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GORRDSPOTTDDNT JanuarylFebru^ry l99a

South Korea's economic meltdoun has tamed its once-fierce citizens


CLI'B 2 Lower Albert Road, Hong Kong Telephone: 2521 1511 Fax: 2868 4092 E-mail: fcc@fcchk org

Pr€sident Keirh Richburg First Vice Presldent Diane Stonnont Second Vlce President - Karin Malmström


Corespondent Member Govemors



Local student journalists get rbe lowdown at tbe FCC

Joumalist Member Governors Ändrew Lynch, Francis Moriarry

Associate Member Govemoñ Wjlliam H. AresonJr., John CorbertJr., Mike Smith, Julian Valsb



Con uenor : Keith Rich burg

Multl-medla Commlttee Con

Le n o

Flnance &

r: Diaae


Rowøn Callick bas spent 20 years couering the

Pla¡Ílng Commlttee

Pacific and Asiét

tl i an \Y al sh and Diane Stormont

Co n u e n




Membershlp Committee Conuenor: }{vbe(t vzn Es Treas u rc r: Juliàn W alsll F& B

md Entertainment Commlttee Co-con æ no ß: Robin Lynant and Karin Malmsrrö¡¡r

Wall Comnlttee Cottuenor: Huberf van Es Freedom ofthe Press ComÍdttee Co

n ae

no r:


llncis Motiarty

FCC Gerieral Manager Robert Sanders

The Correspondent Tbe

EDITORIAI. OFFICE Paul Bayfieltl, Ediror Teleplrone: 2541 2540 F.¿x:2527 9843

trials and tribulzttions of getting to tbe temþles at Angleor

Publlcatlom Comnlttee Cotuetrcr: Andlew Lvîch Paul BayfieJd, Terry f)ucklram,'Robin Lynanr, Kees Metselaar, Hubert van Es, Stephen Vines

Opinions expressed by writers in Tbe Conesponder?/ are not necessarily those The Foreign Corespondents' Ciub.





Frorrr ttre Presiderlt




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@ 1998 The Foreign Correspon<Jents'

Cluh of Hong Kon!

Asia in crisis¡


Ctrina The wild,




À,Iedia frra-lfers The way to bring leaders to account


lfran¡el The quiet gecko and tl-re monkey who ate my camera

Asia in crisi¡; Southeast Asia's economic



The Pacific struggles with post-independence blues

One hell of a hangover in Korea's Nevedand

Tel: 257 2 9544 Fax: 2575 8600 E-rrail: asiapix@hk linkage net

ll/fe<fia fnattefs Handover covelage wins top award


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meltdown 22_




Corzer Story7998


24. FCC Faces Sandra Burton

Cover photoglaph by Kees Metselaar

Jantary/February 1998 TEE c0RRf,SP0l{Ir[NT


+#{*From Steve Knipp garding Tony Paul's rem arkably long-winded excuse for Asia Inc: It's sad when a man refuses to accept any criticism about a publication fol which Re

he was responsible. Despite having untold millions to spend, an editorial team large enough to run a small daily newspaper, and the most robust economy Asia has seen, the business

monthly was neither timely nor intriguing, and produced neither profit nor readership. And that, I must admit, takes a certain kind of talent.

From Ed Peters Steve Knipp's article - sledgehammered by an umbrageous Tony Paul-was contentiolrs, not "malicious". Steve is a freelancer yes, a faihrre, no way, And what's wrong with a good healthy discussion? It makes for a far

more interesting magazine than umpteen pictures of the same old members (seven of Mirskv in the last issue).

FromJoel McCorrnick I haven't seen a bit of wit on the letters page in a dog's age. Are you suffering from STOLICHNAYA backup? I suggest you try to perk rhe page a cail forthe town's best mixed



My opening contribution comes from something

a contribLltor sent me atthe SMCP s B ønleing \Ytorld. Quoting

one currency analyst on the recent devastation, the speaker warbled thusly: "Malaysra is an anchor, which keeps shooting itself in the foot..." Perhaps this would be better going to the Yacht Club for analysis. Right, lorget all the foregoing and justanswer me this, please. \Øhat is the name of THI



To the editor the magazine that goes with all the puncttration? Is it, Asia, Inc.? Or ts tt as its narneplate sLlggests, merely Asia


put up with being clescribed by people

like Mellor as "journalistic pygmies" who "cannot hold down decent jobs themselves" is one insult too many.

Steven Knipp ancl \Øilliam Mellor

disagree on

prefy much ever¡hing

about the magazine but they are

^s one in consistentlymispellingits name. I wonder if their e¡toneous agreement

on this not insignificant poìnt might serve as the basis for some sort of reconciliation? Tis just the reason for this sort of thing. I say let's put away the axes and grinders and try to be optimistic about the reborn magazine, whatever it's called.

From Robin Lynam I have no wish to get involved in the tiresome and protracted debate in these columns as to the merits or

otherwise of Asia Inc's editorial direction. As I neither wrote for the magazine nor ever attempted to sell it

a story I think I can claim to be reasonably impartiai. I know, however, that I am not the only nonstaff journalist member of this club who was annoyed by the use of the word "freelancer" by both Bill Melior and Tony Paul as a term to belittle and abuse. \Øe are asked by both Mellor and Paul to applaud the apparently heroic staff of Asia Inc for their professionalism in continuing to put out the


with no

because, despite all the drawbacks, we prefer that status and are prepared

to pay a price for the freedom it confers. I have spent the last 15 years

working as a freelance writer, during which time I have never wanted nor applied for a staff job. I wouldn't,

however, choose to insult fellow

plofessionals who value the security of their regular positions. As far as pygmies go, by the way, Knipp may not have much of a flÌture in basketball but the frequency with which his byline appears in local and international publications suggests that his standing with other editols is rather

better than you maliciously imply. Each to his own, but next time you commission a piece from a freelancer

without guaranteeing a date of publication or payment you might reflect a little on youl' own experiences over the past few months and the matter in a less cavalier fashion.

Editor's nore; Tltis corresponclence is nc¡w closed.


gr-rarantee of

payment. \Welcome to the dailyrealify

of being one of the freeiancers who also fill trp the pages of Asiø Inc and of

otl-rer publications without regular salaries, paid holidays, medical insnrance or, apparently , any appreciation of theirwork. To have to

JanuarylFebruary 1pp8

For the record, Mr Mellor, many

of us opel'ate as independents

Ietlers to tbe editor are always win yourself a bottle of Stolicbnaya.for an original or witty letter- but we resetae tbe rigbt to editfor clariTy orfor 11lslçans

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Enough bad omens to frighten atiger to 'Ttn. stock market willcontinue I a.op. Property prices will fall.

And our Chief Executive, Tung Cheehwa, will contintte to have problems this year because he's simply too fat. Those are my Predictions forThe

Year of the Tiger. And how can I state these forecasts with such certainty? Easy enough - I asked a fortune teller, and he told me that Hong Kong can expect continued volatility in the coming year because, you see, the territory has waY too much fire and not enough water, throwing our ying and our Yan gway out of whack. The fortune teller - actuallY a renowned feng shui exPert and astrologer trained in Shanghai - is Yeung Ki Yue. I found him (okaY, so my office assistant Alice Fung found him) on Kowloon side, in Tsim Sha Tsui, in a small apartment located just above a narrow arcade with a dry cleaners, noodle shoPs, and a toy shop where you can buY McGoGo, a gorilla in a box which bounces and sings the Macarena when you clap your hands. To be perfectly accllrate, we found our feng shui exPert in the yellow pages, because he had the biggest ad and said he spoke English. But to confirm my hunch that he was the best fortune-teller in town, he

showed me his photo album that consisted of him being interviewed during the handover by the likes of Peter Jennings, the ABC television anchorman from New York, by reporters from the BBC, and bY our own May Lee from CNN.

Let me offer a brief Primer, as explained to me by Dr Yeung. The ying and the yang are of course the essence, the mechanism on which all else is based. And we further divide the ying and Yang into five elements - fire, eafth, metal, water and wood. Are you still with me? 'S7ood conquers earth. Earth

umbreila with one hand and take notes on a flimsY notebook with a blue felt tiP Pen in a driving rainstorm? Yóur careful notes of the moving ceremony quicklY get reduce<l to a blue river that runs down your hand and eventtÌally on to your sleev

Fire, I think, conquers metal.

blue blur, so watch the footage

'W'ater conquers fire. conquers water.

carlf read a Í,h to your office

Anyway, you get the general gist. To tell someone's fortune, some

of the entire agat'n on over ceremony all

feng shui experts relY on what is called the "four pillar method". That means you take the subject's birthday

- the year, the month, the date and the time, and, voilà, You have Your four piliars. In the case of making a forecast for an entire city, it becomes

trickier, since cities don't normally have birthdays, or at least not ones that we can easilY PinPoint. But in the case of our little SPecial Administrative Region, we actually can name abnthdaY with Precision: the opening seconds ofJulY 1, 1997 ' According to our exPert, the Year 1997 belong to fire and earth. The seventh month, July, belongs to fire and fire. The date, the first, belongs


Dr Yeung carries the water

analogy further. "You saw the TV?" he asÈecl. "Much water, Big rain lt

was like the tears of the Prince

[Charles]. And on the face of Patten's daughter - many tears." gut if the departing British left in

a downpour, the omen for the

incoming Chinese sovereignwas not much better, because as our expert

has confirmed, immediately after the

handover was fire, Too much fire' "It's not balanced," he said' So

the Presence of all that excess

fire burning arotlnd exPlains whY the latter half of 1997 was so lousy'

too much fire."

(And here some of You consPiracYbuffs were thinking it was all part of some insidious British plot to spoil the glorious reunification with the motÉerland.) The stock market collapse of October, the "bird flu" scare that saw the Agriculture and

I can certainly vouch for the fact that there was too mr.tch water before the handover. Did anY of You attend the British farewell atTamar? Do you know what it's like trying to hold an

it all can be explainecl so simply by

to wood and earth. And the time belongs to wood and water.

"There was too mr-lch water before the handover," DrYeung told me. "After the handover, there was

TEE C0RRXSPOIDXI{T January/February 1998


our excess of fire, and the lack of enough water. And what of 1998, and the Year of the Tiger? Not good, says Dr Yeung. The Tiger year will be characterised by earth and wood - more earth to conquer water, and more wood to generate fire. "So 1998 for Hong Kong will be not too good," he said. That rneans the stock marketwill continue to be volatile, the property market will go down, there will be bankruptcies, and tourism will stay flat until the year 2000, Dr Yeung says. Kind of makes you not want to

get out of bed in the morning, huh?

Oh, and about our

Chief Executive, Mr Tung - he's got a few too many pounds, says ollr feng shui expert. "Tung Chee-hwa is a little fat, " says our man. "In Chinese fortunereading, his face has too muchwater." h1998, the CE faces a lot of earth that will conquer his water.

"I also predict that any chief executive in Hong Kong, if he is fat,

mainland officials left him condemned as "a prostitute for

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

will have problems," says the expert. "Look back at the history of Hong Kong." The fat ones had problems as Governor Pang, or Patten, can attest, after his boutq with the

Ilpcoming Club events February 70,1998, Tuesday, 6:30 PM

Quiz Night

Main Dining Room $gOO - Team of 6

February 73,7998 Friday,12:30PM

Club Luncheon - "Valentine"

Main Dining Room 5725 - Member #775 - Guest

February 74,1998

Valentine's Dinner

Main Dining Room S /)U per couple

February 26,7998 Thursday, 8:00 PM

Cuban Night

Main Dining Room Price - To be confirmed

March 16, L998 Monday, B:00 PM


March 24,1,998 Tuesday, 72:30 PM

Club Luncheon Speaker - To be announced

Saturday, B:00 PM

Main Dining Room Price - To be confirmed

Patrick's Night


thousand generations". As Dr Yeung said: "The skinnier the better." So there you have it in a nutshell - or a crystal ball, as the case may be. And don't forget, you heard it here first, strictly confidential, on the QT, and very hush-hush.

Main Dining Room 6125 - Member fi775 - Guest

JanuarylFebruary 1998 THE


our excess of fire, and the lack of

get out of bed in the morning, huh?

enough water. And what of 1998, and the Year of the Tiger? Not good, says Dr Yeung. The Tiger year will be characterised by earth and wood - more earth to conquer water, and more wood to generate fire. "So 1998 forHong Kong will be not too good," he said. That means the stock marketwill continue

Chief Execr-rtive, Mr Tung - he's got a few

to be volatile, the property market

will go down, there will bankruptcies, and tourism


be stay

flat until the year 2000, Dr Yeung says. Kind of makes you not want to

Oh, and about our

too many pounds, says our feng shui expert. "Tung Chee-hwa is a little fat," says our man. "In Chinese fortunereadrng,his face has too muchwater." In1.998, the CE faces a lot of earth that

will conquer his water. "I also predict that any chief executive in Hong Kong, if he is fat, will have problems," says the expert. "Look back at the history of Hong

mainland officials left him condemned as "a prostitute for

And don't forget, you heard it here first, strictly confidential, on the QT, and very hush-hush. Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Kong." The fat ones had problems as Governor Pang, or Patten, can attest, after his bouts with the

Llpcoming Club events February 70,1998, Tuesday, 6:30 PM

Qurz Night

Main Dining Room $gOO - Team of 6

February 13,7998 Fiday,72:30 PM

Club Luncheon - "Valentine"

Main Dining Room $725 - Member 9175 - Guest

February 74,7998

Valentine's Dinner

Main Dining Room $750 per couple

February 26,7998 Thursday, 8:00 PM

Cuban Night

Main Dining Room Price - To be confirmed

March 16,7998 Monday, 8:00 PM

St Patrick's

March 24,7998 Tuesday, 72:30 PM

Club Luncheon Speaker - To be announced

Saturday, 8:00 PM

Main Dining Room Price - To be confirmed



thousand generations". As DrYeung said: "The skinnier the better." So there you have it in a nutshell - or a crystal Ă?>aIl, as the case may be.

Main Dining Room fitzS - Member 6175 - Guesr

JanuarylFebruary 1998 THE cORRXSPOl{D[ilf




, ë





o a s

io'îr¡b Kornon ConJucíans walk


One hell


of alnransover

in Kotea's Nevetland Once-fier<:e citizer-rs do not e\zerr lrave thre energy fc:r a puncl-r-up, reports Andreuz Fliggins frorrr Seoul ñ II

hat something had gone rerribly wrong in Asia was clear from the extraordinary spectacie on the streets of Seoul: they were quiet. In a ciqr of

g s has for years assailed the nostrils more ritr-ralistic riots where tear

relentlessly than stench of kimchi, the air was eerily odour-free.

Choreographed battles befween

police and protesters used to enliven

even the dullest dispute in South Kore a. its

But as the country lurched into

gravest crisis since the Korean \ùØar, about the oniy echo of battles past Tf,E

were the gas masks dangling

protest parade; groups of housewives gathered to denounced the Intema_

doing the same to police. The old fir.e was missing. This was serious. NØhat had been billed as a mass lally against the IMF on the eve of a presidential election on December 1g fizzled into an afternoon social with brightly color,rred balloons insteacl of Molotov cocktails. The wor.l<i,s press l'etired empty-handed. Even students could no longet' be relied LÌpon to plovide photographers and television crews with displays of photogenic rage.

pr"rnched the air

They were roo bltsy studying, Even they worry about jobs.


from the shoulcliers of ¡ournãLsts. rùØe prowled the ciry in search of

an outburst to match p. J. O,Rourke,s account ofwhat Koreans are supposed to do when they get really agitated gnaw off their fingertips and daub slogans in blood on white ski-jackets.

\X/e searched

in vain, Disaffecteci a half-hearted

stockbrokers sraged

tional Monetary Fund; workers

C0RRXSPONIIDITT January,zFebruary 1998

but refrainecl


"The students are desPerate; we

are all desperate. It is so Painful," explained Kim Dong-gil, a former member of parliament and academic at Yonsei Universify, quiescent hotbed of militant protest. "'!(/e just don't know what is going to haPPen to Korea, to

Park, South Kol'eans opted instead for a living protest candidate, the veteran dissident Kim Dae-jung. Ir was his thild attempt to get elected. He made his first run at the Blue House ]n I97I - and got lun off the road by a tluck he says the miiitary government sent to

the nation, This is not a time for

kill him. His victory marks the first


time since South Korea declared itself independent in 7948 that power has passed peacefully to the opposition. The rr-rling establishment last stepped aside in 1967 - at glrnpoint.


Instead of taking [o the street to replay familiar rituals of fist-pumpìng protest in clouds of tear gas, most South Koreans went into shock uPon realising the full scale of the economic catastrophe. They maY have won the right to vote in real elections bltt are about to lose what manY consider the more sacrosanct right of job security. Only this can explain why opinion polls consistently show a dead dictator, Park Chung-hee, as South

Targeted at least twice for

assassination, exiled and jailed, Mr Kim now confronts an even more daunting challenge. 'When South Korea

re-learn the ABCs



forgotten in the region's boom years. "If you accept the free market and capitalism you have to accept failure and default. Christianity lives from the threat ofHell. Itkeep thereligion going. In capitalism, the threatof goingunder keeps people working and companies

innovating," he said. "In Asia there was too much optimism. There was a

view that nothing could go wrong. Now Asia is suffering the terrible hangover that follows excess." Like other journalists, I arrived in Seoul with folders bulging with afiicles about films that had supposedly paid the price of such excess and been crucified on the cross of

bankruptcy. Prominent among the martyrs was KIA, a carmaker that last October became the biggest corporate casualty of

Korea's lavou rite politicia n.

South Korea's current

Students, inspired by the

travails. It collapsed under

duplicated Scottish sheep Dolly, named him the pr,rblic figure they would most like cloned - after

debts of some US$ 10 billion. \X/ith a colleague, I


a trip to Asan Bay, site

of Kia's biggest and most modern plant, to inspect

Mother There sa and an antiJapanese warrior. I paid a visit to the Iqs

the damage. \X4-ren Britain's

car and shipbuilding

deceased despot in a v Buddhist temple on a monntain north of Seou1. o


cru mbled belore mostly Asian competition

co He has jug-ears, a crew cut () and a dark suit, and peers Kim Dae-jung bas bis u)ork cut outfor bim out from a portralt on the wall of the Hall of National tumbledlastNovemberintothelaptops Rescue and Repentance of Sin. of IMF technocrats - a national \Øorshippers gather under his gaze to pray for economic salvation. The humiliation compared to previor,rs

temple's abbot acknowledged that "sotne people who were repressed or

subjugations by China and Japan - it was only days, some say even hours,

in the 1960s and 70s, the result was boarded up buildings andweed-clotted

wasteland. Korean-style collapse looks rather different. At Kia, kept afloat by funds

from state banks, it has barely ruffled the rhythm of the day. rùØorkers still do group exercises, still sing a company song and still churn out cars much as


away ftom default. Thanks to the


Park, the no-nonsense drill sergeant of South Korea's forced march from poverty, is still solely missed by the majority: "\Øe must say that he is a

collapse of its currency, the country lost its prized ranking as the world's 11th biggest economy and slipped to 20th place alongside Argentina.

gfeat man."

The worse, though, is still to come. And with it, once the country recovers from its state of shock, will almost certainly come a fresh fog of tear gas

The mostvisible sign of anytrouble was a banner in the canteen: "Save a Grain of Rice and Help Save Kia," Never mind that it would take most of the rice in Asia to cover the firm's debts. Our escort, a former special serwices commando, invited us to admire an high-tech engine assembly plant where computers do 94 per cent of the work: "How canyou close down something as impressive as this?" Get out the gas masks. Andrew Higgins is based in Hong KongforThe Guardian of London.

sent away do not like him" but said

'ùØith escapism clearlY in the ascendant, it was only fitting that MichaelJackson shor,rld arrive in South Korea to discuss investing in afantasy theme park. He hopes to team uP with

one of the country's stumbling

industrial giants, an underwear and

leisure conglomerate. The Park's proposed name: "Neverland Asia." Unable to vote for the dead Mr

and rage. Far more wrenching than

the politicai change mandated by voters is the economic transformation scripted by the IMF.

Marc Faber, FCC member and vindicated doomsayer, says South Korea and other Asian countríes must

January¿Febnrary 1998 TEE CORRf,SP0NIIDNT


Southeast Asia's

econo ic meltdown I(eittr R.ictrbr¡rg finds tha-t is not rnuckr roonl for Lrope for Soutlreast Asia's t>eleaguered econorrries T, *n, all supposed to be over with Ithe South Korean rescue package

in place, or at least that's what


experts and analysts thought. But in

rcaIify, the New Year brought little respite from SoutheastAsia's economic

meltdown, with currencies and stock markets around the region continuing theirfree-fall, andsome newcasualties,

of a bubble bursting. The wave of

in all directions for how Asia got into

devaluations underscored poor export performance and exposed weaknesses in the largely unregulated banking and finance sector.

this mess. Some have blamedtheforeign

Companies and conglomerates were heavily indebted, and as the currencies continued spiralling downward the amount of dollar-

Singapore and Taiwan, showing

how even the so-called

"safe havens" were not immune from the


whopping 17 per cent in the first full week of trading of the New

or a belief in the superiority of socalled "Asian values" born of the

Year, because of concerted

past decade of double-digit

institutionalised selling by big US

houses now nervous of any investments in the region. Hong Kong might have, as Sir Donald

economic growth. There's probably enough blame

to go around. The financial

Tsang constantly reminds us, the

community deserves a huge share, for indiscriminately pouring money

right "fu ndamentals" : huge reselves,

to exchange

into Asia's "emerging



conditions in the individual


7998 so far -ë have shown that the territory .u.r.rot $

remain insulated from the turmoil around it.

countries, and then leading the stampede out when the investments


One local analyst, Simon Ogus,

the chief Asia economist for SBC 'ùØarburg Dillon Read, put it this way; "Do I want to have a penny anylvhere neaf any of these places? Not in the long-term. " Or as another Hong Kongbased hedge fund manager told me; "Nobody wants to go near Asia with a ten-foot barge pole." The crisis that started in Thailand last July and spread quickly through Indonesia, M alay sia,Singapore and the

Philippines, was initially the problem



without due regard to the national


But the events

has taken the lead in blaming shadowy outside forces, from

course many \Øestern analysts and opinion page writers have taken to pointing fingers atwhat is nowbeing universally derided as "Asian hubris",

that the regional crisis was spreading


Minister Mahathir Moham ad of Malay sia

majority-Moslem nation. And of

to Hong Kong, amid indications

a tight regulatory system, and

of capital while ignoring, for example, Indonesia's rampant corruption and nepotism, or the cosy relationship between banks and politicians in Thailand. Prime increasing amounts

unscrupulous currency speculators to a Jewish conspiracy against his

calamity. And ofcourse eyes soonturned

here. The stock market lost

lenders themselves, who raced in with

denominated debt grew larger. Lenders started calling in their overdue

loans. And foreign investors, the source of the capital on which the Asian miracle was built, suddenly started pulling out, sending stock markets crashing.

The story of the "Asian miracle" suddenly became the dramatic new spectacle of The Incredible Shrinking Economies. There has beenblame cast

c0RRlSPOill¡ENT JanuarylFebruary 1998

beganto look shaky. And who can blame them, with all the earlierrosy scenarios of the ratings agencies and eventhe \Øorld Bank, tellingus as lafe as last summer that the socalled "Asian miracle" seemed set to continue into the next millennium. Of all the new strictures and conditions nowbeing imposed bythe International Monetary Fund to deal with the crisis, none actually looks at the share of the blame that lies with those who lent the money to Asia in the first place. But of course the larger share of

the blame must lay with Asian leaders themselves, whose profligacy through

the decade of prosperitY led most 'S{zhy

did Thailand need to be one of the world's directly to the current crisis.

rù(/hy leading importers of luxury cars? does Kuala Lumpur need to have the world's tallest building? \XzhY do

Malaysia andlndonesia each need their

own automobile industry. (for that matter,why does Korea need six?) And does Indonesia really need 240-odd banks?

Since the crisis has struck both democracies (Thailand, Philippines)

predict a bottom to this thing." Or as Simon Ogus of SBC \Varburg put it; "In

The hard decisions will mean closing down still more banks,

all of these countries, you've just had a complete loss of confidence in the

consolidating others, and putting still others up for sale to interested foreign buyers. That will mean a complete

policy-making process. The old platitudes just aren't being bought anymofe." The way out of the mess is clear. But it's not simple. The remedy goes

beyond the "formerly wealthy" in Bangkok having to sell their jewellery and rent Gucci bags and shoes they can no longer afford to buy. It goes beyond the Indonesian government

and authoritarian countries (Indonesia,

closing down 16 ailing banks and cancelling non-essential overseas

Malaysia) alike,

travel for governmentworkers. It goes


seems hard to political dimenthe about generalise one thing that But crisis. the to sion does seem certain is thatall the affected

beyond police inManIIa boarding up the doors of moneychangers accused of "illegally" hoarding dollars.

change of culture

in a place like

Thailand, where foreign ownership of assets is still viewed suspiciously and as a hurt to nationalist pride. But there's more. Money-losingfirms from Seoul toJakarta will have to go bust, or

else look for foreign partners and investors. That will involve changing not only laws but mindsets. The bottomhasn'tyetfallen out of the Asian miracle, and so far foreign investors, as much the cause as the cure of the meltdown, are bidingtheir time until the crisis ebbs.


countries could have benefited from more transpa rency and accountability.

For example, as Thailand's banking scandal at the now-defunct Bangkok

Bank of Commerce was unfolding in mid-\996, a scandalthat presaged the financial sector disaster to come, there was very little aboutthe episode made public, and a deliberate attemptbythe

then - government to cover uP the worst aspects of the case. \X/hat is clear now is that in this

"second phase" of the economic meltdown, the main Problem is not outside investors and speculators but local firms, conglomerates and mumand-pop account holders who have lost confidence in their own governments to sofi out the mess. The region's collapsing currencies

are under pressure now not because of anyconcetted attacks bythe George Soroses of thewodd, butbecause local businessmen inJakatta and Bangkok andKuala Lumpur are moving capital out in a search fot safeLY, and that means to US dollars. "In Southeast Asia, I think the problem right now is not the confidence of foreign investors in these markets, but local investors," anAsian analyst in Singapore told me

in early


"Local investors are looking for safer havens. Most foreign investors, if theywanted to sell these markets, have

already done so," he added. "The first step towards turning these currencies

around is to convince the local investors." \Øithout that happening, he said, "It's much more difficult to

The wild, wíld East A Hong l(ong-t>ased Chrina" tra"der and old FCC rnerrrl>er, uztro refers to krirnself as tkre Pea-rl R-irzer Delta" Renaissa-nce 1\4an, kras corne across tlre strange t>ut trLte tale of À4ou Qizkrong ou Qizhong, once upon a time said to be the second-richest man in China, estimated to have a net worth of RMB 3.5 billion - almost US$500 million - has never been able to demonstraÍe any actual business transactions other than a countertrade deal with Russia for fourTupelov

Unfortunately, Mr Mou encountered a bagged manure shortage but managed


consummate the deal with the equivalent in socks and assorted

trinkets. Recently the rags to riches Mr Mou came unstuck and it is now appears


that all that held his empire together

passengeraircraft. Butitwas abeautiful uplifting story that suggested China's

w^s a natural fertiliser, packaged


economic reforms wefe on the right track.

Counter trade is a slightly murky concept that is very popular with near

according to circumstances. '!Øhile in the Sichuan provincial

capital of Chungqing in 1993, Mou gave a speech at the main university entitled, "Revitalisation of China and

bankrupt entities because it does not

the historical responsibility of

actually require the use of money, just the barter of objects of like value. For reasons of accounting and dignity a value in a hard currency is agreed upon as a matter of form only.

contempofary intellectuals". Heady stuff, but then Chungqing University

As TU-154s have huge maintenance costs and spare parts are scavengedfromeach other, theiractual value is about equal to three sacks of manure. Or in dollar terms, say, $75 millionto impress friends andrelatives.

had organised the ceremony to invest Mou as a consultant professor. To give his presence a genuine local flavour, Mou setthe 5. L. L lnitiative

in motion. The 5 in 5.1.1 represents five years; the first 1 represents RMB10 billion; and the second 1 represents US$100 million. So the 5.1.1 Initiative means: in five yeafs anilral domestic

Jantary/February 1998 TEE


more goods, n ith an inr estment ol no

sales will reach Rmb 10 billion (over a billion US dollars) and overseas sales


15 million Yuan'

His exPlanations at the time to journalists on the u'orkings of foreign "tránsaction are a little more this

reach US$100 million. And to achieve this objective Mor-l would invest Rmb 200 million.



1. "After three years of hald

The provincial authorities fell over

themselves to support the 5.1.1 Initiative and instrtlcted Chungqing


Universiry to do likewise. Department

heads and senior Professors in metallurgy, mechanical engineering,

power generation,


engineering, biomedical science, and business management were mobilised to suppolt the Proiect, The Sicbuan

Daily, mouthpiece of


not'being completed, was to barter 600,000 Pails of socks and

2. "Mou's biggest deal,


enough shoes, canned food and rhelmoses to filt 500 lrain cars' in exchange for foul Russian

provinciai party commiltee, the most powerfr-rl institution in the province of 120 million PeoPle,

chimed in with a Piece he


L64-seat TU -1'54M Passenger iets. He solcl the jets for US$75 mill ionto a Chìnese airline' with


merchants asPire to hot Pots". Perhaps a word of exPlanation about hot Pots is aPPropriate. Chungqing hot Pots are

quite deliciotts once

a prolit ol mol'e than US$25 rrrillion lor Land. Enormous sums were sPent to fill the



become accustomed to eating

the spiciest chilli PePPers on the planet. And curdled Pigs' blood. And tripe. All cooked in boiling chilli oil. Yum. As hot pots are the most PoPular food

TU-1,54M Passenger aitctaft caPItaI of China's southwest Pt'ovince of Sichuan'

in Chengdu,


It was the third Plane to



techniques. Right?

Therefore, apply modern

5tl1 eef

technology and marketing techniques and bingo: in five years domestic sales wili reach... Ohyes, the Rmb 200 million


Mou "genius con-lnan

Chungqing Spicy Hot Pot Fast Food Company. Nothing ever

of this exercise, unless Mou managed to get his hands on low-


interest funds from the same supportive

provincial authorities that were taken in by the scam.

If you are interested in reading several hundred pages of similar recently published bookcalled Mou Qizhong Genius Conman. Like most interesting books in China, ithada Print run of 5,000 copies and was Published bY a minor publisher in a remote location in this case, Inner Mongolia, stories,


good place to stafi


is a



deiivered to Sichuan Airlines

hamburgets are poPuiar is modern fast food marketing



lancled at the Shuangliu AirPort

hamburgers. The only reason

was to be invested


3. "Inlate February 1'992, a

in Sichuan they could surelY be

as popular as

outstretched palms of officials and agencies on both sides of the border, but itwas still a nice

worker at alocal glass works' Meanwhile, a fourth TU-154M was being assembled 5,000 kilometres awaY in Russia's KuYbYshev aircraft factory'

The TIJ'-I54M,a medium-sized ,-rrrr"n*., jet able Io seat 165

ãurr.ngãrt, costs less than half the lri." ãf a similal American-rnade liun.. But the four Russian ailcralt ,rlu, ,Ont" Parts are still worth more milljon)' it',nn ¿òO rniilion yuan t US$ 74

"His aircraft deal for Sichuan Air is the biggest bafier agreement in the history of Sino-Russian non-governmental trade. Trading 500 railway-car loads of Chinese canned food' textiles Mou and othel products with Russia, total The return in gtt tfr. fo.,i uircrafl

JanuarylFebruary 1!!8


value of the bartered goods from both sides amounred to RMB 313 million.

"In an arrangement with


Russian side, the aircraft makel first flew its planes to Chengdu. Mou then

sold the aircraft to the newly established SichuanAidines Company,

which until then has no bigaircraft. "'Market assembly'works for all the parties involved. The Russians sold

their aircraft and got badly needed merchandise from China. Sichuan Aidines Company put the aircraft into operation on profitable routes without having to lay out money in advance. Mou himself made tens of millions of

¡ran in profits. And some 300 Chinese factories were able to sell their products. Mou's orders, in fact, have helped a numberof factories thathave been struggling to sell their products at home. For example, in one deal he ordered 600,000 pairs of nylon socks from a maker in Hebei province. The

The way to bring leadefs to account Jou.rna-lisrrr a-cadernic and FCC rrrerrrt>er Alan I(night told the East-rüÇzest Centre Conference for Jor-rrna-lists of tkre prot>lerns facing reporters in tkre SAR J I

fiuu" just linished a stint at Radio Television Hong Kong, as a civil

serwice broadcaster. On my last shift,

I edited and ran a BBC report on the harassment of the Shanghai dissident, Bao Ge, who sought exile in the United States. Mr Bao complained of

factory had been having difficulty

continuing police harassment after the prison sentence imposed for

selling its products domestically." Nothing seems to have baffled

criticising the centraÌ government. In spite of China's developing economic

Mou, the entrepreneur. Take for


instance his company's difficulties in gaining import-export rights. By the shrewd use of government agencies, he had China Machinery Import and Export Corporation act as his agent for the import of the aircraft. For the export of the barter goods, the Beìjing International Barter Trade Corporation

such claims remain unprintable in

acted as agent. "\øe ourselves do all the work, including negotiations and

the purchasing of goods," Mou says. "For the services of agent companies,

we pay commissions."


Machinery Import and Export Corpo-

ration, for example, received mole than 5 millionyuan as commission for the aircraft deal." But the correspondents who took Mou too much at his word need not

feel so bad. His cosy relations with Chinese writers is also in danger.

the People's


Republic's state con-

the Execu-


are fre-

tive Council

Yet as a requently sult of the fobbed off, "onecountry met with Dl -two sys- ** silence or tems"policy, $ simply I broadcast fi referred to that news Q the Governitem in the Hong Kong's media frenzy ment InforSpecial Admation ministrative Region (SAR) without Service, a British invention which complaint or recrimination. In Hong prides itself in its attempts at media Kong, it seems to be business






ignore informed inquiries. Questions to penetrate

operating enterprise and its leader maliciously. It ís a serious trample on

"Swindler No. 1 in Mainland China:

Mou Qizhong is an illegal publication. It is concocted by a few lawless fellows

Local journalists, whose readers didn't and won't get to vote for Mr Tung, are usually limited to asking one question each; a PR device which makes it easy to deflect or simply

the civil service

for rumour-mongering and mudslinging, to assassinate a normally




The SAR retains freedom of the press. But that freedom is hedged by growing problems associated with news gathering here. Under the colonial regime, the lasl Governor had once been an elected politician, accustomed to the slights inflicted and powers bestowed by a libertarian press. The current Chief Executive, more used to the absolutism of a

Another critical look at his Land Group empire got this response on his web

result, access to Mr Tung is strictly limited, with preference granted to foreign correspondents servicing his powerful international business

family corporation, has hired ssional pu blic relatio ns

consultants to soften his image. As


control. In a democratic society, reporters so treated would immediately seek to draw on the research and opinions of

the political opposition.


Democrats, Hong Kong's most consistently popular political party, still operate freely here. Yet the next election process will ensure that the Democrats will be in a small minority

in a Legislative Council dominated by politicians who owe their prominence,

livelihood and continued political existence to supporting Beijing and its

Jantary/Febnary 1998 TEE


- aPPointed executive. Reporters may derive some Hong Kong

amusement from watching lifelong

Marxists adroitly back flip as they doggedty praise their tycoon-led administration while it refuses unions the right to collective bargaining, denies fair trading legislation, or stops working class Chinese children from

re-uniting with

their parents. But a

lack of an effective legislative opposition will deny journalists the voices they need to "balance" reports

composed through conventional political journalism methodology.

In practical terms, you can have freedom of speech without democratic government. . . but those freedoms may

become difficult to exercise if the government has no need for accountability.

Reporters can

of course


political arena. Yet critics

papers and which says that its main role is to build better relations with

Chinese Communist Party and


comment fi'om outside the formal are "balanced" by disciplined community organisations which can be expected to faithfully support the party line. Such groups we1'e created bY the coordinated through the New China News agency, to oppose the colonial

in postcolonial Hong Kong. \Ă&#x2DC;hen an authorities. They still exist

instruction comes down from head office, the "community" grouPs are able


call on Mr Tung to implement

the instruction and applaud him for his community awareness when he promptly does so. Even the Hong Kong

Journalists Association, a genuine union, has a doppelganger in the form of the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists which draws its membership from party-controlled

Beijing. (During the handover, the federation opened an office in the convention centfe's pfess room, sharing space with China's national

Rejecting 'slestern modes of journalism and turning to patriotic methods which already may be discredited on the mainland, will not do any favours for journalists and the wider communities both here and in greater China. If, as the International

Federation of Journalists suggests, the first responsibility of


journalist is

the public's right to know, then more sophisticated reporting methods must

be sought to dig out the truth. It is

here that journalism educators have a role and a responsibility, if not a moral

obligation to influence future

Students come to gfip with iournalism \YĂ&#x192;r, *ould Keith Richburg do list of questions which they would nuts and bolts of journalism; W *h"n asked to provid-e a be expected to ask during Press reporting practices, the role of news written list of questions prior to an interview?

That was one of the questions put to the club president during a Reporting Skills seminar held at the FCC for journalism and PR students from Baptist, City and Chinese

Universities. About sixty students attended.

"I write a list and give whoever asked for it a copy," Richburg said. "Then I rip it up before I walk through the door." The seminar had a number of aims. It allowed media students to meet foreign correspondents and

talk to them about their work. It acquainted the next generation of Hong Kong editors and reporters with the club and its facilities. But it was also an exercise structured into their courses. The students were informed of who they were going to meet; Richburg from the NĂ&#x2DC;ashington

Post, Didi Tatlow from the Associated Press and Matgaref Harris. They were told to PrcPare a

conference-style meetings later in the afternoon. By Australian standards, Hong Kong students can be polite if not a little timid when it comes to asking questions of those deemed to be in authority. Similar exercises held in

Sydney can seem to be the intellectual equivalent of throwing meat into a sharkpool. Hong Kong

students may never become uglY Australians, but at least they can be encouraged to think their questions through and learn how to seek intelligent answers. In the case of the seminar, they were exPected to

get results; many of them had to write a story from what they had learned as part of their assessment. Duringthe sessions, the students

asked how correspondents with poor Chineselanguage skills could hope to cover Hong Kong. There was a question about handover coverage and the emphasis placed on threats to Hong Kong's waY of life. But many also asked about the

agencies and career paths. The women students wanted to know whether there was still discrimination against women journalists. \(/as it more difficult for women to become foreign correspondents? After the correspondents left the room, students were asked to think of ideas for possible stories. These were placed on a white board. Then it was the lecturers turn to be grilled. Barry Lowe and Airne Peirson-Smith

from City and Judith Clarke from Baptist were asked howthe students'

story ideas could be developed further. Professor Lowe said later that journalism education should always have a practical emphasis. "Yott are wasting your time if just expect to be able to sit students in classrooms, hand them piles of reading lists, give them theoretical tests and exPect them to turn out to be journalists, " he said,

Alan Knight

TEE GORRXSPOilItEI|T JanuarylFebruary 1998


practices. If Hong Kong is to be run in future as a business, then journalism teachers

must address the changing political

circumstances and help local

journalists to use business affairs as a key to understanding and penetrating

an increasingly opaque political

Handover coverage wins top award a

process. Hong Kong journalists need

to know modern investigative journalism techniques drawn form international experience. Inparticular: . The legislation and mechanisms which govern company operations.

. FIow to access information held on Hong Kong companies in the United States and elsewhere. . How to cre aÍe and catalogue profiles

of companies


in China and

Southeast Asia. The Philippines Centre for InvestigativeJournalism might have

corresponde nI for the Australian

position in Australia. He held various posts, including leaderwriter, opinion

Financial Reuiew, recently won

page editor and Melbourne bureau

Australia's prestigious\Øalkley Award for "excellence in coverage of Asia". The awardwasfora series of stories

chief for three years. In the middle of this he spent two years with Time as a senior writer. Arriving in Hong Kong L8 months

owan Callick, Hong Kong-based

based around the handover, in particular Hong Kong's relationship with China. Unfortunately he wasn't there to receive the award, apparently the


Journalism education should not

management did not have enough faith in him to pay for a flight to Melbourne for the awards'night. "One of the

stop when our graduates receive their degrees. Journalism educators should encourage formal arrangements with

FinReuieu.t's maîagement

phoned me on the

employers to take new techniques

night and asked if

some useful tips here. . How to access the internet, as their colleagues in Guangzhou already do, to bypass the news agencies and tap into the galaxy of information available there.

into the newsrooms. All courses should

be refereed by a panel of industry advisors if only to ensure that journalism teachers have credibility in the industry itself. Finally, we must reject the anachronistic academic

approach which values refereed articles placed in obscure academic journais more tha n positive contributions to the journalism industry. Academic journalism research should be directed towards finding answers for industrial, ethical and practícalproblems. Then perhaps we can help the media in Hong Kong and China will have a more effective future. Dr Alan Knigb t is a j ournalist wb o spent tbe first six montbs of 1997 in Hong Kong establisbing a ueb site ubicb recordeci local and foreign journalisTs' attitudes to tbe bandouer to Cbina. A book wbicb examines cultural and political assumptions

underpinning tbe internølional reporting of tbe bandouer will be publisbed tbis year.


ago, he is here to stay. "I have no intention of leaving. Hong Kong is the best place from which to cover my round. Callick first came to Hong Kong in t9l8 and had

visited practicaliy every year slnce as

a stopover to and fromholidays. "Each

time I




dropped into the FCC. I was even wheeled over to shake the hand of

the great man lRichard Hughesl

I was celebrating," Callick said. "Actually, I was sitting in my office

before he expired, "My FCC connection continues: almost everyone I

cutting up newspapers for my files. My

interview I invite

reply deflated the


I got together with




he was the recipient of

another award - the Graham Perkins' Award for the AustralianJournalist of the Year for a series on Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the South Pacific. "I was there for that one," Callick said. An Essex man, he studied theology

and sociology at Exeter University before moving into journalism as a Thomson graduate trainee. A fellow trainee was FCC member and Airport Authority PR Phillip Bn¡ce. "'We are still friends and he was myfirst point of

contact when

as it is always easy to attract people here. Before the handover

I first came to Hong

Kong," he said. Afterthis periodhe movedto PNG to work for a locally-owned newspaper andmagazine group where he was to remain for 11 years. During this time he was a stringer for the Før Eastern Economic Reuiew and the FinReuieta. The latter inveigled him to a full-time

four Hong Kong small-businessmen in the Albert Room to talk about their problems and opportunities. NextJune I am going to repeat the exercise with the same people." Callick's wife, Jan McCallum, is also a journalist. Before coming to Hong Kong she was business editor of the Sunday Herald Sun. These days she works freelance for a number of Australian and New Zealand magazrnes as well as her old paper. Before Hong Kong, Callick had spent more than?}years covering the Pacific region, partlculaily PNG. "The

Pacific and Asian regions are


interlocked, that when I am covering these stories I don't need to seek an Australian angle. '\ am pleased with the award in that it fortifies this view. My stories are about life lived here, without putting it into an Australian context," @

Jantary/FebruaLy 1998 Tf,E coRrusPoltltEl{T


The Pacific stnrggles with post-independence blues FÈov¡afl 71ltstralian Financial R-erzieqz correspondent ,aqzarcl-qzinning kra-s s1>e¡t rnçlre tl-ran 20 years corzering tl-re -\sia Pa"cific region Callicls

few years back, I was driving a hired p;ickup through a coffee plantation in the \ùØestern Highlands of Papua New Guinea with RockY Roe, a zany Aussie who is that country's sole

freelance photograPher. \Øe were gathering material for a cover story for the regional edition of Time,fotwhich I was then working. Out of the trees on to the track ahead rushed a group of 20 men, faces

past us, dangerously buoYed bY adrenalin andfear. Nevefiheless, theY asked us to take their photos, and I posed with them. \Ve all laughed at the strangeness of this world . Although I am today writing

about the world's most PoPulous country, I have spent much of the Past 20 yearc covering the world's smallest nations, some containing fewer than 10,000 people.

and bodies painted in warrior

villagers, who comprise 80 per cent of

Papua Nerv Guineans, have never before needed to store food; harvests of sweet potato, taro and plantains, in their fertile, tropical climate, in the past just kept on coming.

PNG's longer-term dilemmas include economic failure, with a grotesque over-reliance on exploiting a narrow range of resources - gold, copper, oil and rainforests, the latter clear-felled by Malaysian loggers ;

large and growing numbers of yoLrng people half-educated and

patterns, armed with sPears,

bows and arrows and shotguns

jobless; government failure, with schools, health services and loads

that appeared more dangerous to them than their foes. In the

deteriorating rapidly; a decadelong civil war that has reduced Bougainville island, once PNG's model province, to Year Zeto -

distance we could hear shouting

and taunting, like a footbali crowd.

The leader of the group

although the Government and rebels, both exhar,rsted, now

leaned into the pickup as I wound

down the window. "Masta," he said - the Pidgin word for "white

lo be nearing

^ppear agreement.

man", since independence loaded


more with irony than with deference - "mipela let long Pait, Yupela inap kisim mipela I go?" ("We're late forthe fight. Can you give us a nde?") It seemed chudish to refuse.


So Time helped transPort

Papua New Guinea, although it front lines. There, we watched "our" sharesaT50kmlandboundarywiththe warriorsmshacrossafast-runningcreek Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, rs by rope bridge to join their comrades, culturally Melanesian and identifies then we retréated up a ridge to watch itself far more closely with the fest of and photograph. It was the usual the South Pacific than with Asia reinforcements for a tribal fight to the

It is a substantial cor,rntry - half move r JaPan and dangerous n the rest unded on either together' rain stoPs PlaY, Its ploblems are also argtablY each side yodels to the othel that if they're real men they'll be back after greater.TheyincludeaterribleElNino-

combative co-bi.tåtio.r: ritual

breaKast tomorrow, then they

ate facing similar

Highlønd welcome to tbe tbetxAt'stralia'n PM Paul Keating


derived drought, the harsher because

TEE CORRXSPONIIEI\IT JanuarylFebruary 1998


And at the root of all, abreakdowninleadershiP,widelY viewed by the public as corruPt. Most other Pacific countries


independence hangovers, with the US and other donors, except

Australiawhich has a clearerdirect stake in the region, winding back aid,

private capilal even today atúacfed instead to the bigger markets of Asia, and domestic investment modest. The onlyregional stockexchange is inSuva, Fiji - only eight companies listed, but worth keeping for its acronym: SSEX.

Further collapse is avoided bY the continuing stlength of the coulîs, of


passion for democracy, of "subsistence affluence" - most islanders stil1 own and iive on their traditional land, and of the

embryonic media.

The extent of corruption in the tiny capital cities presents a real challenge to the mostly young journalists in the region, who regulally bump into tl-ieir talgets in supennarkets, bars and sports fields: senior civil selvants, sleazy businesspeople, Cabinet Ministers (in PNG, a Depuly Prime Ministel and

fol'mer al'my commander was found

guilty on 83 counts of colruption following an investigative series I was involved in; he is now, a few years on, back in Parliament, having reinvented hirnself by being "born agatn"), Many have risen to the challenge

first time. In his speech, he quoted Blowning from memory. \Øe pubiished the u,orld's only Pidgin newspaper, ll/øntoþ ("onetalk", in a countly of 800 languages, meaning a relative or fi'iend), where we had to rethink concepts taken as read elsewhere. A new advertising manager conventionally, if crassly, posecl a couple ol young women in front of new model cars for a local retailer 'W'e receivecl letters back in Pidgin that asked "\Øhat is wrong with the cars? The s,'omen lnlrst be standing

magnificently and taken on whole

in front of dents", and "Does the price include just the c r, or the women as

collusive elites intheface ofuglythreats - with a vigoul that comes flom being pioneers, not only in journalism but in

well?" Lnages can mislead, people reinvent themselves constantly. The tribal fighters asking politely and a

education. I recall how a young PNG

little tentatively for a lift. In Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, the then colonel who led the

journalist, Frank Koima - now editor of one ofthe countly's two national dailies - made a speech at a p^r|y to farewell Chades Anderson, a Blitish journalist who had worked with us as a designer, sub and trainer (and came straight to Hong Kong, whele he is features editor' at the SCMP). Frank's parents lived a traditional tribal life in a Highlands valley, where they had seen the first white men arrive. He wrote movingly of taking his mother to the sea for the

shocking cotips of 7987 - when he tlirew several journalists into cells along with the Cabinet - being reborn as a democrat, recently as Pl'ime Ministel pushing through Parliament, with the fu1l support of Indian Fijian

MPs, a new non-discrminatory constitution.

These 'àre elements of the

frustration, for a journalist who wishes to be categoric, but also of the charm,


the islands - a part of the world constantly packaged to tourists as "paradise". Only shades and angels occupy paladise, however'; the Pacific

may embrace wonderful beaches fringed by coconut palms with rurstling fronds, but it is occupied by real people with reai problems, not least ofwhich is the tyranny of distance, of isolation. Colleagues may smirk at datelines

like Fr-rnafuti or Port Vila or Papeete, conjuring up pictures of intrepid correspondents dancing hulas poolside, and employers may wince at the cost of coverage - but thele are some great, valid stories to be uneafihed in the Pacific. And fun to be had. At a Sor,rth Pacific Forum meeting where all the legional leaders meet anmrally- in Kiribati, the formerGilbert Islands, I was talking with the massive, erudite and monocled Crown Prince

Tupor-rto (a Sandhurst man). He paused, surveyed the machiavellian Melanesians, pot-bellied Polynesians and merry Micronesians ss'igging beer

and kava, and summed it a1l up: "Do you remember that Petel Sellers film Tbe Mouse Tbat Roøred lwhele Ruritania took on the US and wonì Sornetines, my dear chap, I think the Pacific is just like


1998 THE




The quiet gecko and the


ate my camera

Joseptr A- FRea¡¡es -¿r-rd fellolrz FCC a-drzentr-rrers igrrored urar alrd a typl-roon to t'¿ke a look a,t tl-re terrrples of Angkor. . .rzi¿r tLre FCC

he gecko never spoke. The monkey ate my camera. And the driver's name was poison. Such is life in Cambodia these daYs.

The rest of the planet may be lushing headlong to


new millennium,

wondering ogle-eyed about a virlual future, but Cambodia wallows in a world all its ou'n. Stuck in the 1960s, intent on retreating to the 1860s, the Khmer people look back longingly on their acme -

65 hours ancl all I had to show for it were a couple of eminentlyforgettable stories buried in the back of the Trib near the tr-uss ads and a case of malaria that later earned me a medivac flight from Manila to Hong Kong. Moeller''s proposal came the very


arely damp

tarmac aL Tan Son Nhat airport. I puzz\ed momentarily why the wolst

storm to rake Indochina in five generations was buried

in a one-

day another friend confided the FCC in Phnom Penh was one of the last,

paragraph brief at the bottom of page 2, but then I figured the editors of the Viêt Nam News probably hired a few of my old bosses to advise on nes/s

great colonial haunts left in Southeast

judgment and it suddenlymade sense. The 35-minute fl ight from Saigon to Phnom Penh was a preview of Linda s coming

some time around 1160. That will change. It mllst.

attractions. The stolm had lashed the coastal areas of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand witli waves

But these days Cambodia l'ernains a place better suited

for rnonks in saffron

u'e changed planes on the


novelists named Greene than

reportedly as high as

fol any red-lined sprint

metres. Hundreds would be found dead the nextfew days.


tomorrow. \Øhich, of cout'se, is precisely wliat we were seeking when the three of us waded into the knee-buckling backwash of a French-made turbo-plop and clarnbered up the real steps of a Royal Air

Our flight was taking us directly inland, but it was almost impossible to tell.

Floodwatels covered much of

Cambodge chariot that would shuttle us from Saigon to Doug



Notman Innis

Phnom Penh.

The trip n'as the brainstorm of Doug Moeller, an inveterate adventurer clevedy disguised as head ofreal estate

development for McDonald's restaurants in China. Moeller was

propped against the FCC bar one forgotten Friday night when wandedust compelled l'rim to propose an ad-hoc exchange visit to oul sister club, the FCC in Phnom Penh. I had been to Phnom Penh nearly a decade earlier, in June 1988, as areporterforthe Cbicago Tribune covering the carelully staged

pullout of Vietnamese troops But I hadn't seen mttch. I was there less than





southeast Carnbodia - the banks of the Mekong and Bassac livers visible only as tiny ribbons in a sea of muck that spread to the horizon. In Phnom Penh, though,,ust as on

Asia - an absolute must-see for any o1d Asia fiand. I signed up on the spot. So

the tarmac at Tan Son Nhat, it was hard

did Norman J. Innis, an orphan of Australia, who peddles surf clothing

to imagine a storm of any kincl - let alone a killer typhoon - had just

guiseto gallivant aboutthe world's great sunspots. fíeighted down with four bottles of duty-free wine and a box of cheap cigars, we thought we were ready for as a

anything. \X/e hadn't counted on running into the "wolst storm of the centlrly" - at least that's what my

morning's copy of the Viêt Nam News

called Typhoon Linda, which passed south of Saigon a few hours before


Januar.y/Feblu¿Lry 1998

passed through the neighborhood. The

only hint was the temperature, which hovered in the fi'isky mid-2Os instead of the usual, stifling 30s. Getting a visa at Phnom Penh's Pochentong International Airport was a marvel in bureaucratic efficiency. Nine police officers, eight men and a woman, sat shoulder to shoulder in crisp, starched uniforms behind the same innocuous regístration booths

f I

that greet evely conventiongoer in the world fi'om Las

Tai]s and tall tales: The FCC in Phnom Penh is actually

Vegas to Brighton. Officer No.

the FCCC, with the third

1 passed ont visa applications

patriotically devoted

and Officer No. 2 collected them. Officer No. 3 stapled photos onto the completed

Cambodia. And it isn't actually a

Foreign Corr-espondents' Club, at least not in the strictest sense. Hacks of all kinds certainlyhang out there. \X/anna-be hacks and

applications and Officer No. 4 studied the writing. Officer No. 5 found an empty page in the

has-been hacks; up-ancl-coming hacks and jLrst plain t r nbecoming hacks. But the FCCC is a private

applicant's passport and Officer No. 6 stamped the visa.

Officer No. 7 scribbled

something onto the visa while Officer No. 8eight nodded approvingly. OfficerNo. ! was the keyto eveqrthing: he collected US$20. For ail the people power involved, the process was astoundingly swift. \Øe were out the ait'port and in our

business owned

briefly and decided to go


an¡vay, All three of us were veterans of the "wlong-way school of travel". \Øe were accr-tstomed to going into

places when everyone else was coming out. \øe agreed to use our common sense. And common sense in Cambodia seemed to call for hiring a reliabie driver to accompany us full

English, his car ran and the price seemed reasonable. None of Lrs saw any need to negotiate, which pleased the driver. 'ùØe weren't or¡t the hotel drive yet when he produced ahandwritten business card and said he wouldbe available as long aswewere 1n


your name?" said Innis, holding the card, which plainly "Sarin? Is that

Y' all drive carefu l, now,yalneat Four days before we left for Phnom

Penh, the US State Department issued

an official "travel warning" meant to discourage "non-essential travel to Cambodia". The warning said political tensions had lessened since the much-

publicised coup last July, but "there has been a dramattc increase in the

numbers of armed robberies and assaults, often during daylight hor-rrs ... Recently, two Americans died due to robberies and criminal activity". \Øe discussed the travel warning

said: Hay-Sarin. "Yes, yes. Sarin." "Sarin? Like the poison gas in Tokyo?" "Yes, yes. Sarin. \ùØelcome to my

country." Hele we were in aland infamous for its killing fields, where a coup had sent foreigners

the place, typically ran it into rhe gror-rnd. Despet'ate fol help, they did what any self-respecting hack would do - they sold out. In retLlrn for giving LÌp the rights to the name Foreign Correspondents' Ch-rb, or FCC, or Foreign Press Club, Overseas press

Club, or any other conceivable

vaiation on the theme, the hacks of Cambodia got US$250,000 dollars worth of renovations to their¡iverfront day-care centre and discount prices on all the beer, booze and eats sold therein. The down side of the deal is that

serious journalists working in Cambodia can no longer invoke the name FCC in times of trouble. Ranting in writing about the killing of a reporter or the arrest of a stringer is too politically

sensitive lol' the business-conscious

owners, who even drew the line recently atletting an opposition leader speak at the club.

Onthe up side, the quarter-million dollars was well spent. The FCCC is a

A tacky string of light bulbs wrestled into the shape of the letters FCCC marks the entrance, but things gem.

improve dramatically from there

robbed, shot and killed. Ste were travelling against the advice of the US government and putting our faith in a guy

named for a deadly toxic nerve gas, Somehow, a drink seemed in orcler'. FCC,

Sarin." "Yes, yes. FCC." JanuarylFebruary



money. The journalists who once ran

scurrying three months earliel' and where two Americans had just been

"Take us to the


investors whose onlyinterestis making

time, even on short trips around town. "Seven dollars for half a day," was the first, and last, price we got from the driver of a battered, red, fotu--door lunch pail on wheels. The driver spoke

hotel mini-bus in seven minutes. A hali-hour later we were in our rooms ovedooking the Tonlé Sap.







pleasing, wooden stairs lead

with the tides of the Tonlé Sap or' pestering the publishel of the Pbnoru. Penb Post, I spent the next hor-tr waiting for one of the

from street level to a journalists' wolkroom on the second floor,

then narrow and twist to the

Lizatds to make a sonnd so I would never again embalrass mysell by not knowing nry ketcbok fi'om a hole in the ground. My vigil was in vain.

club itself on the third floor. The

feel of the place is immediate. This is a playhouse - an airy.

tropical refuge that beckons

serious retreat. Ceilings have beenknocked out and left open to the slanted tiled roof, making the enormous salons feel far bigger than they are. The main bar wraps piano-shaped off to one side, while everywhere in the main sitting room low wooden chairs with thick leather cushions cry out to be baptised with spilled spirits. There isn't a window in the place. That is, there isn't a window pane in the place. The front and one side are open from floor

to roof with oniy a waist-high stone balcony and a wooden perch for drinks. Enormous rattan blinds stand rolled at the ready in case of hear,y rain. Ceiling


stir the air.

The gecko never spoke.

Which s/ay to the war? The next day, we flew fiom Phnom Penh to Siem Reap in treasures of the FCCC come and go nightly. They are the scores of lizards - geckos and þetcboks - that cling to the walls motionless for hours on end. The star atlraction callghtmy eye some

time between my third and sixth ginsand-tonics. It had a head the stze of a

Hong Kong dollar, only under considerably less stress, and kept its body carefully hidden behind a framed picture of a woman hawking Phnom Penh street, I'd

The front of the club, the main

been staling at the

assembly area, overlooks the muddy Tonlé Sap. The rear has a small porch

picture lor half an llour,

lined with bougainvillea and just enotrgh room to squeeze ahalf-dozen dining tables with a view onto the

magnificent sweeping spires of

to Michael

publisher of the Pbnom Penb Post. "He'swaiting. Those guys sometimes eat the otlìer ones," said Hayes,

lizards affecting various poses of Asian indifference on the wall.

I wanted to know what kind of hzardwas that big and Norman Innis, being Australian, had a ready answer, "That's a gecko," he said, delighted

at the reminder all Americans


paìnfully parochial and irretrievably stupid. "Nawh," I stammered. "I thought the little ones were geckos."

"Those are kelcboks," Innis replied. "They're named for the sounds

they make. Everybody calls them geckos, but they're really ketcboks. The big one's a gecko. That's the sound they rnake. Gekkkkkkk-co. Gekkkkþkk-co."


KhmerRouge had anysoldiers in Siem Reap. But the last remaining stronghold ofthe regime that became synonymous


motioning with a spill of his glass to the 30 or so smaller


declaration, which coincides with the

start of the winter dry season, might have carlied a little more weight if the

worthy of a frame, when I finaily noticed the lizard head and pointed it out

Mostly uninspiring black-andwhite photographs line the ochrehacks gone by. But the real artistic

the day we landed. The annual

wondering why someone thought it

Cambodia's National Museum.

colored walls in obligatory homage to

frr-rit on a

nolthwest Cambodia to see the ancient temples of Angkor. \X/e read later in the newspapers that the KhmelRouge declared war on Siem Reap Province

JanuarylFebr.uary 1998

of becoming


with slaughter was nearly


away along the border with Thailand.

Still, a declaration of war carries


certain cachet and it would have been nice to at least know about it while we were there.

The temples of Angkor, experienced before the modern world takes its toll, defy description. They stagger the mind and senses on a thousand levels at once. rüze had the great, good, fortune to spend a day climbing ovel', around and through Angkor Thom, the Bayon, the Terrace of the Leper

King, the Terrace of Elephants, Ta Prom and, ÊínalIy, Angkor \ùØat - the massive, humbling monument bnilt by a million workers from 1112 to 7152 during the reign of Khmer king Suryavarrnan II.

Outside each site, we were hounded mercilessly by smiling touts speaking broken English and vending a repetitious array of useless trinkets. At times, 40 or 50 hawkers trailed us. Once inside the temples, though, we were mostly left alone - free to see, feel and savour

radio inthe hotel mini-van. The driver picked up the cheap black plastic microphone and

began shouting loud enough to be heard back at the hotel without it. The next three

rninutes were filled with a steady, predictable palade of

screecb, slatic, shout ... screecb, static, sbout ... until


treasures nearly a millenniurn old. Probably never again will something so spectacular be so

the driver tulned around with

the toy rnicrophone and motioned for Innis to take it.

completely accessible.

It was a dazzling day, marred only by the monkeys. A Kodak momenû Our first stop was the South Gate of Angkor Thom and we dutifully crawled out the minivan to take pictures of the 54 stone gods and demons guarding each side of the

approach. Moeller and Innis were carrying the latest high-tech photo gadgets - sleek gray andblack machines that whizzedand whirred ìmpre s sively,

probably never-ending, line of dullwitted tourists to be pick-pocketed by a monkey. The long-tailed scoundrel sprìnted under one of the 54 gods careltrlly avoiding its demon cousinsand immediately started quaffing my camefa, tearing away at the green, white and red cardboard coveringwith the speed of a veteran hack at a free buffet. Instead of cutting my losses with a suave chuckle and a shrug, I compounded my idiocy by making a lunge to retrieve the camera. Before I knew what hit me, the monkey ripped off a right hook that drew a tlickle of blood just below my hair line and sent me reeling with a hot, halitosis hiss meant as a warning against fufiher retaliatory action. I got the message, along with an unwanted clue abolÌt some ofthe monkey's mostrecent meals - none of which, I could

tell immediately, included anlthing as benign and ododess as a cardboard camera. Our guide, Chea Bunat, rode to

the rescue. He purchased a bag of rice from a peddler and offered it to

radio. Screech, static ...

"Sarin. This is Sørin.


welcome. I waifforyou to come back." Screech, static ... "Mr Sarin, is that you?" Screech, static ...

"Yes, yes. Sarin here. 'SØelcome, welcome. I waitforyou to come back." Screech, static ... 'Ví'e were nearing the airpolt and as I reached in my bag to get my ticket

and passport, I came across


disposable camera with a shredded cardboard cover. I chuckled and

remembered the Mike Tyson of Monkeys who put me down for the eight-countwitha righthook and a hot blast of bat-meat breath. I thought of the staggering splendor of the temples

ofAngkor and the unspeakable horror of the killing fields. Typhoon Linda flashed through my mind. Then, I was back in the FCCC with a gin-and-tonic in hand, staring at an army of Iizards

clinging motionless to a mustard-

the monkeyas fair trade. The monkey,

colored wall.

however, clearly had politics in its blood. It wanted the camela andthe

The gecko never spoke. The monkey ate my camena. And man with the poison name turned out to

rice. And it got them both

- for a

while, anryay . \Øhen the beast finally

dropped its guard to concentrate on the rice

zoomed eroti caIIy , and, presumably, in the end, produced perfectpictures every time. I, on the other hand, was hauling a 27-shol disposable Fr-rji ftin camera that set me back a painful US$ 18 at the duty-free store in Saigon airpolt. I had squeezed off three hnppy snaps and was standing in awe of the stone view when I felt a swift tug on my light arm. My camera was gone.

for most of the ride to the

immediately what happened, I'd become the iatest in a long, and

airport. But the silence was broken by the high-pitched screech and static of a CR

Veteran travellers know

Norman gave both of us a ptzzled looked, then shrugged and mumbled a tentative "yes?" ìnto the

have a heart of


entrée, Mr Bunat swept in

and liberated my mangled camera, which, now that it came complete with atale of adventure, seemed abargain ar us$18. Exhaustion kept us quiet

JanuarylFebruary 1998 fHE





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l I




Another brilliant and boisterous Ne w year's Eve celebratron weråmecr the year of the Tiger in at rhe FCC. Definitely one of Hong f<o.rgl, p.ãÀier social evenrs, New year,s Eve ar rhe FCC was bigger and brighîer in i99ä _l rnn_. *" can't say the same about the economy. . Anyway, for those folks who missed out, feast your eyes on the fêstivities diligently brought ro rhese pages by reés Merselaar and yor-rr friendiy Publications Committee.

Jantrary/February 1998





f .rlq,


THE coRf,xsPoNIt[NT Januaryz'Febnrary 199[3


r: I ll



Update M;::*îffl:trï:î visited the Caledonia,


recently and gave members an update on the tçvo models who

feature on the popular, but occasionally controversial, 1 982 S ty le magazine cover that hangs

in the Main Ba¡. Both women have strong journalistic ties. Ms Robinjeiro, the lady on the left, is from Madagascar and now lives in Paris where her sister works as a journalist for AFP. The lady on the right, Nathali Sintes still lives in New Caledonia and is married with two children. Her father was a journalist for New Caledonia's leading newspaper Les Nouuelles and died tragically in a plane crash.

All the best for 1998...

A montbly portrøùt of FCC irrepløceøbles

Sandra Burton Member since: Age: Profession:

Before Tim.e (Asia) began. Irrelevant. Time correspondent.

Nationality: Least likely to say: Most likely to say:

Amer-ican, by way of Paris.

I'm definitely going sailing on Sr-rnday. Sorry, sailing is off, I'm getting on a plane to inten'ien. ...

Pbotogrøþbed by Robin Moyer



THE C0RRXSPONDEI{T JantLarl/Fcbmaq¡ 1998

7Ã \.T

Kodak (Far East) Limited frJìË (iËH )Ê-¡3Râ Fl

Local Needs. Local Response. Supporting education Protecting the environment Providing young people with cultural and recreational

opportunities. Organizrng care of the aged and disabled There are many ways to

support Hong Kong. HongkongBank is playing its

part Our aim is to contribute to a happy, healthy, secure future for everyone


Hong Kong, young and old





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Venture t"yo.J Àsia to the Paci{ic. A -hol" new experiencef a unique awaits you on T.L" ".rltnr", "{[ ht an action p."L"J h"hJty on tLis Paci{ic lrlrtrJ prrrJir". or touck Jo-n unJ si-ply ,"1a,. "njoying the ...n urJ the ocean tr"""".. G.tam prornises to tring out tke test in yo... Cull tL" Gnum Visitors Bureau on 25221386.

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A Paci{ic IrluttJ AJventure

The Correspondent, January - February 1998