Asian Insider Oct 14: Typhoon Hagibis, RCEP trade deal, political crisis in South Korea

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


In today’s bulletin: Japan deals with the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis; South Korea’s controversial justice minister steps down; the world’s largest trade deal hits a snag; and more.

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Japan is searching for survivors today after Typhoon Hagibis - one of the strongest to storms to hit in decades - left a trail of destruction. As of Monday afternoon in Japan, the typhoon, that struck on Saturday night, had left 43 dead, 16 missing and over 200 injured. Some 75,000 households are still without power and 120,000 households were experiencing water shortages. However, flights and commuter trains services halted over the weekend have resumed. The typhoon also caused severe disruption to some of the world’s key sporting events this weekend. It forced the delay of qualifiers for the Japanese F1 GP and caused three Rugby World Cup matches to be cancelled. Hagibis capped what has been a year of extreme weather in Japan.

In pictures: Typhoon Hagibis' path of destruction as it hits northern Japan after paralysing Tokyo


A growing graft scandal surrounding recently-appointed Justice Minister Cho Kuk led to the minister to resign from his post on Monday - but attention now turns to what impact that will have on President Moon Jae-in’s popularity. Mr Cho, 54, previously a senior secretary at the presidential Blue House, played an instrumental role in formulating many key policies of the Moon administration and Mr Moon had pushed for his appointment. But an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Mr Cho’s family  ultimately divided opinions, prompting a series of protests, both by those favouring and opposing the minister. Halfway into his five-year term, President Moon has seen his approval rating halved to 43 per cent.

Background: South Korean public divided: Some want President Moon Jae-in and Justice Minister out, others support them


Parties negotiating the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal are looking to wrap talks up on the world’s largest trade deal in Bangkok by the end of the year but still need to overcome some major issues. So far, fourteen of the 20 chapters in the draft agreement have been concluded but among the unresolved matters are those involving the pact’s two biggest economies - China and India. Several quarters in India oppose the deal, worried about a flood of cheap products from China and dairy imports from Australia and New Zealand. China, meanwhile, has floated the idea of a trade deal that leaves out India.

Read also: Influential group in India launches nationwide protest against RCEP free trade pact


A thriving “pretty industry” in Thailand - where young attractive women are paid for jobs as varied as handing out free samples in a supermarket to entertaining guests at parties - is coming under scrutiny after a model was found dead at the lobby of Bangkok condominium where she had been hired to work at a private party. Seven people at the party have been charged and the case caused caused a stir in the country with many now asking if more should be done to rein in parties where the models work. Our Thailand Correspondent Hathai Techakitteranun takes a closer look at the ugly side of the pretty industry.

Ugly side of Thailand's 'pretty' industry


The violence in Hong Kong once again entered uncharted territory as initially peaceful protests once again broke out into chaos over the weekend. Though the protests were smaller, the skirmishes appeared more intense. In one of the worst incidents, an officer was slashed in the neck by a protester. Police have also said that improvised remote-controlled bomb was detonated near a police car.

Top stories on Hong Kong today: 

Hong Kong police find improvised explosive device in Mong Kok, a first in months of protests

Hong Kong gears up for pro-democracy rally after latest weekend of unrest

With no end to unrest in sight, Hong Kong's economic pain deepens

Smaller protests in Hong Kong a sign that mask ban works?

An interview with the person behind the Lady Liberty statue, a 4m-tall statues that has become the unofficial mascot of protesters


Modi’s burnishes eco image: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went picking up trash on Saturday (Oct 12) from a scenic beach resort where he is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for summit talks

US out of Syria: The Pentagon said Sunday (Oct 13) US President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria - almost the entire ground force in war-torn country - amid an intensifying Turkish assault on Kurdish forces.

Chilly in tropical Bangkok: It will be an uncommonly chilly end of the year for Thailand as a cold front sweeps the region, sending temperatures tumbling. Even capital Bangkok - where temperatures in the past week have been above 30 deg C - may see temperatures drop to 15 to 17 deg C in December and January, said the Thai Meteorological Department this week.

Abominable movie gets pulled:  Vietnam has pulled the animated DreamWorks film Abominable from cinemas over a scene featuring a map which shows China's unilaterally declared "nine-dash line" in the South China Sea, state media reported on Monday (Oct 14).

That’s it for today, thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

- Jeremy