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Asia Undercovered #32

This week: A South Korean anniversary, Indonesia’s official results, and big news for human rights in Taiwan.

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A forgotten anniversary

The 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre is approaching (keep an eye out for a special issue then!). Meanwhile, Korea just had a less covered anniversary of its own massacre, 39 years ago in Gwangju.

There, the massacre only increased anger and led to real democratic reform years later. In China, well...you know the story. The 1980s is an important decade in Asia, one which saw great change take place across the region, the impacts of which are still being felt today.

Undercovered This week

Is your ketchup, shoes, or clothes coming from a forced labor factory in Xinjiang? It’s likely, as Gap, Adidas, and Heinz are just few of the western companies still doing business in the region (Wall Street Journal).

An interesting piece on China’s overseas rail infrastructure investment, part of the Belt and Road Initiative. In some countries, it’s going well. In others, not so much (Alvin Camba, Panda Paw Dragon Claw).

Big news from Indonesia as the country’s electricity chief has been charged with bribery, the latest sign that the country’s anti-corruption drive is impacting the natural resources sector. Something to watch closely (Mongabay).

KC Deepika reports on protests among garment workers in India, agitating for years for better salaries and benefits. This is modernization in Asia’s second largest country (The Hindu).

And lastly, Taiwan became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage – and the government proudly touted this momentous change.


Exit polls show Narendra Modi likely to win re-election. One reason could be, as Bloomberg reports, the fact that farmers who were unhappy with his rule are still planning to vote for him or his allies.

Similarly, the victory by Duterte allies in Philippines Senatorial elections earlier this month means even less checks on this power and more authoritarian style rule, says Joshua Kurlantzick in World Politics Review.

Joko Widodo has officially won in Indonesia. Now we’ll have to see how he will govern during his second term.Resty Woro Yuniar provides a sobering analysis, as many experts believe Jokowi is likely to remain the same calculating, cautious President he’s always been.

A Lighter Note: Pad Thai

When Thailand became a modern nation state, it needed, like any modern country, a national dish. Hence, the infamous Pad Thai was invented. A fascinating story of food nationalism by Bernice Chan in SCMP.

Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca's weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.