Your Wednesday Briefing: South Korea’s New President

Good morning. We’re covering South Korea’s new president, the Philippines election fallout and Japan’s weakened yen.

During his inaugural speech on Tuesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol made promises to heal political and economic divides in South Korea and proposed an ambitious package of economic incentives to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization.

Yoon, who won by a razor-thin margin and faces a contentious Parliament, inherits a frustrated, unequal and socially divided South Korea. He acknowledged the “internal strife and discord” in his speech, urging voters to look toward more rapid growth.

But Yoon’s most urgent crisis is North Korea, which has accelerated missile tests in recent months. Experts warn that the North could resume nuclear tests this month.

Strategy: In contrast to outgoing President Moon Jae-in, who prioritized improving inter-Korean ties, Yoon’s foreign policy team has emphasized enforcing sanctions against the North. When conservatives tried the strategy in the mid-2000s, North Korea responded with some of its most serious military provocations since the end of the Korean War.

Diplomacy: Yoon pledged to fight for values like “freedom” and “liberal democracy.” Unlike Moon, he has distanced himself from China and said he would align his country more closely with Washington.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of a former dictator, clinched a landslide victory in one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent Philippines history.

On Tuesday, angry young voters who had rallied around his rival, Leni Robredo, gathered to voice their frustration with preliminary results showing her overwhelming defeat. Many raised questions about the election: Multiple observers have said they had received thousands of reports of anomalies since the vote on Monday.

Robredo, the current vice president, has yet to concede defeat, and Marcos has yet to claim victory. Robredo said her team was looking into reports of voter fraud, but opinion polls had suggested Marcos would win by a large margin.

What’s next: Marcos is expected to take office on June 30. Many of his policy proposals remain thin, and he has shunned most of the news media and avoided nearly all debates.

History: The Marcos family was driven from office and the country in 1986 over its deadly abuses and rampant corruption. Five years later, the younger Marcos and his mother were allowed to return to the Philippines. He began his rise by winning key state leadership roles, entering national politics as a senator in 2010.

Campaign: Hundreds of thousands of Robredo’s young supporters went door to door, fighting an online disinformation campaign that portrayed the violent Marcos regime as a “golden age.”

The yen has hit a 20-year low against the dollar, a dizzying drop of more than 18 percent since last September that has unnerved Japanese businesses.

At the same time, while overall inflation remains moderate, food and energy costs are rising rapidly — not as a result of increasing demand, but from market turmoil related to Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The twin forces are weighing on Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, while the nation trails others in its recovery from the pandemic. For resource-poor Japan, which is highly reliant on imported fuel and food, the drop in the yen has raised prices and spooked consumers who are used to decades of stability.

Context: Japan has long pursued stronger inflation and a weaker yen, an effort to boost its chronically weak economic growth. Now it has gotten what economists wished for — just not in the way they had hoped.

What’s next: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has brushed off suggestions that the Bank of Japan should raise interest rates. Instead, he has sought to combat rising prices with more stimulus.

Conference rooms are boring — and, experts say, ill-suited to collaborative work. The pandemic made room for a redesign: They’re getting smaller and squarer, filling with cozier furniture and new technology, and even moving outside.

If social platforms had good old days, it’s when people were still signing up to see their friends — think frumpy Facebook feeds circa 2009, not the glossy smokescreen of today’s Instagram.

That’s the premise behind BeReal. Each day, at an unpredictable time, the new app notifies its users that they have two minutes to post a picture — or two, since it takes photos with front and rear cameras at the same time.

Mostly, people do ordinary things — a funny face behind a steering wheel, a furtive picture in class. You can post late, but all your friends will be notified; you can retake, but your friends will know that, too. That’s sort of the point: Social media, without spice.

“BeReal markets its experience as a return to rawness and authenticity, but, at least to this user, it can feel more gauzy and nostalgic, like a reproduction of the experience of joining one of the dominant social networks when they all still felt like toys,” John Herrman writes in The Times.

But it’s absolutely not an anti-social-media project — it’s a commercial photo-sharing app, looking for revenue. And like all social media, it’s a game. “Though its rules are simple — post, now — the message is mixed,” John writes. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, just post whatever, it suggests, clock ticking. And then in a whisper: But don’t be a try-hard.”

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