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EastAsia

Hong Kong Protests

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“What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill in June has transformed into what feels like a battle for the future of Hong Kong. Protesters are not just fighting their local government. They’re challenging one of the most powerful countries on earth: China.”  SOURCE: Vox–9 Questions about Hong Kong protests

They have been protesting for months in Hong Kong, at first about the extradition bill, but now about so much more as well.  The government has backed down, and withdrawn the hated extradition bill, and now it’s remains to be seen if the protestors will continue with their demands or will be appeased with this compromise.  China doesn’t back down very often with their citizens so this still a potentially volatile situation.

GeoEd Tags: China, East Asia, sovereignty, political, conflict.

Best Case Study for Declining Populations? South Korea

South Korea is the world’s first country to have a total fertility rate below 1 (in 2019, it dropped to 0.98).  It may not be the largest population of the 86 declining populations (114 countries have TFRs above replacement level), but it makes for an incredibly important case-study to explore emerging demographic patterns because in the coming years, it probably won’t be the only country with a TFR below 1.

Korea Pyramid
Population pyramid from the National Atlas of Korea

South Korean governments at multiple levels have implemented some pro-natalist policies (tax-benefits, cash incentives, maternity leave, paternity leave, etc.), and the TFR continues to drop.  The economic reasons for this demographic decline make it a textbook example of a highly-developed economy where raising children is very expensive in a post-industrial, overwhelmingly urban context.  However, I think more time should be spend investigating the cultural patterns that led more and more young adults to either postpone child-rearing or skip it all together. In South Korea, as in other countries, marriages are becoming more infrequent, but the social stigma associated with raising a child out of wedlock remains very strong (only 2% of births are to unwedded mothers).  Many women returning to the workforce find that child-care options are limited they struggle to find the same wages that they had before they started a family.  Even before without children though, women in South Korea are confronted with the highest gender wage gap among OECD countries.  As reported in the WSJ, “South Korea has a strong economy, fast internet—and a big gender gap.” Korean work culture expects long hours, after hours social gatherings, and other practices that make it difficult to workers, but especially women, to find a manageable balance between having a career and a family.  Many corporations are reluctant to hire/promote/mentor women that might conceivably conceive and leave the company.

Korea Fert
South Korea’s declining fertility rates (source).

Today, many Korean families see having no children as the only way to survive/improve their quality on life given the economic and cultural context within which they are operating.  The government has been pouring millions of dollars to reverse this pattern but the fertility rate continues to drop.  The video below gives an introduction to the issue.

This video provides a more in-depth look into the issue (turn on the closed captioning)

GeoEd Tags: South Korea, declining population, population, gender, labor.

Good resources to understand South Korea’s Declining population:
National Atlas of Korea: Population Projections.
QZ: South Korea’s birth rate just crashed to a new alarming low
CityLab: South Korea is trying to boost its birth rate.  It’s not working.

A slightly larger than average South Korean family

China’s hidden camps

What’s happened to the vanished Uighurs of Xinjiang?

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

A few years ago, I wrote an article for National Geographic’s education blog about Eastern Turkestan, and the policies of cultural assimilation that the China is using to more fully make this place become Xinjiang.  This BBC interactive (as well as this NY Times article) is the update to understand how extensive the human rights violations are as re-education camps/detention centers have been used in the last few years to hide away political dissidents and those practicing tradition Uyghur (Uighur) customs.  This video from the Economist highlights how the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have not been able to participate in China’s recent economic growth as fully because of governmental policies. According to U.S. State Department, the number of people forced into these camps is at least 800,000, but potentially over 2 million.        

GeoEd Tags: Central Asia, culture, China, East Asia.

Scoop.it TagsCentral Asia, culture, China, East Asia.

   

The changing face of Japan: labour shortage opens doors to immigrant workers

Japan – once one of the world’s most homogenous societies – is starting to unwind its traditional opposition to large-scale immigration

Source: www.theguardian.com

Japan is one of the closest examples of a nation-state.  And like Iceland, that is in part because the ocean historically has acted as a massive barrier to cultural diffusion and migration. Today though, modern transportation makes that barrier negligible.  Cultural attitudes have continued to not favor international immigration but their declining population has forced a change towards the end of 2018 (see any of theses five articles from Washington Post, Japanese Times, Nippon.com, the Guardian, and the Diplomat).

Japan has traditionally been one on the countries most opposed to allowing large number of migrants into their country.  The administration is still presenting themselves as tough on immigration; the 2018 policy change will allow semi-skilled workers to enter Japan for 5 years, but they cannot bring their family members with them, and they still must pass a Japanese-language exam.  These shifts are not an abandonment of policies that seek to preserve cultural homogeneity, but they are also an acknowledgement of the demographic realities and struggles of a declining population.     

Until 2018, Japanese policy only highly-skilled migrants were allowed in to Japan, with advantages given to those with Japanese ancestry.  However, these stringent migration policies coupled with Japan’s declining birth rates meant that Japan’s population was declining substantially enough to negatively impact their economy.  There were foreign workers filling in the gaps, but only 20% of those workers had functioning work visas under the old prohibitive system. This new policy is primarily aimed at replacing workers in sectors that are facing severe labor shortages, that are being classified as “semi-skilled workers.”  The law is trying to walk a fine line, trying to bring in more workers to Japan while simultaneously making it very difficult still trying to make it very tough for these workers to settle permanently in Japan. This will have a significant impact on Japanese society, and in the near future, it’s cultural institutions.   

GeoEd Tags: Japan, East Asia, declining population, migration.

Inside Hong Kong’s cage homes

Hong Kong is the most expensive housing market in the world. It has been ranked as the least affordable housing market on Earth for eight years in a row, and the price per square foot seems to be only going up. The inflated prices are forcing Hongkongers to squeeze into unconventionally small spaces that can affect their quality of life.

Source: www.youtube.com

Land scarcity is usually the main culprit behind extremely high real estate markets in the world’s most expensive housing markets.  Silicon Valley, New York City, and other urban areas that are magnets for a young, well-educated workforce have very high costs of living.  The rising property values and rents make living in a city on the rise difficult for many of the residents that aren’t a part of the economic rising tide (gentrification is just particular example).   

Hong Kong is a very peculiar example were land scarcity is only a part of the situation.  Bad land use (3.7% zoned for high density housing) policy and land management are bigger culprits.  The government essentially owns all the land in Hong Kong and leases it to developers, so developers are incentivized to drive up that rates, given that the government doesn’t want to tax the corporations for the land that they occupy.

Season 2 of Vox borders has 5 episodes about Hong Kong:

  1. How British rule shaped Hong Kong
  2. China is erasing its border with Hong Kong
  3. Feng shui shaped Hong Kong’s skyline
  4. Decline of Hong Kong’s neon glow
  5. Hong Kong’s cage homes (profiled above)

Scoop.it Tags: housingurban, spatialdensity, planning, urbanism, China.

WordPress TAGS: housing, urban, spatial, density, planning, urbanism, China.

Inside North Korea’s bubble in Japan

"Why North Korea has children’s schools in Japan. This isn’t a story about a physical border. North Koreans living in Japan experience a much less visible kind of border, one made of culture, tradition, history, and ideology. The result is a North Korean bubble in Japan whose members face fierce discrimination from Japanese society, leading the community to turn to Pyongyang for support. Now that community is being tested like never before. North Korea routinely threatens to destroy Japan with nuclear weapons, prompting a spike in Japanese nationalism. Japanese politicians are feeling increasing pressure to crack down on this North Korean bubble, creating a battleground in the most unlikely of places: schools."

Source: www.youtube.com

This episode of Vox borders offers some excellent insight into a cultural enclave that feels deeply connected with a totalitarian regime.  From the outside, this raises so many questions, but understanding the cultural, historical, political, and economic context shows how this peculiar community continues.  The entire series of Vox Borders is fantastic material, dripping with geographic content.   

Tags: North KoreaJapan, East Asiaborders, political, historical.

WordPress TAGS: North Korea, Japan, East Asia, borders, political, historical.

The Japanese art of (not) sleeping

"The Japanese don’t sleep. This is what everyone – the Japanese above all – say. I first encountered these intriguing attitudes to sleep during my first stay in Japan in the late 1980s. Daily life was hectic; people filled their schedules with work and leisure appointments, and had hardly any time to sleep. Many voiced the complaint: ‘We Japanese are crazy to work so much!’ But in these complaints one detected a sense of pride at being more diligent and therefore morally superior to the rest of humanity. Yet, at the same time, I observed countless people dozing on underground trains during my daily commute. Some even slept while standing up, and no one appeared to be at all surprised by this.

The positive image of the worker bee, who cuts back on sleep at night and frowns on sleeping late in the morning, seemed to be accompanied by an extensive tolerance of so-called ‘inemuri’ – napping on public transportation and during work meetings, classes and lectures. Women, men and children apparently had little inhibition about falling asleep when and wherever they felt like doing so."

Source: www.bbc.com

If you subscribe to Edward Hall’s Cultural Iceberg model (video), we can readily see, touch, or experience many parts of a society’s culture; what they wear, the ways the communicate, the food they eat, etc.  Beneath the surface, though, are the less obvious cultural traits that aren’t so easily observed.  These aspects of culture, such as the beliefs, values, and thought patterns of a society, are critical to understanding differing cultural traits.

 

Questions to Ponder: In this article about sleep in Japan, what elements of external culture (above the surface) are present?  What elements of internal culture (beneath the surface) are present?  How do the cultural traits beneath the surface shape the cultural traits that are above the surface?    

Scoop.it Tags: culturecultural norms, labor, JapanEast Asia.

WordPress TAGS: cultural norms, culture, labor, Japan, East Asia.

China is trying to turn itself into a country of 19 super-regions

"China’s urbanization is a marvel. The population of its cities has quintupled over the past 40 years, reaching 813m. By 2030 roughly one in five of the world’s city-dwellers will be Chinese. But this mushrooming is not without its flaws. Restraining pell-mell urbanization may sound like a good thing, but it worries the government’s economists, since bigger cities are associated with higher productivity and faster economic growth. Hence a new plan to remake the country’s map.

The idea is to foster the rise of mammoth urban clusters, anchored around giant hubs and containing dozens of smaller, but by no means small, nearby cities. The plan calls for 19 clusters in all, which would account for nine-tenths of economic activity (see map). China would, in effect, condense into a country of super-regions."

Source: www.economist.com

This type of plan would have been politically and economically unthinkable in years past, but the time-space compression (convergence) has made the distances between cities less of a barrier.  High-speed transit in the form of bullet trains link cities to other cities within the cluster more tightly together and the threshold of the functional region expands.  While some of these clusters are more aspirational, the top three (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing) are already powerful global forces. 

Scoop.it Tags: urbanregions, transportation, megacities, economic, planning, China, East Asia.

WordPress TAGS: urban, regions, transportation, megacities, economic, planning, China, East Asia.

Five ways China’s past has shaped its present

“The country is perhaps more aware of its own history than any other major society on earth. That remembering is certainly partial – events like Mao’s Cultural Revolution are still very difficult to discuss within China itself. But it is striking how many echoes of the past can be found in its present.”

Source: www.bbc.com

This is a very interesting article…one can make too much of a country’s history as a casual factors, and yet make too little of historical patterns at your own peril.  “To understand China’s approach today to trade, foreign policy or censorship, consider its history.”  This article considers a few of  China’s current policies that may seem peculiar today but that make much more sense with a longer and deeper history.  Some of the topics considered include:

  • trade
  • trouble with neighbors
  • Information flow
  • Religious freedoms
  • Technology

 

Tags: China, East Asia, historical.

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