Indone-
and telecommunications—is just one of them.                          sians need to pursue to make our dream comes true.
   Despite the rosy picture, there are important issues to              And who knows, eventually we can proudly say: “Wel-
address.                                                             come to the 2022 World Cup in Indonesia.”

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                         7

From Inflation
To Recession
Asian governments reverse gear,
scramble to fight recession

BANGKOK                                   ber with the collapse of US invest-
                                          ment bank Lehman Brothers, have
NOEL ADLAI O. VELASCO                     spilt into the real economies of Asia
Asia News Network                         with almost all countries projecting

                                          lower growths this year.                 Japan
           arely eight months ago,           Weak exports have already pushed

           Asian governments were         Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore               n January, Japan’s parliament
           too preoccupied with curb-     into recession. Other Asian countries        passed a 4.8 trillion yen (US$52.2
           ing double-digit inflation     like Taiwan and South Korea are tee-         billion) stimulus plan that includes
           as oil and commodity pric-     tering on the brink of recession.        a cash payout of 12,000 yen (US$133)
es surged to unprecedented levels            Experts warn the current global fi-   per Japanese taxpayer.
never seen in decades.                    nancial turmoil may take a bigger toll      Japan is considering additional
  Central banks across Asia had to        on emerging Asia than the 1997-1998      measures to shore up the economy
implement a series of interest rates      regional crisis, despite the region’s    with fresh spending likely to top 10 tril-
hikes to rein in inflation.               enhanced financial muscle.               lion yen ($109 billion).
  Now, almost eight months later,            Economic growth in Asia has been         Japan’s economy shrank by 12.7 per
Asia’s economies are fighting a differ-   severely affected by the global col-     cent in the fourth quarter, the steepest
ent kind of battle: recession.            lapse in demand for goods as a result    drop in 35 years amid an unprecedent-
  In a bid to stimulate their econ-       of the present crisis.                   ed collapse in exports and production
omies, Asian central banks have              Asian exports have plunged at dou-    in the world’s second-biggest economy.
been cutting key interest rates with      ble-digit rates in the past month as a      The drop in Japan’s GDP, in the Oc-
some rates already reaching zero          result of weaker European and Amer-      tober-December period, far outpaces
levels, a sharp reversal from the         ican consumer spending. Exports ac-      declines of 3.8 per cent in the US and
tight monetary policies they adopt-       count for about 32 percent of Asia’s     1.2 per cent in the Euro zone.
ed just months ago.                       GDP, according to the World Bank.           Japan’s economy minister Kaoru
  With exports plunging and millions         The sharp drop underscores the        Yosano says Japan now faces “the worst
of workers losing their jobs, govern-     vulnerability of Asia’s export-driven    economic crisis” in the postwar era.
ments across Asia and around the          economies during global downturns           Japan’s economy has now contracted
world are rushing to come up with         and points toward more cuts in jobs,     for three straight quarters. Compared
economic stimulus packages to shore       production and profits in the coming     to the third quarter, GDP fell 3.3 per
up their faltering economies, stimu-      months.                                  cent. If that rate continued for a full
late growth and avoid slipping into          To counter the global slowdown,       year, the economy would contract 12.7
recession.                                the International Monetary Fund has      per cent.
  The effects of the global financial     urged governments to “stimulate             For 2008, Japan’s GDP shrank 0.7
crisis, which intensified last Septem-    their economies”.                        per cent—the first decline in nine years.

8                                                                                    FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                                                                                LIU J IN/AFP
                                                                                                                 It also plans to subsidise 12 per cent
                                                                                                               of the first $2,500 of each employee’s
                                                                                                               monthly wages, hike cash handouts to
                                                                                                               low-income workers by 50 per cent,
                                                                                                               and increase public sector hiring.

                                                                                                               South Korea

                                                                                                                      outh Korea’s economy is slipping
                                                                                                                      into recession with a sharp fall in
                                                                                                                      exports and domestic consump-
                                                                                                               tion amid a global economic downturn.
                                                                                                                  Exports in January plunged by a
                                                                                                               record 32.8 per cent from a year ago to
                                                                                                               $21.7 billion, sending the trade balance
                                                                                                               swinging to a deficit of $2.97 billion.
                                                                                                                  Korea’s US$970 billion economy
                                                                                                               grew 2.5 per cent in 2008, slowing from
                                                                                                               a 5 per cent expansion a year earlier.
                                                                                                               Falling exports and wobbly financial
                                                                                                               markets have taken the steam out of
                                                                                                               Asia’s fourth-largest economy, Korean
                                                                                                               officials said.
                                                                                                                  “The economic downturn is sharper
                                                                                                               than what we had predicted in mid-
BURGEONING UNEMPLOYMENT: Job seekers crowd booths at a job fair in Beijing. One of the                         December, as exports, corporate profits,
Chinese government’s main worries amid the global crisis is the impact the tougher conditions                  household income and domestic
will have on unemployment. About 20 million have already lost their jobs in the crisis,
according to central government data.                                                                          spending all are going downhill under
                                                                                                               the impact of the worldwide recession,”
                                                                                                               said Choi Choon-shin, an official at the
   Japan’s exports plummeted a record            quarter.                                                      Bank of Korea.
13.9 per cent in the fourth quarter from            “Our key objective in this package is                         In the fourth quarter, the economy
the third quarter.                               to help Singaporeans keep their jobs,”                        contracted 5.6 per cent, its worst per-
   The IMF predicts Japan’s economy              finance minister Tharman Shanmuga-                            formance since the Asian financial cri-
will shrink 2.6 per cent in 2009, out-           ratnam said. “We have to expect many                          sis 11 years ago.
pacing the 2 per cent overall decline it         more jobs to be at risk this year.”                              The government, aiming for a 3 per
expects for advanced economies.                     The number of workers who lost                             cent growth in 2009, has allocated
   Due to weak global demand, Toyota             their jobs last year soared to about                          about 140 trillion won (US$102 billion),
Motor Corp, Toshiba Corp. and Hi-                16,000, a five-year high.                                     or 15 per cent of GDP, in liquidity injec-
tachi Ltd have fired thousands of work-             Singapore’s economy grew by 1.2 per                        tions, tax cuts and stimulus packages.
ers. The firings have intensified in the         cent in 2008 as compared to a 7.7 per                            Incoming finance minister Yoon Je-
last two weeks, with Nissan Motor Co.,           cent growth in 2007.                                          ung-hyun told lawmakers the govern-
NEC Corp and Panasonic Corp. an-                    Singapore has slashed its 2009                             ment would revise the official 2009
nouncing a combined 55,000 job cuts.             growth forecast, saying the economy                           growth target of three per cent set in
                                                 could shrink as much as five per cent as                      December as fears grow that the coun-
Singapore                                        global demand for the country’s exports                       try’s GDP may contract this year.
                                                 collapses.                                                       The IMF predicted the Korean econ-

       ingapore’s government has un-                “Singapore’s GDP growth is likely to be                    omy would shrink 4 per cent in 2009.
       veiled a multi-billion-dollar plan        -5 to -2 per cent in 2009 lower than the                      —LEE SuN-yOuNG/THE KOREA HERALD
       to boost spending and cut taxes           -2 to one per cent growth range,” Singa-
in a bid to ease the worst recession in          pore’s trade and industry ministry said.                      Taiwan
the city-state’s history.                           The ruling People’s Action Party is

   It also lowered corporate taxes, subsi-       hoping the stimulus package’s array of                               aiwan’s economy is projected to
dised wages, guaranteed bank loans and           tax cuts and rebates will put cash in the                            grow by only 2.12 per cent in
spent more on infrastructure as part of          pockets of consumers and resuscitate                                 2009 from an expected seven-
the $20.5 billion (US$13.6 billion)              domestic demand.                                              year low of 1.87 per cent in 2008.
stimulus package.                                   The government will spend S$5.1                               Taiwan’s final GDP figures for
   Singapore slipped into recession in           billion to help companies avoid layoffs,                      2008 were to be released officially on
the fourth quarter with real GDP con-            highlighted by a cut of the maximum                           February 19.
tracting by 3.7 per cent, following a de-        corporate tax rate to 17 per cent from 18                        The economy was forecast to con-
cline of 0.2 per cent in the preceding           per cent.                                                     tract 1.73 per cent in the fourth quarter

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                                        9

                                                                         ROMEO G ACAD/AFP
of 2008 from the same period a year         no less than 20 trillion
ago and another 0.31 per cent in the        yuan.
first quarter of 2009, putting Taiwan’s        China’s economic
economy in official recession before ex-    growth has been slow-
panding in the second, third and fourth     ing for five consecutive
quarters at 1.05 per cent, 3.79 per cent    quarters. It dipped to 9
and 3.9 per cent, respectively.             per cent in the third
   Many think tanks and economic re-        quarter of 2008, the
search institutes are less optimistic       first growth rate below
about the prospects of Taiwan’s econo-      double digits in five
my, with many predicting near-zero          years.
growth rate for 2009.                          Zhou Xiaochuan, the
   Both Polaris Research Institute and      central bank governor,
the Academia Sinica put the 2009 GDP        said the economy could
growth at less than 0.6 per cent while      slow down further—
the Taiwan Institute of Economic Re-        from 9.9 per cent in the
search predicted a 0.89 per cent expan-     first three quarters of
sion. The Chung-Hwa Institution for         2008 to between 8 and
Economic Research gave a more opti-         9 per cent in 2009.
mistic growth rate of 1.24 per cent.           China reported an
   These estimates pale in comparison       unexpectedly sharp
with the forecast published by CLSA         17.5 per cent drop in
Asia-Pacific Markets, which predicted       January exports, the
Taiwan’s GDP could possibly decline         steepest decline since
by as much as 11 per cent this year.        records began in 1993.
   Total exports, equivalent to about          Due to weak demand
three-quarters of Taiwan’s entire econ-     for exports, several
omy, tumbled by a record 42 per cent        companies have closed
in December compared to the same            shop in China, render-
month in 2007.                              ing millions of workers
   To boost domestic retail spending,       jobless.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s administra-           The government al-
tion has issued NT$85.7 billion             located 100 billion JOB CUTS: Government employees attempt to march to the pres-
                                                                       idential palace in Manila February 13 to protest planned job cuts in
(US$2.5 billion) worth of shopping          yuan for investment in several government agencies.
vouchers to encourage consumers to          the fourth quarter of
spend. Each of the island’s 23 million      2008 and 20 billion yuan for recon- time in seven years. Industrial produc-
citizens, as well as foreign spouses, re-   struction projects this year. These are tion, which was among the main driv-
ceived NT$3,600 (US$105) worth of           expected to trigger an overall invest- ers of the economy, fell 0.4 per cent.
shopping vouchers.The government            ment of up to 400 billion yuan.                The rupee fell perilously close to 50 to
expects this programme alone to add            China’s year-on-year GDP growth a dollar in November, an all-time low.
0.6 per cent to this year’s GDP.            weakened to 9 per cent for 2008 from And, as per the government’s own ad-
   The government also announced            13 per cent in 2007.                           mission, some 65,000 jobs were lost
earlier an additional NT$200 billion           Analysts widely believed that the first between August and October.
on top of the current NT$500 billion        and second quarter of this year would            Two key sectors, agriculture and in-
stimulus package aimed at creating          be the worst times for the Chinese dustry, were affected by the global eco-
150,000 new jobs in 2009 to combat          economy, which is then predicted to nomic slowdown. This will have a seri-
Taiwan’s rising unemployment rate,          gain strength from the third quarter.          ous effect on India’s overall growth,
which climbed in December to its high-                                                     says the National Council of Applied
est level since 2003.                       India                                          Economics Research, an economic
—THE CHINA POST                                                                            think-tank.

                                                ndia’s economy began 2008 in                 India has unveiled a 300-billion ru-
China                                           robust fashion but ended on a pee (US$6 billion) package to bail out
                                                note of mixed sentiment with the corporate sector. It stepped up

      he Chinese government has an-         the global meltdown casting an in- public expenditures and gave various
      nounced a 4 trillion-yuan             evitable shadow.                               tax concessions to industry to combat
      (US$586 billion) fiscal stimulus         New Delhi has lowered its eco- economic slowdown.
package to spur domestic demand and         nomic growth target for the current              The government expects the econo-
boost the slowing economy until 2010.       fiscal year (April 2008-March 2009) my to remain relatively weak in the
  All provincial and municipal govern-      to 6.8 per cent from the previous first quarter and to show strong recov-
ments have also come up with their          7.7 per cent.                                  ery in the second half of the fiscal year.
own stimulus packages, amounting to            Exports fell in October for the first —RC RAjAMANI/THE STATESMAN

10                                                                                             FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
Thailand                                    ecutive director Shamsuddin Bardan               Since the crisis started taking its toll
                                            said more than 10,000 Malaysians had          in October, 19,443 workers have lost

      ike much of export-dependent          lost their jobs since January 1.              jobs in the Philippines and 4,042 over-
      Asia, Thailand is suffering from a       He said more were expected to lose         seas. Most of the job cuts were in the
      collapse in demand from the           their jobs in the days ahead as compa-        electronics sector, which has suffered
United States and Europe—the top            nies, particularly in the manufacturing       from plunging global demand.
buyers of Asian goods—as they slip          sector, struggled to stay afloat.                Labour secretary Marianito Roque
deeper into recession.                         Shamsuddin said the economic               warned that up to 60,000 Filipinos
   Thailand’s exports fell 15.7 per cent    downturn this time was much worse             could lose their jobs this year, mainly in
in December from a year earlier, after a    than the one in 1997 because it was           the electronics and garments indus-
17.7 per cent drop in November.             more widespread globally.                     tries.
   Bank of Thailand (BOT) deputy gov-          Malaysia has set an earlier target of a       To pump prime the economy and
ernor Atchana Waiquamdee believes           3.5 per cent growth this year but is like-    generate three million jobs by yearend,
the Kingdom will experience a quar-         ly to revise the target downwards due to      the Philippine government plans a
terly contraction but not a recession       the continuing uncertain outlook.             330-billion-peso (US$6.9 billion) eco-
like other countries.                          Several economists and government          nomic stimulus package.
   She also believes this year’s economy    officials said the worse-than-expected           The government has also set up a
will even show continued growth, al-        trade figures and slumping industrial         1-billion-peso livelihood fund for over-
beit at a very slow pace.                   production and export figures indicate        seas Filipino workers who could lose
   The BOT has revised the economic         the government will have little choice        their jobs. The fund could be used to
growth target this year to 0-2 per cent,    but to hope for growth to be between 1        provide loans for returning workers
the lowest since 1988, citing the impact    per cent and 2 per cent.                      who want to acquire new skills, under-
of the global credit crisis on exports.        In the last three months of 2008, 1.5      go retraining or start a business.
   BOT’s assistant governor Duangma-        million lost their jobs as economic out-      —NOEL ADLAI O. VELASCO/PHILIPPINE
nee Vongpradhip projected the country       put during October, November and              DAILy INquIRER
could contract for three consecutive        December shrank by 6 per cent com-
quarters—beginning last year’s fourth       pared with the same period in 2007.           Indonesia

   “Thai economic growth could be           The philippines                                   ndonesia has set aside a 71.3 trillion
lower than zero per cent but there is a                                                       rupiah (US$6.31 billion) stimulus

very low probability of 5.5 per cent,”                eighed down by weak condi-              fund to boost the economy amid the
said Duangmanee.                                      tions in major economies, the       crisis.
   The new Abhisit Vejjajiva govern-                  Philippine economy grew by             The package includes the 27.5 tril-
ment has introduced two series of eco-      4.6 per cent in 2008, down from a 30-         lion rupiah stimulus previously an-
nomic stimulus packages, with 25            year high of 7.2 per cent the previous        nounced.
measures, aimed to restore confidence,      year, but slightly higher than expecta-          The new stimulus revolves around
boost income, improve quality of life       tions.The government had expected the         tax savings worth 43 trillion rupiah,
and security.                               financial crisis to depress 2008 growth       waived taxes and import duties for
   The government’s first package with      to 4.2-4.5 per cent.                          businesses and certain households,
18 measures has earmarked 116.7 bil-           In 2009, the government has set a          worth 13.3 trillion rupiah, as well as
lion baht (US$3.3 billion) for social       3.7 to 4.7 percent economic growth            subsidies and government spending of
welfare and infrastructure. It is provid-   target.                                       15 trillion rupiah for businesses.
ing 2,000 baht for each Thai earning           But the IMF expects the country’s             Finance minister Sri Mulyani Indra-
less than 15,000 baht. The seven meas-      GDP to slow down further to 2.25 per          wati said the stimulus was aimed at in-
ures in the second package are aimed at     cent this year.                               creasing people’s purchasing power, the
bolstering the property sector, small          It warned that the global economic         competitiveness and sturdiness of busi-
and medium-sized enterprises, venture       turmoil can affect the Philippines more       nesses facing the economic downturn,
capital and debt restructuring.             severely this year, projecting that weak-     and labour-intensive infrastructure
—ANOMA SRISuKKASEM/THE NATION               ening demand in foreign markets and           spending.
(THAILAND)                                  job cuts abroad might force foreign ex-          The incentives include paying the in-
                                            change remittances and export earn-           come taxes of employees—now paid by
malaysia                                    ings to dwindle.                              businesses, subsidising diesel, and in-
                                               Exports plunged 40.4 per cent in De-       creasing infrastructure spending.

      he Malaysian government has re-       cember, its steepest fall in more than           Indonesia’s economy expanded 6.2
      leased a 7 billion ringgit (US$1.9    two decades, the government’s statis-         per cent in 2008, slowing slightly from
      billion) stimulus package to          tics office said. Shipments of electron-      6.3 per cent in 2007.
stimulate the faltering economy.            ics, the country’s main export, dropped          The economy grew 5.2 per cent in the
   Deputy prime minister Datuk Seri         47.6 per cent during the period.              fourth quarter of 2008, the slowest in
Najib Tun Razak has promised a sec-            Total exports in 2008 fell 2.86 per cent   two years.
ond stimulus package.                       from 2007, reflecting the effects of the         But the government has warned that
   Malaysian Employers Federation ex-       global financial crisis.                      2009, an election year, could be tougher,

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                   11
with growth seen at between 4.5 and 5       spending for infrastructure, housing,         achieve a GDP growth rate of around
per cent—below the 6 percent pace that      schools and hospitals, as well as tax cuts.   6.0 per cent in fiscal year 2009, accord-
analysts say is needed to prevent unem-     —Vuõ HAø PHöôNG, VIEäT THAéNG AND             ing to the central bank.
ployment from rising among Indone-          THu HAø/VIET NAM NEWS                            “The continuing slowdown of global
sia’s 226 million people.                                                                 growth, especially growth in advanced
   The country is getting pummelled by      Laos                                          economies, may pose a big challenge, if
the global economic meltdown, with                                                        it persists for long, through its impact

December exports plunging 20 per                   he Lao economy grew by 7.9 per         on exports, workers’ remittances, for-
cent from a year earlier as overseas de-           cent in the 2007-08 fiscal year,       eign aid and capital inflow channels,”
mand shrinks. The decline overshad-                driven primarily by increased for-     the central bank said in its latest quar-
owed a 20 per cent rise in full-year ex-    eign investment and exports of mining         terly report.
ports from 2007.                            commodities.                                     Latest statistics tallied by The Daily
   Indonesia’s exports slid by 9.57 per        The government plans to achieve eco-       Star broadly indicate that global reces-
cent to US$8.7 billion in December,         nomic growth of 8 per cent in the 2008-       sion has cast shadows over the exports
from US$9.6 billion the previous            09 fiscal year, but many international        of several items such as shrimps, leath-
month.                                      financial institutions, including the         er and leather goods, electronics, ce-
                                            World Bank and the Asian Develop-             ramic tableware, vegetables and other
Viet Nam                                    ment Bank, believe this target is unreal-     similar products.
                                            istic due to the global financial crisis.        Bangladesh formed a task force to-

       iet Nam’s economy is in for a           Economists predict Laos will experi-       wards the end of 2008 to deal with the
       tough time this year. Foreign in-    ence economic growth of 6 to 6.5 per          impact of the financial crisis and global
       vestment is expected to slow         cent. The government has admitted             recession. But so far it has not announced
down while exports and remittances          GDP will be lower than expected, but          any stimulus package or other measures
from Vietnamese abroad are also ex-         has not yet revised its targets.              as seen in other Asian countries.
pected to fall.                                The global economic slowdown has              The country kept up export growth in
   Forecasts for this year’s growth range   mainly affected tourism, exports and          ready-made garments as it ships out low-
from as low as 4 per cent to the govern-    foreign investment in Laos.                   end products, which have relatively high
ment’s more optimistic 6.5 per cent.           The value of Lao exports reached           demand on the international market.
   Export turnover reached nearly           US$1 billion, 47 per cent of which came          The Bangladesh taka has appreciated
US$63 billion in 2008, up 29.5 per          from exports of semi-processed miner-         against many currencies such as the
cent over 2007. However, monthly ex-        als including gold and copper. Al-            euro and Australian and Canadian dol-
port turnover slowed to only US$4.2         though exports increased, Laos still has      lars, making imports from those coun-
billion in November and US$4.9 bil-         a trade deficit of about US$80 million.       tries cheaper.
lion in December compared to the usu-          Commerce minister Nam Vinhakhet,              Remittance receipts in the July-
al monthly average of more than             said the volume of exports would re-          October period of 2008 were up 36.5
US$6.5 billion.                             main unchanged but their value would          per cent, compared to the same period a
   The government has set a 13 per cent     drop this fiscal year.                        year ago. Most remittance to Bangla-
export growth target for 2009, or total        Minister to the Prime Minister’s Of-       desh comes from the Middle East.
exports of roughly US$72 billion.           fice and government secretariat chief,        —THE DAILy STAR
   The government has already intro-        Cheuang Sombounkhan, said the gov-
duced measures to protect the poor and      ernment was keeping a close watch on
the vulnerable against unemployment         business operations in Laos and would            REAL GDp GROWTH OF SELECTED
and its consequences.                       offer assistance to companies that
                                                                                             ASIAN COuNTRIES
                                                                                             In percentage
   The government is also formulating a     might need to lay off workers.
stimulus package for the finance system.       The government has also urged local            Country          2008     2009**
   It will reduce selected import tariffs   banks to offer low interest loans to se-          Japan              -0.7       -2.6
and allow selected companies to delay       lected enterprises in an effort to main-          Singapore           1.2       -5.0
paying tax for the first nine months of     tain economic growth.                             South Korea         2.5        3.0
this year.                                  —EKAPHONE PHOuTHONESy/VIENTIANE
                                                                                              Taiwan           1.87*        2.12
   It will also refund this year’s value-   TIMES
                                                                                              China               9.0        8.0
added tax paid for all materials used to
                                                                                              India               6.8        6.0
make exports. The reduction of the          Bangladesh                                        Thailand          3.6*       0-2.0
prime interest rate five times since Oc-

                                                                                              Malaysia          5.8*         3.5
tober was designed to help exporters.             angladesh achieved a real GDP
                                                                                              Philippines         4.6    3.4-4.7
   Prime Minister Nguyeãn Taán                    growth rate of 6.2 per cent in fis-
                                                                                              Indonesia           6.2    4.5-5.0
Duõng announced plans for a stimulus              cal year 2008 despite uncertain
                                                                                              Viet Nam          6.23     4.0-6.5
package in early December.                  and challenging circumstances created
   The package was to include spending of   by natural disasters and other adverse            Laos                7.9        8.0
about US$1 billion and tax exemptions.      domestic and external developments.               Bangladesh          6.2        6.0
   The package had been increased to          With a resilient trend of the real             *Preliminary estimates
almost US$6 billion. It would include       economy, Bangladesh is likely to                 **Forecast

12                                                                                          FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS

And Rice
Skewed agricultural policy has
limited millions of poor and
middle-class Indians to a diet
that leans too heavily on two
main crops, ignoring the nutritional
value of other grains
ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009        13

 BANGALORE                                   environmentalist Ashish Kothari.           are the ‘monocultures of the mind’, the
                                                But a skewed agricultural policy and    tendency towards centralised systems,
Malini Shankar                               a subsidised public distribution system    the pressures of agencies like the World
Inter Press Service                          (PDS) has limited millions of poor and     Bank and the World Trade Organisa-

                                             middle-class Indians to a diet that        tion as well as the power and influence
           ood security experts say In-      leans too heavily on wheat or rice, ig-    of agri-business,” Shiva said.
           dia must wean itself away         noring especially the nutritional value       Shiva pointed out that crops such as
           from dependence on wheat          of coarse grains, said Kothari.            corn, maize, rye, and millets do not en-
           and rice and look to the sub-        “The reason only rice and wheat are     joy subsidies that come in the form of a
           continent’s rich agro-diversi-    promoted in the PDS system is because      minimum support price to the farmer.
ty in order to address the kind of food      rice and wheat were promoted as            “Wheat and rice available through the
crisis that hit the country last year—as     chemical monocultures under the            PDS have been forcing a dietary pat-
well as longer-standing nutrition defi-      ‘Green Revolution’,” Vandana Shiva,        tern centred around these two com-
ciency issues.                               the internationally-known, India-          modities.”
   Traditionally, Indians have depend-       based food security expert told IPS.          “The production of these other cere-
ed on a vast variety of grains and cereals      “Every PDS unit should have all the     als has become so negligible and is now
such as millet, maize, corn, barley, rye     grains necessary for health and should     spread over such a vast area that it will
and lentils, as well as a variety of tem-    be procured as close to production sites   be difficult to procure and distribute
perate and tropical fruits and vegeta-       as possible,” said Shiva.                  and many consumers may not prefer
bles to keep themselves in good nutri-          “Inhibitions preventing a universal,    it,” says professor R S Deshpande, di-
tional health, according to noted            decentralised, biodiverse PDS system       rector of the Bangalore-based Institute

14                                                                                        FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                             DIBYANG S H U SARKAR /AFP
                                                                         ment of endocrinology at the premier         cent of its cropping area.
                                                                         All India Institute of Medical Sciences         “It is significant that in the cases of
                                                                         in New Delhi.                                sorghum, little millet and finger millet
                                                                            “Indian agro-biodiversity is the basis    a drop in the cultivated area to the tune
                                                                         of health and nutrition. The practice of     of 50 per cent came about during a pe-
                                                                         cultivating crops in mixtures and rota-      riod that corresponds to the processes
                                                                         tions does not just ensure ecological        of structural adjustment and globalisa-
                                                                         balance, it also ensures health and nu-      tion,” says P V Satheesh of the DDS.
                                                                         tritional balance,” Shiva asserts.              A direct reason for the slow death of
                                                                            She pointed to Baranaja, the 12-          coarse grain production is India’s agri-
                                                                         seed cropping practiced since ancient        cultural financing policy which is un-
                                                                         times where different cereals are sown       supportive or even hostile to rain-fed
                                                                         for multiple cropping complementing          crops—and most coarse grains fall un-
                                                                         agro-climatic zones. “Soil fertility is      der this category.
                                                                         continuously recharged by the use of            Coarse grain farmers have little irri-
                                                                         leguminous plants like pulses.”              gation support, have no subsidies for
                                                                            “Baranaja gives higher overall pro-       farmyard manure or other inputs. Be-
                                                                         ductivity (apart from meeting nutri-         cause they are not covered by crop in-
                                                                         tional and other needs)” according to        surance or by government support
                                                                         Kothari. “Baranaja is India’s tradition-     prices they are vulnerable to the vagar-
                                                                         al yet scientific response to monocul-       ies of the market.
                                                                         ture and the commercialisation of ag-           M S Swaminathan, one of the archi-
                                                                         riculture.”                                  tects of India’s green revolution, be-
                                                                            Another traditional practice is Na-       lieves that rehabilitating coarse grains
                                                                         vadanya which involves the packing of        — a classification of the Food and Agri-
                                                                         nine different types of cereals packaged     cultural Organisation—starts with re-
                                                                         as a wholesome food for used in differ-      naming the valuable resource as ‘nutri-
                                                                         ent preparations including in the mak-       tious grains’.
                                                                         ing of bread.                                   “The calamity of micronutrient defi-
 GRAIN POWER: An Indian labourer                                            But there are problems. “Inclusion of     ciencies and shortages can be convert-
 cleans grains during the Krishi Mela                                    all crops in the minimum support price       ed into an opportunity for agro-biodi-
 Agriculture Fair in Bangalore. Thousands
 of farmers visit this fair every November                               scheme may cripple the natural market        versity conservation by reviving the
 to gather information on enhancing                                      functioning. Therefore, it can only be       cultivation of these nutritious grains
 productivity with new improved                                          used selectively,” says Deshpande.           and enlarging the food basket,” said
 technology.                                                                Specialists like Deshpande also say       Swaminathan.
                                                                         that given the vast diversity of agro-cli-      “This calls for the revitalisation of on-
of Socio-Economic Change.                                                matic regions in India, ranging from         farm conservation traditions, of tribal
   This forced dietary change, accord-                                   the temperate to the tropical and arid       and rural families with reference to the
ing to experts, is now beginning to tell                                 desert to humid coastal, calls for an ag-    cultivation of such grains, and their in-
on the nutritional status of Indians                                     ricultural policy that is specific to each   clusion in semi-processed and proc-
with some linking it to the rising inci-                                 state or region.                             essed food,” Swaminathan added.
dence of diabetes in the population.                                        According to studies

   According to the National Family                                      carried out by the Dec-
Health Survey released in 2008, over                                     can Development So-
50 per cent of under five children in                                    ciety (DDS), a major
India are stunted as a result of nutri-                                  non-government or-
tional deficiencies. Anaemia alone af-                                   ganisation, sorghum
fects 79 per cent of children in the                                     lost 35 per cent of its
lowest economic strata and 64 per                                        cropping area (from
cent in better-off families, according                                   18.56 million hectares
to the survey.                                                           in 1964-65 to 11.75
   “Policy changes are clearly required                                  million hectares in
to make it possible for people to adopt                                  1994-95). Little millet
a healthier lifestyle. This should in-                                   lost nearly 60 per cent,
clude making healthy food available                                      finger millet (ragi) lost
at reasonable cost,” reasons Dr Am-                                      30 per cent and pearl
mini Ariachery, head of the depart-                                      millet (bajra) 16 per

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                                                15

            Law Of T
            The lese majeste issue has drawn renewed
            attention within Thailand and overseas
            following a recent spate of complaints and
            charges, which have seen some accused
            held without bail

            16                              FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
The Land

 Nirmal Ghosh
                                                                  “For some of the people who are said to be critics or ana-
                                                               lysts, if their actions had been about expressing their views
                                                               about the role of the monarchy as an institution in a demo-
 The Straits Times                                             cratic system, that’s fine, but they are not being prosecuted

                                                               for that. They are being prosecuted for untruths that they
            hailand’s harsh lese majeste law has found a de-   spread about the monarchy, or comments that violate the
            fender in Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,   law,” Abhisit said.
            who at the same time acknowledged that it             On apparent moves to undermine the monarchy, he
            should not be abused.                              said: “I think there are some people who have an interest in
               “A lot of countries have contempt of court      drawing the monarchy into this partisan or political con-
 laws, because the courts have to be neutral and respected.    flict. We intend to stop that.”
 The monarchy is a revered institution above politics and         On the role of the military—and whether it is subordi-
 conflicts and therefore has no self-defence mechanism,        nate to the civilian authority or above and separate—Ab-
 that’s why we have the law,” Abhisit said in an exclusive     hisit said: “It’s a sensitive situation not just for the military
 interview with The Straits Times.                             but for the civil service also, that they are here to serve the
   He agreed however, that the application of the law “has     country but they are not policymaking bodies.
 caused a number of problems”.                                    “When you have a government that sets clear policies and
   “Unfortunately the cases that are proceeding are not        exercises authority within the law, I think the civil service
 cases initiated during my administration; they were in the    and the military simply have to perform their duties.”
 pipeline. But I’ve already told the police chief there are       “I think since 1992, the military has stepped back. It was
 some concerns and sensitivities that he should be aware of    during the Thaksin years that they got back into politics.
 when applying the law, and he has to be more careful that     The way I intend to run my government is back to the post-
 the law is not abused or too liberally interpreted.”          1992 days,” he said.
   Abhisit’s comments came amid controversy following             Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ran
 the jailing of Australian writer Harry Nicolaides for lese    the country from 2001-2006, is now in self-exile overseas
 majeste last month, and the prosecution of a prominent        and a fugitive from Thai law.
 academic professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn who recently fled          Abhisit said he was also in favour of amending the Con-
 to Britain and released a statement attacking Thai courts     stitution, and would consult the opposition on that issue.
 as a tool of the elite and the army.                             “A reform process will take place, their (the op-
   The two cases are among a recent spate of lese majeste      position’s) voices will be heard, their role will be in-
 complaints and charges, which have seen some accused          cluded in this process.”
 held without bail. As a result, the lese majeste issue has       Thailand faces a test of credibility when it chairs the
 drawn renewed attention within Thailand and overseas,         Asean Summit later this month.
 and there are embryonic campaigns under way at home              “We want to carry out our commitments as chair of
 and abroad, to demand abolishment of the law.                 Asean, so we should have the summit, and everybody
   Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the harshest in the        knows we need a government that is strong and well pre-
 world and call for a jail term of up to 15 years for anyone   pared for the fallout of the economic crisis.
 who defames, insults or threatens the monarchy.                  “This is when the country needs stability and to
   Any person can file a lese majeste complaint, and under     move forward. I will dissolve the House when I think
 the law the complaint cannot be rejected but must be fol-     it’s appropriate.”
 lowed up by the police.                                          On whether he worries about Thaksin’s next move, he
   Media reporting on such cases is muted, partly because      said “No”.
 repeating the basis of the charge also leaves one open to        “I worry about the people of Thailand, not about his
 being accused of lese majeste.                                problems,” he said.

 ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                             17

18            FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                          China’s Little New Year
                          T E XT A N D P H OTOS BY CHINA DAILY

                                  he Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end
                                  of the series of celebrations starting from the
                                  Chinese New Year, thus, it is also known as the
                          ‘Little New Year’.
                             It is celebrated on the 15h day of the first month in
                          the lunar year of the Chinese calendar.
                             It is an occasion for family reunions and people en-
                          joy beautiful lanterns on display in parks or markets,
                          and eat Yuanxiao, small dumpling balls made of gluti-
                          nous rice flour and sweet fillings.

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                      19

 Chemistry of

 There is a scienTific
 explanaTion To everyThing,
 including falling in love

             SINGAPORE                                        “The dysfunction of the frontal cortex
                                                           could impair character judgment and blind
            Wong Mei Ling                                  you to the other person’s flaws,” said Dr
            The Straits Times                              Francis Ngui, a senior consultant psychia-

                                                           trist and medical director at Adam Road
                       hakespeare, in his famous 18th      Medical Centre.
                       sonnet, gushed over love saying:       Indeed, love can more than blind the
                       “Shall I compare thee to a          smitten. They become obsessive, losing sleep
                       summer’s day? Thou art more         over it. They cannot eat and they cannot
                       lovely and more temperate.”         stop thinking about the other person.
               Somewhat jaded by the time he penned           Sorry, poet types, there is a rational
            sonnet number 148, he lamented: “O cunning     explanation for all this.
            love! With tears thou keep’st me blind.”          Blame it partly on a drop in the brain
               Today’s scientists will concede that love   chemical called serotonin, which keeps a
            is indeed blind.                               person calm, said professor Donatella
               Had Shakespeare understood something        Marazziti of Italy’s Pisa University, in a
            about the science of love, he would have       1999 study.
            known that it was really the frontal cortex       Serotonin, which controls mood, emo-
            of his brain that was blinded while his        tions, sleep and appetite, is produced in the
            stress hormones worked overtime.               central nervous system and intestinal tract.
               Studies show that a large part of the          Being in love is stressful too. Marazziti
            frontal cortex located at the forehead—as-     found in later studies that both men and
            sociated with judgment and planning—is         women in love have considerably higher
            deactivated when one is in love.               levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which

20                                                               FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                                     Some scientists opine that            When couples find themselves
                                                  romantic love is not an emotion,      fighting all the time, they should put
                                                  but a reward system.                  down their unsolved issues and do a
                                                     American biological anthro-        ‘time out’ like going on a short trip to
                                                  pologist Helen Fisher, an expert      put them in a better mood.
                                                  on the science of human                  “When in a good mood, couples can
                                                  attraction, found that when a         communicate better, increasing their
                                                  person is in love, the ventral        chance of resolving issues,” she said.
                                                  tegmental area (VTA) located in
                                                  the middle of the brain—where
                                                  the the reward system is                ‘I love youfrom the
                                                  located— becomes very active.
                                                     Her study was published in
                                                                                          bottom of my brain’
                                                  The Journal Of Neurophysiol-
                                                  ogy in 2005.
                                                     The VTA is where the brain
                                                                                          A    latest research has shed more
                                                                                               scientific explanation to love
                                                                                          through the help of brain images,
                                                  chemical called dopamine is             hormones and genetics.
                                                  released, inducing feelings of             Bianca Acevedo of Albert Einstein
                                                  pleasure, want, craving and             College of Medicine in New York and
                                                  motivation when a person is in          his research team of this research has
                                                  love.                                   identified tiny regions in the brain
                                                                                          which form the basis of love and
                                                      Keeping love hormones               heartbreaks.
                                                   active                                    These regions are called, ventral
                                                                                          tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus
                                                      As the novelty of new love
                                                                                          accumbens, the ventral pallidum and
                                                   wears out, these hormonal rages        raphe nucleus.
                                                   also start to simmer down and             VTA was found to be the most
                                                   return to normal levels.               interesting for its teardrop shape and
                                                      “It’s like if you suffer a pain     its importance in determining
                                                   every day, over time it will no        long-lasting and deep bonding in love.
                                                   longer be that painful. It’s the       VTA lit up among newly in love people
                                                   way the body adjusts to the            and those still deeply in love even after
                                                   other person as a stimulus,” said      20 years of marriage.
is produced by the adrenal glands          associate professor Chia Sing Joo,                Scientists also studied heartbreak
located just above the kidneys.            senior consultant and head of the              and found an additional activity in the
   And if cortisol is not enough to keep   department of general surgery at Tan           nucleus accumbens region of their
the blood pressure high, another stress                                                   brains.
                                           Tock Seng Hospital.
                                                                                             They said the brain responds to love
hormone, norepinephrine, is released,         This is why Chia, who specialises           in the same way as it does to some
which increases heartbeat and the          in sexual dysfunction and subfertil-           drug addiction. So love can quite be
feeling of excitement.                     ity, said couples need to have sex to          called a romantic addiction and,
   Testosterone levels vary in men and     keep the love hormones active and              alarmingly, the addiction factor
women who are in love too. Men were        remind the body of the desire,                 seemed stronger in case of heartbreak.
found to have lower levels of the male     bonding and attachment when they                  “The brokenhearted show more
sex hormone testosterone, which            were first in love.                            evidence of what I’ll call craving…
makes them less aggressive, while             “Love alone is not enough. You must         Similar to craving the drug cocaine,”
women had higher levels of testoster-      have some spice. If there’s no love            said Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist also
one, which increases sexual drive.         making, there’s no kick,” he said.             at Einstein medical college.
   However, the real stuff of love—the        Couples should also constantly
bonding, trust and attachment—             create new activities together, like
comes from a chemical in the brain         picking up a new sport or musical
called oxytocin, otherwise known as        instrument, said associate professor
the ‘love hormone’, said Ngui.             Tsai Fen-Fang from the department of
   This is induced by touching and         psychology at the National University
hugging, and is produced mainly in         of Singapore.
the brain’s hypothalamus. Oxytocin is
then distributed to other parts of the
brain and spinal cord.
                                              “The shared participation in novel
                                           activities helps create new excitement
                                           in the relationship,” Tsai said.
                                                                                                L           o         v       e
ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                       21

 A collage of Mark
 Pesce’s followers
  on Twitter. Pesce
is one of the early
pioneers in virtual
    reality and the
     author of five
         books and
 numerous papers
   on the future of

                      The Twitter Twits
                          Blogging traffic slows while the usage
                          of Twitter and Plurk explodes
                           SINGAPORE                                    Plurk—a newer platform than Twit-
                                                                     ter—was even more popular: It attract-
                          Tan Weizhen                                ed 184 per cent more users than Twit-
                          The Straits Times                          ter last month.

                                                                        Checks done in Singapore show that
                                     logging is so last year.        netizens who used to blog incessantly
                                        Now, the latest rage         are switching to the new platforms,
                                     among netizens is the In-       known collectively as micro-blogs.
                                     ternet form of SMS, using          Undergraduate student Jerrick Lim,
                                     tools such as Twitter or        20, who used to update his blog a few
                          Plurk to give friends an instant update    times a week in the past, confesses that
                          on their lives, on subjects ranging        he now does so only twice a month.
                          from good makan places (places to             Now, he says, he “twitters and plurks
                          eat) to news events.                       like a maniac”.
                             According to research firm Hitwise,        “Blogging is getting to be a hassle. I
                          blogging traffic slowed last year,         think about and write a lengthy post,
                          while the usage of Twitter and Plurk       and then get only three comments,”
                          has exploded.                              he said.
                             The number of Singaporean users            The main attraction of micro-blog-
                          visiting and using Twitter’s site jumped   ging, say enthusiasts, is that they func-
                          602 per cent between January last year     tion as instant messaging as well as so-
                          and last month, said Hitwise, which        cial networking tools.
                          does not reveal absolute figures.             Other advantages, they say, are that

22                                                                     FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
these ‘Internet SMSes’ can reach a              The exploding popularity of ‘twitter-   Let’s Do The Twit
worldwide audience, and generate re-         ing’ or ‘plurking’, as they are known in
sponses almost instantaneously. Us-          Net parlance, in Singapore echoes a                Twitter was founded by Biz Stone, Jack
ers can also send messages without           similar trend elsewhere.                   Dorsey and Evan Williams
being tethered to a computer, unlike            In the United States, Twitter visits            They got a TechCrunch award for best
blogging.                                    jumped 343 per cent between Septem-        mobile startup
   All you need to start a micro-blog is     ber 2007 and the same month last year,        On April 22, 2008, Twitter created a version
to create an account at the Twitter          according to Nielsen Online.               for Japanese users
( or Plurk (              Last December, Israel became the               Japanese is now the second most used
website. You can then log in from your       first government to hold a press con-      language on Twitter
computer or mobile phone, or send an         ference via Twitter, taking questions              In 2008, CNN began setting up Twitter
SMS, to file a post of not more than 140     from the public about the country’s        pages for some of its anchors and reading
characters in length.                        war with Hamas.                            tweets during broadcasts
   Third-party sites like and        Perhaps the most famous ‘twitterer’             During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, eye- provide a local number to          is US President Barack Obama. As of        witnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every
send text messages to, so you pay local      February 4, the ardent fan of micro-       five seconds as the tragedy unfolded
phone rates.                                                                                   Last month, Janis Krum, a passenger of
   Just as with social                                                                  the ferries that rushed to help evacuate pas-
networks, users can                                                                     sengers at the US Airways ditched in Hudson
‘invite’ friends, both                                                                  river, took pictures of the downed plane and
here and overseas, to                                                                   sent them via TwitPic before traditional media
join their circles. Some                                                                arrived
micro-bloggers have                                                                             Last week, Australia’s county fire au-
thousands of people on                                                                  thority used Twitter to send out regular alerts
their networks, and all                                                                 and updates regarding the Victorian bushfires
can be reached in an                                                                            Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
instant.                                                                                also used his Twitter account to send out in-
                                                                                        formation on the fires, how to donate money
                                                                                        and blood, and where to seek emergency help

                                                                                        Who Twits?
                                             blogging has 231,646 ‘followers’—users           US President Barack Obama during his
                                             who have added him to their list of        campaign
                                             ‘friends’ to see his postings. Mr Obama           Israeli ministry of foreign affairs for a
                                             added another 234,840 as ‘friends’.        press conference on Hamas
                                                He used Twitter heavily during his             The website of the British Prime Minis-
                                             successful election campaign last year.    ter Gordon Brown
                                                Professor Zhang Wei Yu of the Com-            The Los Angeles Fire Department during
                                             munications and New Media pro-             the 2007 wildfires
                                             gramme at the National University of              Large businesses such as Cisco Sys-
                                             Singapore said micro-blogging is get-      tems, Jet Blue, Sun Microsystems, IBM and
   Full-time national serviceman Bren-       ting popular mostly because it is sim-     Whole Foods Market to provide product or
nan Neoh, 22, a Plurk user, said he can      ple, highly interactive and can mass-      service information
get 10 or more responses to a question       communicate messages quickly.                    NASA to break the news of the discovery
just seconds after he posts it.                 For all the popularity of Twitter       of what appeared to be water ice on Mars and
   “It’s addictive, fast and very useful.    and such, many netizens say that           other projects
And it means my friends know about,          blogging, though less popular now,                Pop culture icons and celebrities like
and can respond to, what happens in          still has a place.                         Lily Allen, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, John
my life immediately.”                           They say blogs allow for deeper dis-    Cleese, Richard Bacon, Will Carling, Alan Carr,
   He added that it is a great way to stay   cussions on more serious issues, some-     Shaquille O’Neal, John Mayer, Lupe Fiasco,
in touch with loved ones: His mother         thing that is impossible on Twitter and    Philip Schofield, Taylor Swift, Gregg ‘Opie’
reads his Plurk updates while he is in       other similar sites.                       Hughes, Chris Moyles, Justin Hawkins, Adam
camp. “We can’t bring in smart phones           Said Prof Zhang: “Blogs serve many      Ficek, Soleil Moon Frye, Ashton Kutcher and
with cameras. The only way to update         more functions than keeping friends        Demi Moore
is through SMSes to Plurk or Twitter,”       posted. Many bloggers post lengthy               Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson ad-
he said.                                     opinions...something they cannot do        vertises jobs on Twitter
                                             on Twitter.”
                                                                                        Source: Wikipedia

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                      23

                                                   CHOCO HEROES: The
                                                   protagonists in the movie
                                                   Chocolate Underground.

Outlawing Chocolates
                imagine a      TOKYO

                world where    Kumi Matsumaru
                               The Daily Yomiuri

                noT only
                                        hocolates are all around us

                chocolaTes              these days, even after Valen-
                                        tine’s Day. It is difficult, yet
                                        somehow enjoyable, to choose
                buT also all            just the right ones from
                               among the tonnes of varieties. So,
                oTher sugary   could you imagine a life in which not
                               only chocolates but also all other

                sTuff are      sugary stuff were totally banned from
                               tomorrow? And what would you do
                               under such strict laws?
                ToTally          This is the main theme of Bootleg, a
                               novel written by Alex Shearer, and the
                banned         basis of the Japanese animated film ,
                               which recently opened in Japan.
                                 In the book, first published in 2002
                               in Britain, the Good For You party
                               passes a law that bans chocolate and
                               other sweets, claiming the tasty treats
                               are harmful to your health. The

24                               FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
government steps up surveillance and         really cannot enforce a law people           chocolate recipe book to Smudger and
tracks down those who break the law.         don’t like, which is why Prohibition         Huntley. Mr Blades is a young,
Those who do not abide the Chocolate         failed.                                      nice-looking man in the comic and
Prohibition Law are sent to a reeduca-          The novel garnered readers mainly         film, but is an old, chubby guy in
tion centre to reform their diet             among 8- to 12-year-old boys in the          Bootleg, although he is depicted as a
consciousness.                               English-speaking world, according to         chocolate addict in all versions.
   Protagonists Huntley and Smudger,         Shearer.                                        A young female character also was
two chocolate-loving teenagers, fight           In Japan, a comic version by manga        added to the Japanese versions as one
to win back their freedom to indulge in      artist Aiji Yamakawa was carried in the      of three protagonists, possibly to draw
the sweet flavour. With the help of Mrs      monthly girls’ magazine Margaret,            more women into the audience, as the
Bubby, who runs a sweet shop and is          published by Shueisha Inc, in two            film appears to be for slightly older,
bitter about being obliged to sell           installments a year ago, in line with        more female viewers, while the book is
healthy but tasteless food to her            the production of the film. The comic        geared more toward boys.
customers, they launch a secret              well depicts the characters of the two          But Shearer believes the film
underground chocolate factory to             boys, cool-headed Huntley with his           conveys the sprit of his book, whose
bootleg the sweets.                          strong sense of justice and bold, active     Japanese translation has sold nearly
   But of course the factory is uncov-       Smudger with lots of ideas.                  120,000 copies. “I think the film is
ered, and their fate, along with that of        The visual portrayal of the boys in       true to the sprit in the book, fighting
chocolate itself, looks grim...              the film and the manga also seem to be       for the freedom and the right to
   The British author said he came up        faithful to images inspired by the book.     choose.
with the idea of banning chocolate           Huntley appears to be a mild-man-               “It is very interesting to see how
from the world when he saw his wife          nered and quiet-looking boy in               another culture takes the idea and
trying to make their children eat            pictures released to the media, while        adopts it in a way to appeal the
vegetables.                                  Smudger is shown in a trendy outfit          audience in the other culture,” he said.
                                                         with earrings and ear cuffs.        Shearer, who also writes film and
                                                           Still, there are some          television scripts in Britain, added that
                                                         differences between the          he did not have a hand in writing the
                                                         book, the comic and the          film, although it was suggested that he
                                                         animation.                       do so, as he does not know anything
                                                           “The animation is lots         about Japanese culture and life.
                                                         more futuristic than the            He said the idea that nobody can get
                                                         book. The machines in the        rid of your fond memories is another
                                                         animation are very interest-     theme of the book.
                                                         ing,” Shearer said, referring       “When you are a child you often
                                                         to robotlike machines used       associate a happy memory with food.
                                                         by the chocolate troops.         French writer Marcel Proust also wrote
                                                           Shearer pointed to another     in Remembrance of Things Past about
                                                         difference, Mr Blades. He is a   a memory that was triggered by a
                                                         man who runs an old              madeleine (a small cake). The same
                                                         bookstore and gives a            thing can happen with chocolate,”
                                                                                                      said Shearer, whose own
                                                                                                      favourite chocolate brand is
   “And I thought it might be a thing                                                                 Cadbury’s, the famous
like American Prohibition (the                                                                        British confectioner.
1920-33 US ban on alcohol). Then the                                                                    Shearer remembered an
two ideas came together,” Shearer told                                                                incident when some schools
The Daily Yomiuri during a recent                                                                     in Britain stopped selling
interview on the eve of the opening of                                                                snacks and banned chips to
the film.                                                                                             protect the health of children.
   “It also was a time the UK govern-                                                                 “Then, at one school, mothers
ment, when Tony Blair was in power,                                                                   came to the gate and pushed
was becoming more concerned with                                                                      the chips through the gate to
the life of people, like a nanny state. It                                                            the children,” Shearer said
was like, ‘You have to eat well, not                                                                  with a smile. “You can’t force
drink,’” he said.                                                                                     laws that people don’t like.”
   Shearer said that, through the book,                                                                 Chocolate Underground,
he wanted to express the idea that you                                                                in Japanese, is playing.

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                   25

The Last
An ethnic minority tribe in China
is holding on to its traditional
way of life... but many fear the
end of an era

                                                  BEIJING                                   About 300km away from the
                                                                                         tribe’s mountaintop settlement, a
                                                 Miao Miao                               well-furnished village was built five
                                                 China Daily                             years ago for Suo’s tribe members.

                                                                                         About 231 Ewenki people have
                                                             obody knows the age of      started a new life here.
                                                             Suo Maliya, female leader      Suo, however, intends to stay with
                                                             of an Ewenki ethnic         five or so hunters on her remote
                                                             minority tribe that lives   mountaintop, where all her ancestors
                                                             deep in the forests of      were buried, until she too dies.
                                                 Greater Hinggan Mountains, Inner           When Suo passes away it could be
                                                 Mongolia autonomous region, though      the end of an era and a traditional way
                                                 she appears to be in her 80s.           of life for the Aolu Guya Ewenki tribe.
                                                   She lives much like her ancestors     Aolu Guya is the name of the place
                                                 have done for hundreds of years. She    where Suo’s tribe settled and means
                                                 has more than 300 reindeers worth       “flourishing poplar forest”.
                                                 about 5,000 yuan (US$735) apiece,          The tribe migrated from the Lena
                                                 which makes her worth about 1.5         River Valley in Russia 300 years ago
                                                 million yuan ($219,000), the richest    and settled down in China.
                                                 and most authoritative member of her       Since Ewenki tribes people elsewhere
                                                 society.                                had already given up their nomadic

26                                                                                         FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                              doing the same now.                                “I have no idea about what Yi Su is
                                                 The 32-year-old woman is living in           talking about, the Internet, Jay Chou,
                                              a temporary shelter after the local             Jackie Chan, none of that is my
                                              government started an improvement               business,” Yi Lie responds.
                                              project of the villagers’ housing.                 Most youngsters born in the 1980s
                                                 “Our house will be transformed into          would rather stay in the cozy village and
                                              a two-storey ‘villa’,” Suo Ronghua says         their villas, rather than go back to their
                                              with a big smile. Like others in the            former primitive houses in the forest.
                                              village she uses the Internet to send              “Why should we go back to starving
                                              sample photos and negotiate with                and a poor life?” Yi Su asks.
                                              clients around the country.                        The incomes of the villagers have
                                                 Though some of the tribes people             risen over the past five years and as a
                                              have left their remote mountain home,           result attitudes have changed.
                                              they still want to retain their tradition          “The younger generation lives a
                                              of letting their reindeer roam and graze.       modern life. There’s no need to be cold
                                                                                                                    and worry about
                                HOMELAND: Tribal leader Suo                                                         medical treatment.
                                Maliya is determined to live—and                                                    It’s really dramatic
                                die—on the remote mountaintop.                                                      progress to us,” says
                                                                                                                    an old hunter A
                                                                                                                       Even so, some
                                                                                                                    people are
                                                                                                                    worried the tribe’s
                                                                                                                    culture will be
       tribesman A Rongbu
                                                                                                                    lost soon. “The
    welcomes the dramatic                                                                                           essence of pre-
 changes that progress has                                                                                          serving culture is
  brought, but continues to                                                                                         daily life. If this
    live the traditional way.                                                                                       core is lost, (the
                                                                                                                    tribe’s) culture
                                                                                                                    can only be found
                                                                                                                    in printed words
lifestyle, the Aolu Guya                                                                                            and in history
Ewenki were referred to                                                                                             displayed at a
as “China’s last hunting                                                                                            museum,” says
tribe”.                                                                                                             Nuo Min, a Daur
   The group that settled in houses five         The local government has set up five         minority musician.
years ago have adapted remarkably             hunting spots in the forest with feed              In contrast, tribes person Zhang Li
quickly to modern life.                       provided. There is also plentiful lichen, the   now works in the tourism business
   Each household has 50sqm of space          favoured food of reindeer. Villagers raising    after graduating from university. “We
and has basic furniture, cable televi-        reindeer can use these areas in turn.           really have a quite small population.
sion, a toilet, water, telephone and             Yi Lie, 29, is one of the few young-         Nobody can guarantee that our race
central heating, which are all supplied       sters left who is happy taking care of          will survive even when we chose to live
by the government. Flowers and                his reindeer in the forest.                     in the forest,” she says.
vegetation are planted in some                   His younger brother by 4 years, Yi              “Modern culture is helpful, our
courtyards.                                   Su, has a different take on life,               traditional reindeer grazing methods
   Members of the tribe sit in cane           however, and is about to become a               cannot be improved without modern
chairs in the shade with eyes closed,         cleaner. For Yi Su, his brother’s life is       techniques.
cozy and warm. Nursing homes, school          rather colourless.                                 “We should keep up with the pace of
and shops are also provided.                     “I’m not interested in those things          the times. Some traditional things
   Suo Ronghua was the pioneer trader         that Yi Lie does. I’ve heard enough             might go missing but we will strive to
of antler products in the new village,        from my grandfather about those                 hold on to distinguished aspects of our
but there are more than 10 other shops        forest stories,” he says.                       culture.”

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                       27
                          ARTS & CuLTuRE


                                                                     Heo Shi-myung
                                                                     The Korea Herald

                                                                                 he best time to taste Korean
                                                                                 wine is February. Baekseju,
                                                                                 brewed with rice harvested in
                                                                                 late fall and fermented at a
                                                                                 low temperature matures at
                                                                     the end of January or early February.
                                                                     The name baekseju, meaning 100-day
                                                                     wine, comes from the 100 days it takes
                                                                     for the liquor to become clear. The wine
                                                                     is ready in time for Korea’s biggest holi-
                                                                     day, Lunar New Year’s Day. Holiday
                                                                     get-togethers often involve some drink-
                                                                     ing, and the taste of homemade wine is
                                                                     often a highlight. The introduction of a
                                                                     liquor tax in the early 20th century for-
                                                                     bade homebrewing, and accordingly,
                                                                     homemade wine disappeared for a
                                                                     while. However, wine brewed at home is
                                                                     becoming more popular.
                                                                        The Seoul City Intangible Cultural
                                                                     Treasure Exhibition Hall (+82 2 747
                                                                     0303) is hosting an exhibition about
                                                                     samhaeju in February. The hall is at
                                                                     the edge of Bukchon Hanok Village
                                                                     near Anguk Station on Subway Line 2.
                                                                     Two of 25 master brewers showcase
                                                                     their work.
                                                                        The samhaeju master brewer is

                                                                     Gwon Hui-ja. Gwon married a de-
                                                                     scendent of a son-in-law of the king. In
                                                                     Korean society, the princess used to ac-
                                                                     company her maid-servants when she
                                                    MASTER: The      married outside of royalty and lived
                                                  samhaeju master    with her in-laws. Her maid-servants
                                               brewer Gwon Hui-ja.   often handed down royal court recipes,
                                                                     which is how Gwon’s family began to
                                                                     make samhaeju at home. Gwon inher-

                          A Taste Of
                                                                     ited the recipe from her mother-in-law.

                                                                     Samhaeju—the wine of Seoul
                                                                        The Seoul City Intangible Cultural
                                                                     Treasure Exhibition Hall displays a va-

                          Korean Wine
                                                                     riety of seasonal wines made with sam-
                                                                     haeju. ‘Seasonal wine’ refers to the
                                                                     wines designed to be consumed on spe-
                                                                     cial days such as seallal.
                                                                        Koreans used to drink green pepper
                                                                     drink on Dano (May 5 in the lunar cal-
                                                                     endar), sindoju made with new crop
                          wine-making secreTs have                   rice on Chuseok (August 15 in the lu-
                                                                     nar calendar) and chrysanthemum
                          been handed down from                      wine on Junggu (September 9 in the
                                                                     lunar calendar). These seasonal wines

                          generaTions of arisTocraTs                 are supposed to be drunk in special
                                                                     ways and carry symbolic meanings.

                          28                                           FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                                                   WINE TASTING: Baesangmyun Brewery’s
                                                                        Sansawon Gallery in Yangjae-dong.

   The seasonal wines                                                                                          turing Association, a
Gwon showcases at                                                                                              company founded
the event include                                                                                              by makgeoli manu-
dosoju (literally ‘evil                                                                                        facturing companies
spirit-expelling wine’),                                                                                       in Seoul by merging
guibalgi wine (literal-                                                                                        them into one. Mak-
ly sharp-ear wine),                                                                                            geoli, meaning
and chobaekju (Japa-                                                                                           roughly filtered
nese pepper and ori-                                                                                           wine, is also called
ental arborvitae wine).                                                                                        takju, meaning
Supposed to have the                                                                                           cloudy wine, because
power to drive away                                                                                            it is opaque. Makge-
evil spirits, chobaekju                                                                                        oli was once the
is consumed with sev-                                                                                          most popular alco-
en peppercorns and                                                                                             holic beverage in
seven pine needles                                                                                             Korea— it account-
picked from a twig                                                                                             ed for 70 per cent of
that stretches out to                                                                                          alcohol consump-
the east. Dosoju, which is said to pre-      bab. When the godubab                                        tion in the 1970s. With
vent diseases, is a herb wine that Kore-     is cooled, it is mixed with                                  the urbanisation and
ans drink on New Year’s Day after per-       malt and treaded for a                                       Westernisation, howev-
forming ancestral rites. In Korea,           while to make it as gluti-                                   er, its consumption has
seniority is extremely important and         nous as possible—the                                         fallen to 3-4 per cent
observed rigidly as an important part of     more glutinous the                                           now and beer has taken
table manners. When it comes to doso-        godubab and malt batter                                      over its place.
ju, the youngest, male or female, is the     the better the wine is.                                         Makgeoli is also re-
first to drink and the oldest the last.         The Korean Tradi-                                         ferred to as nongju (lit-
Gwibalgi wine is associated with Dae-        tional Wine Institute of-                                    erally meaning farm liq-
boreum (January 15 in the lunar calen-       fers a three-hour wine                                       uor in Korean) as it is
dar). Those who drink it early in the        brewing class for a                                          popular with farmers. It
morning are supposed to hear good            group of five or more for                                    usually has an alcohol
news and keep free from ear diseases.        60,000 won (US$41)                                           content of around 6 per-
   In this respect, Koreans drink wine       per person. Reservations                                     cent, which means that
not just for flavour or taste but for su-    are required. The fly in                                     one bowl is enough to
perstitious reasons as it is believed to     the ointment is that                                         have an effect. Farmers
bring good luck and thwart diseases.         participants cannot taste the wine they      drink makgeoli when they take a break
                                             make that day. They have to wait for at      because they say it helps them work
Wine-brewing event                           least a week for the wine to ferment.        without feeling tired. In a big city such
   In May, Namsangol Hanok Village           They can take their wine home or pick        as Seoul, makgeoli is no longer con-
hosts the ‘5,000 Years of Taste and Fla-     it up later.                                 sumed for that purpose.
vour’ festival, which includes Korean           The Bukchon Culture Centre run by            One of the places where makgeoli is
traditional winemaking and tasting.          Seoul City also offers a wine-making         sold most in Seoul is the entrance to a
The Korean Traditional Wine Institute        class led by Nam Seon-Hui (+82 10            mountain trail. Some people climb the
(+82 2 389 8611), which sponsors the         4767 6411), who has been teaching that       mountain with a bottle of makgeoli in
event, has offered visitors the opportu-     class for seven years. Located at the en-    their backpacks to drink at the summit,
nity to experience Korean traditional        trance to Bukchon Hanok Village, the         while others enjoy it served with tofu
wine-making.                                 center offers two classes a day from         when they climb down. They say there
   Korean traditional wine brewing           10am to 12nn and 2pm to 4pm in the           is nothing like makgeoli to satiate hun-
consists largely of two parts: rice malt     afternoon on Wednesdays and Thurs-           ger and thirst. According to them the
making and brewing with steamed              days from March. Those who do not            best way to appreciate makgeoli is to
rice. Malt is an essential ingredient of     participate in the class can watch and, if   first climb a mountain.
Korean traditional wine. It is made          they are lucky, taste the wine that is          The makgeoli that has the largest
with crushed wheat, which is then            made. The centre also offers a custom-       market share in Korea is Jangsu
placed in a wooden box to be treaded.        ised wine-making lesson for foreigners       makgeoli manufactured by the Seoul
Malt treading with feet is an exciting       on reservation only.                         Rice Wine Manufacturing Associa-
experience for foreigners as they often                                                   tion. If you are interested in learn-
say it is as unique as the taste of Korean   makgeoli and Insa-dong makgeoli              ing how makgeoli is made, call the
traditional wine.                              The Makgeoli festival is held every        Dobong Brewery (+82 2 999 8184)
   The rice is steamed in an earthenware     year in Insa-dong under the sponsor-         of the Seoul Rice Wine Manufactur-
steamer to make a batter called godu-        ship of the Seoul Rice Wine Manufac-         ing Association.

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                  29

                           LEGENDARY: Imperial animal
                           motifs on Xu Guo’s memorial
                           arch and its unique eight-pillar
                           construction are testament to his
                           lofty standing at the Ming court.

                      Hamlet Of The Ox
                       life-giving waTer flows Through
                      The unesco world heriTage siTe of hongcun,
                      which looks like a black-and-whiTe chinese
                      ink-wash painTing
                      30                                       FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
HONGCUN                                     channels carrying water along the sides        A short distance away is Shexian,
                                            of the houses are the ox’s intestines. All   soul of the Huizhou region and best
Ziying’s Brush                              this water flowing through the commu-        known for its memorial stone archways
The Star                                    nity naturally brings prosperity and         erected to honour individuals for vir-

                                            good fortune which perhaps explains          tues such as loyalty, filial piety, charity
               early a decade ago, a Chi-   why, even now, 900 years after its           and even chastity.
               nese wuxia (martial arts)    founding, Hongcun remains a thriving           I remember Tangyue village’s seven
               movie directed by Taiwan’s   community.                                   arches which I visited 10 years ago.
               Ang Lee took the world by       To top it off, the same year (2000)         Raised between the 15th and 19th
               storm. Crouching Tiger,      that Ang Lee’s movie won the much            centuries to honour members of the
Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong) so            coveted Oscar, Hongcun was added to          Bao family, two of them were dedicated
captured the imagination of audiences       Unesco’s list of World Cultural Herit-       to virtuous widows. According to our
and movie-makers in the West that           age sites.                                   guide, Huizhou widows of old were ex-
Hollywood awarded it the Oscar for             Some 140 old residences and clan          pected to fast for nine days in mourn-
Best Foreign Film at the 2000 Acade-        halls dating back to the Ming and Qing       ing for their husbands, a practice which
my Awards.                                  periods form the backbone of the ham-        often led to their death. But those who
   One of the most memorable mo-            let’s heritage status. Chief among these     survived and remained chaste for 30
ments of the movie was the fleeting         are the houses of salt merchants whose       years qualified for a memorial arch.
night sequence where actress Zhang          wealth paid for elaborate
Ziyi, playing a Qing dynasty official’s     carvings on the sturdy
daughter, nimbly skips over the surface     wood beams and col-
of a pond bordered by enigmatic houses      umns of the interiors.
with discoloured whitewash walls and           Judging by its sprawl-
dark roofs.                                 ing parking lot, I should
   The setting looked so much like a        have guessed what to ex-
Chinese ink-wash painting that one          pect at Hongcun. All too
could easily be forgiven for thinking it    soon, the tranquillity of
was shot on a movie set. But no, the        the village was broken by
World Heritage site of Hongcun, where       hordes of tourists and
some of the movie’s scenes were filmed,     g u i d e s w i t h m i c r o-
is exactly like that and even more pic-     phones turned to the
turesque when a soft shower ripples the     maximum. There were
tranquil lotus pond at the south gate.      so many people that it
   From Huangshan, the drive to             was impossible to cram
Hongcun takes just 50 minutes
through lovely green hills with groves                                                                  It seems Shexian used to
of fern-like bamboo, carefully tended                                                                have over a thousand memo-
fields and patches of chrysanthe-                                                                    rial archways but most were
mum with small, pale yellow flowers.                                                                 destroyed in the Cultural
   Hongcun is supposedly shaped                                                                      Revolution, leaving only
like a water buffalo or an ox at rest                                                                about 80 today.
and while much of what our guide                                                                        Arguably the most elabo-
said about a pair of trees represent-                                                                rate of these is the one con-
ing the horns passed me by, it is evi-                                                               structed in 1584 for Xu Guo;
dent the moment you set foot into                                                                    tutor to princes and prime
the hamlet that the fengshui must be                                                                 minister under three Ming
good. After all, it is backed by misty                                                               emperors, he also served in
hills to the north and looks out over a                                                              the Board of Rites.
body of water to the south.                                                                             With two pillars on each of
   At the heart of the settlement is a                                                               its four sides, Xu Guo’s loom-
small reservoir known as Moon Pond,         into the merchants’ homes or hear            ing extravagant archway is covered with
surrounded by white-walled houses           above the din.                               calligraphic inscriptions as well as a mul-
with dark grey roofs typical of the ver-      When it began to pour shortly after        titude of carved animals normally associ-
nacular ‘Huizhou’ architecture of the       our lunch at a quiet farmhouse sur-          ated with the imperial court, namely
region. And this, according to our          rounded by vegetable plots, we decided       dragons, phoenixes, cranes and deer.
guide, is where that famous scene of        to cut short our visit. Battling through        As if that wasn’t enough, 12 stone lions
Zhang Ziyi’s character fleeing over wa-     an army of umbrellas in the narrow           guard its pillars. The structure may lack
ter was filmed.                             lanes, we made our way across the lotus      grace and beauty but there can be no mis-
   It is said that the Moon Pond’s shape    pond’s slippery stone bridge and fled        taking its message—Xu Guo was the
represents the belly of the ox, while the   the over popular heritage site.              most exalted official of the Ming Empire.

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                  31

                         In Luxury,

                         bai Tram bay has iT all—mounTains,
                         ocean, breakfasT aT 3pm

                         BAI TRAM BAY                              herbs and sweet and sour fish sauce—           rounded by verdant mountains.
                                                                   were tasty treats that no traveller               The resort’s entrance offers guests a
                         My Duyen                                  should miss.                                   splendid view of the entire area,
                         Viet Nam News                                We continued our journey on the             including sandy beaches and green

                                                                   5km road leading to Bai Tram Bay in            fields.
                                  eaving the airport near the      Xuan Canh Commune about 30km                      Developed and
                                  city of Qui Nhon, we em-         from Quy Nhon. Though the road was             managed by the Amster-
                                  barked by car on National        steep and winding, it offered a glimpse        dam-based La Perla
                                  Highway 1A and went              of the area’s natural beauty and local         International Living, the
                                  southward to Bai Tram Bay        traditions.                                    resort consists of 200
                         in Phu Yen Province, a central coastal       The surrounding landscape of the            villas designed in a
                         area famed for its seductively sandy      village market, rice fields and shrimp         Vietnamese style, spread
                         beaches.                                  and green mussel farms all created a           over 90ha of land with a
                           It was early morning and the road       vivid picture of the area’s rural lifestyle.   secluded beachfront,
                         was all but deserted. The surrounding        Here, tourists can sleep overnight in       giving the place a true
                         countryside was a sparkling, lush green   a simple homestay or relax at Bai Tram         hideaway sensation.
                         and we could feel the freshness of the    Hideaway’s luxury villas, a newly                 “All of the villas were
                         ocean air.                                opened five-star resort.                       designed to ensure that
                           Before reaching Cu Mong Lagoon in          From Bai Tram Bay, the entire area          visitors enjoy the ultimate
                         Xuan Tho fishing village near the bay,    below the Cu Mong Pass, which is a             beachfront lifestyle in a

                         we decided to stop at a small roadside    gateway to the central coastal region,         tropical ambience, where
                         restaurant to stifle our hunger pains.    can be explored.                               the daily stress of modern
                           The dishes—green bean and pork             Overlooking the ocean, the resort           living can be forgotten,”
                         porridge, boiled liver and organ meats    Bai Tram Hideaway is nestled inside a          Khanh Van, marketing
                         served with banh hoi (rice noodle),       900m crescent-shaped beach sur-                manager of La Perla
                                                                                                                                                VNS P HOTOS HONG VO

                         32                                                                                         FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
                                                  the interior is equipped with modern          hill to watch the sun rise.
                                                  facilities to ensure the best comfort,”          Exploring the bay’s surroundings is
                                                  Van says.                                     an alternative for those who are more
                                                      Stephen Post, La Perla Interna-           physically active.
                                                  tional Living’s hospitality director,            In the late morning, we chose to
                                                  says the concept of Bai Tram gives            walk while other guests rode motor-
                                                  guests the opportunity “to recharge           bikes. The trekking offered us interest-
                                                  their batteries in a short time with a        ing insights into the local culture.
                                                  long-lasting effect”.                            By late afternoon, we departed by
                                                     The main building of the resort,           boat from the beach to view the sea,
                                                  which overlooks the ocean, has a              rocks and shrimp farms around the Cu
                                                  lounge, restaurant, bar and swim-             Mong Lagoon.
                                                  ming pool.                                       We were astonished to see how blue
                                                     Entering the building, guests walk         and clean the deep sea was and were
                                                  down a small path that crosses a rice         excited to spot a few local residents
                                                  field and fruit and herb garden, which        netting fish from the ocean.
                                                  are taken cared of by locals and                 Although some of the resort staff
                                                  farmers who work as resort staff.             were with us, we were still a little
                                                     The organically grown rice, vegeta-        frightened as it was the first time that
                                                  bles and herbs provide the resort’s           some of us had been offshore in a boat.
                                                  kitchen with a wealth of fresh food for          In the late afternoon, guests can opt
                                                  use in local and international dishes.        to go fishing in the lagoon while
                                                     “What you eat in Bai Tram is healthy       watching the sun set behind the
                                                  and of high quality. We use these             mountains.
                                                  ingredients in our cooking classes,”             The resort’s kitchen staff is available
                                                  Stephen says.                                 for most of the day and evening to
       NATURAL REFUGE: Surrounded                    Sascha Spiegel, the resort’s acting        prepare dishes made with freshly
       by mountains on one side and a             general manager, says guests, espe-           caught fish.
       white, sandy beach on the other,           cially children, can learn more about            Before having dinner, our group
       Bai Tram Hideaway is a truly               rural life by working in the fields and       visited a small fishing village in
       secluded vacation spot.                    garden or taking part in the cooking          Xuan Binh Commune, about a
                                                  classes held in a cottage on a rice field.    20-minute drive from Bai Tram, an
                                                     Bai Tram is famous for lobster             area famous for its seafood, particu-
                                                  fishing, and freshly caught grilled           larly snails and crabs.
                                                  lobster is a specialty of the restaurant,        Surprisingly, there were no tables at
International Living (Viet Nam), said.            Sascha says.                                  the floating restaurants in the village,
   “We focused on building an environ-               Meal times at the resort are flexible,     so we all sat down on a floor mat. It
mentally friendly resort so the villas            unlike many other hotels.                     was the freshiest seafood that I had
were built with a coconut-leaf roof and              “We have a no time limit policy,”          ever had, two-thirds the price of
clay walls, keeping it natural, though            says Stephen. “That means if you want         similar dishes in HCM City.
                                                                     to have breakfast at          After a hard, long day of touring and
                                                                     3pm, it’s not a            trekking, we opted for a facial and foot
                                                                     problem. Guests can        treatment late at night. The spa and
                                                                     choose their favourite     massage treatments at the resort were
                                                                     location to enjoy a        a stimulating but soothing end for our
                                                                     meal. It can be near       weary city souls.
                                                                     the mountain, on the
                                                                     beach, on the rice                 How to get there
                                                                     field, or in the villa,
                                                                     the restaurant or
                                                                     beside the lap pool.”
                                                                                                L   eaving Phu Cat Airport in the central
                                                                                                    coastal city of Qui Nhon, about 700km
                                                                                                from HCM City, take National Highway 1A
                                                                        Taking advantage        southward to Bai Tram Bay in Song Cau
                                                                     of all the resort has to   District, Phu Yen Province. If you are
                                                                     offer, we warmed up        staying at Bai Tram Hideaway, the resort
                                                                     in the early morning       will pre-arrange your transport by car.
                                                                     by swimming in our            For details, please call Bai Tram
                             SEAFOOD GALORE: A restaurant            villa’s private pool
                             on stilts in a fishing village near                                Hideaway Resort at Tel: 84 57 372 2561 or
                             Bai Tram Hideaway serves fresh
                                                                     while other guests         visit its website at:
                             seafood and local rice wine.            took to the beach
                                                                     after climbing up the

ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009                                                                                                         33

                                                        BANGKOK                                       Jazz, Funny Honey and When You’re Good To           daily, with 2pm matinees on Saturday
                                                        CHICAGO                                       Mama spice up the musical based on the              and Sunday
                                                                                                      1924 murder trials in Chicago, Illinois. It’s not     Where: Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre

                                                     C   hicago the musical dances into Thai-
                                                         land’s capital in performances filled with
                                                     broadway music, dance and stories of lust,
                                                                                                      too late to catch up with Roxy, Velma and the
                                                                                                      rest of the girls in the murderer’s row.
                                                                                                                                                            Tickets: 1,000 baht ((US$28) to 4,000
                                                                                                                                                          baht ($113)
                                                     love and murder. Killer tunes like All That         When: Until February 22, 7:30pm                

                                                    INTERNATIONAL YOGA FESTIVAL

                                                   T   he International Yoga Festival at the Par-
                                                       math Niketan Ashram always attracts
                                                   great yogic masters from all over the world,
                                                   who arrive by the banks of the Ganges in India
                                                   to demonstrate and explore the major tradi-
                                                   tions of yoga (hatha, raja, karma, bhakti,
                                                   mantra, laya and jnana). The ‘yoga capital of
                                                   the world’ boasts of numerous yoga schools
                                                   which offer classes from world-class yoga
                                                      The festival explores the eight limbs of
                                                   yoga and how they apply to our lives whether
                                                   we consider ourselves yoga students or not.

                                                        When: March 1 - 7
                                                        Where: Parmath Niketan Ashram

                                                    ILOILO CITY                                        BA L I
                                                    pARAW REGATTA                                      GALuNGAN

                                                   T   his is an annual sailboat race in the strait
                                                       between Guimaras Island and Iloilo City.
                                                      The beaches and shorelines that line the
                                                                                                      G    alungan, Bali’s major festival, cele-
                                                                                                           brates the triumph of virtue (Dharma)
                                                                                                      over evil (Adharma). All the Balinese gods
                                                                                                                                                            resenting goodness itself.
                                                                                                                                                               Galungan culminates with Kuningan, the
                                                                                                                                                            last and most important day of the festival,
                                                   strait are crowded with people who want to         are thought to descend to earth for the fes-          when beautifully-made offerings are given
                                                   witness the longest running sailboat race in       tivities, which centre on the mysterious              at temples to bid farewell to celestial spirits
                                                   the Philippines, which covers 36.5km.              Barong dance.                                         and ancestors for another year.
                                                                                                         Barong dancers wear a large puppet
                                                     When: March 1                                    head resembling a shaggy lion of sorts, rep-            When: March 18 to 28

                                                   34                                                                                                          FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS
HGRS_AsiaNewsAdvtv2_080807.qxp:Layout 1               8/31/07     9:29 AM      Page 1

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