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Sports-led thaw in freezing Korea

Opinion Piece

A Winter Olympics complete with a diplomatic breakthrough for the host in the over-heating Korean cold war, a stock market dip, and an escalating war in Syria — the past week has been something of a headline writer’s heaven.

The main focus was on the Winter Olympics which are shaping to be the coldest ever, and the disappointment of Peter Michael and Carlos Garcia Knight who both came so desperately close to ending New Zealand’s 26-year-long medal drought at a Winter Olympics.

Politics trumped the sporting spectacle at first, with a high-level North Korean delegation joining in the opening ceremony and Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong extending an invitation to South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in to visit. As always, analysts were struggling to decide just what North Korea’s real motives are — but it was a rare public relations success for the hermit kingdom.

Just when it seemed it was winding down in favour of the brutal, Russian-backed Assad regime, the long, agonising Syrian civil war has taken a huge escalation with renewed pounding of rebel-held areas, Turkish military crossing their border to take on Kurdish forces in the north, and the shooting down of an Israeli jet prompting Israel to respond with its heaviest aerial bombardment since 1982.

But for many the greatest concern will have come from the wobbles on Wall Street amid signals that interest rates are on the rise. It has left investors nervous and while our share market escaped the worst, there could be pain ahead.

Ironically it is good economic news that has unsettled the markets, indicating the era of cheap money enjoyed since 2008 is coming to an end. A hike in mortgage rates would be devastating for those New Zealanders who are already stretched at a time of low or non-existent wage increases.

All of this somewhat overshadowed the National Party’s two-day retreat at Tauranga, the first of its kind since last year’s election. Rest assured there were no kind words for Winston Peters.

The news cycle moves on with an airline disaster in Moscow last night, but the past week has been one out of the box.