January 6-13, 2006

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Language exchange

"The most important characteristic of a chief executive of any region is that he or she should be a noble person."

- Li Ka Shing, business tycoon from Hong Kong, on the topic of the special administrative region's future chief executive. see more

Arabian delights

CHEF Tarek Mouriess carried about 10 kinds of ingredients in his suitcase on his flight to Shanghai to host an Arabic Food Promotion at the Hilton Shanghai.
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Affection anxiety

A South Korean couple skate on the ice in front of lights put up to celebrate the Christmas holiday season in Seoul, December 21, 2005. There are 21 anniversaries, special days and celebrations a year for couples to shower each other with affection and gifts in South Korea. Christmas Eve is one of the biggest date nights of the year and it also marks the season of high prices as many businesses try to make a few extra won off lovers.

NEWLY retired engineer Kotaro Toyohara arrives home for a family celebration after his final day at work, clutching a ring for his wife, Yoko, his head full of plans for the years of leisure ahead.

To his shock, Yoko blurts out that she wants a divorce.

That was the scenario for one of this season's most popular Japanese television drama series, "Jukunen Rikon" or "Mature Divorce," reflecting a phenomenon that many commentators fear may balloon as Japan's baby-boom generation heads into old age.

"We get consultations like this," said Atsuko Okano, who runs Carat Club, a divorce counselling service.

"Women are becoming more independent. When their husbands retire, they realize they have 20 or 30 years of life ahead of them and they don't want to carry on as before."
With a new law set to come into force in 2007 allowing ex-wives to claim half their husband's pension, domestic media are warning of a possible divorce boom.

The number of Japanese couples parting ways has risen rapidly over the past 20 years to a 2002 peak of 290,000, while divorce among those married more than 20 years has increased even faster.

Now figures are drifting downwards, but many commentators speculate that women - who initiate the majority of divorces - are holding out until 2007.

Some Japanese women see their husbands as an obstacle to enjoying their sunset years.
With few hobbies or friends to turn to, many Japanese retirees, often nicknamed "wet leaves" for their tendency to cling to their wives, spend their time at home.

What's more , they expect their spouses to wait on them as they did when they were bread-winners.

"This was my problem. My husband reached retirement and didn't know what to do with himself, so he was always in the house," said Sayoko Nishida, author of a popular book called "Why are retired husbands such a nuisance?."

"One of the worst things was always having to make his lunch," she said.

Many men set to retire in the next few years have lived largely separate lives from their families for decades, preferring to devote themselves to their jobs - an arrangement some wives start to like, Okano said.

"I spent virtually all my time on my work," said one 54-year-old school principal, whose wife divorced him and began a new career five years ago after their children grew up. "All I did at home was sleep. I quite understand how my wife felt."

The drama "Mature Divorce" ultimately paints marital break-up in a positive light, with the couple remaining friends while Kotaro plans to work as a volunteer in South America and Yoko starts a new career with an upmarket retail chain.

Counsellors say a rise in similar cases in the real world could be a disaster. Women may face poverty, since the job market is less than welcoming to those who have devoted their lives to their families, while half a meagre pension might not provide much of a living. Men often end up lonely and in poor health.

"Japanese men's life expectancy falls by about 10 years if they divorce late in life," said Nishida, who now runs regular discussion days to help couples overcome the hurdle of retirement. "That's because they can't do anything for themselves."
(Agencies via Xinhua)


Cai Shaoyao

Balance public opinion and judicial independence



End of the Dream
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Auto fans melt away
With the approach of the Formula One Grand Prix, Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit, was worried about how to attract enough spectators to the circuit and rev up sluggish fan interest in the event.
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Under artificial eyes

FOR most customers, CCTV (closed-circuit television) surveillance cameras installed in shops, banks, buses or metro stops and many other places, merit little attention. But for Xiao Gang, such cameras have become an agonizing and confusing problem.

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