Global Beat: Korean Olympics, Mexican Journalists, and More
February 9, 2018

Global Beat is your weekly stop for news from around the world. Join us every Friday morning for important stories you should know about.

This week, a North Korean delegation arrives in South Korea for the Olympics; Mexican journalists flee for their lives; the war in Syria intensifies; and more.

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Americas

Last year, Mexico was the most dangerous place to be a journalist, outside of war-torn Syria. Assassinations of journalists are widely reported, but lesser known are the journalists who fled for their lives and sought political asylum, now with nowhere else to go. Roughly two dozen have fled Mexico for other countries, with about 15 coming to the United States. Several were given asylum during the Obama administration, but most have remained in detention centers. A majority remain in Mexico under government protection. The Mexican federal government established a mechanism to protect them, providing those who apply with round-the-clock bodyguards, a panic button to summon law enforcement, and government safe-houses for the most extreme cases. At least 368 have sought protection through this mechanism, and about 16 are living in safe-houses.

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Central & South Asia

Experienced ISIL fighters are returning to their home countries in Central Asia, worrying governments in the region. More than 8,700 fighters have gone from Russia and former Soviet Republics in Central Asia to fight for ISIL in the Middle East, and are now returning to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and other neighboring countries. These states are also worried about ISIL cells in Afghanistan threatening their own borders. Outsiders believe that returning fighters should be treated as assets to intelligence agencies.

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China & East Asia

The North Korean delegation arrived in South Korea this week, with the Winter Olympics kicking off today. A team of skiers and skaters arrived with coaches and government officials, while the hockey players making up the North Korean part of the joint women’s hockey team arrived separately from the rest of the delegation. The seemingly calm atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula is a welcome respite from the tense stand-off over North Korean tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles the past several months. The two Koreas will be marching under one flag depicting a single Korea at the Opening Ceremony, showing a rare display of unity, though will compete separately, save for women’s hockey. The Olympics, dubbed the "Peace Olympics" by Seoul, kick off with the Opening Ceremony tonight, Friday, February 9.

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Europe & Russia

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron have both sought out cooperation with Beijing, drawing praise from China for not bringing up human rights abuses. Two new reports, one from the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin and one from the European Council on Foreign Relations, urge a degree of skepticism when working with China. While the continent has focused on thwarting Russia, analysts say China's actions to make trade deals and further cooperate with political elites may also be signs of looking to coerce and influence public opinion in Europe and the West through "sharp power" tactics.

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Middle East & North Africa

The United Nations has called for a truce in Syria, as the war between Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel groups remains intense. About 400,000 civilians have been trapped in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, since 2013. The UN and the International Committee for the Red Cross are hopeful a ceasefire or truce could allow them to deliver aid to, and possibly relocate, the trapped civilians. The calls come after a week of intense fighting in which a rebel group shot down a Russian war plane, killing the pilot, and a chlorine gas attack which is said to have been dropped by a government helicopter.

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Southeast Asia & Oceania

Exiled former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, called on India to help release political prisoners arrested by the current government in a crackdown on dissidents, including judges, and on the U.S. to curb financial transactions of the political elite. The new president, Abdulla Yameen, claimed that courts were planning a coup and declared a state of emergency. The party opposing Yameen has called it a purge. President Yameen has called on China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help him fix the crisis, while leaving out India, the U.S. and the United Nations.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has ordered former colonial power Belgium to close a consulate in southeastern city Lubumbashi and to cut flights on Brussels Airlines from seven per week to four. Congo also closed a consulate in Antwerp, a city in the north of Belgium. On January 25, DRC ordered Belgium to close its aid agency within the country. Belgium expressed concern over DRC President Joseph Kabila not stepping down at the end of his term in 2016 and over human rights and security situation in the country. A new presidential election is scheduled for December 23.

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