Marina Kim

Marina Kim

Posted on 3 Sep 2013 06:39:52 by Marina Kim

Marina Kim: If you can't afford to have kids, don't have kids

Marina KimMarina Kim is Kazakhstan-born journalist now living and working in London. Her website is and she is on Twitter as @MarinaKim_

The number of children growing up in poverty is 1.5 million higher now than in 1973, shows research by the National Children’s Bureau. 3.5 million children are said to live below the poverty line. The research also found that the wealthiest young people are nine times more likely than those living in the most deprived areas to have access to green spaces, places to play and environments with decent air quality. Children from deprived areas are also at least twice as likely to be obese as those living in affluent areas.

While there is no doubt that this is a sad and disturbing fact, is it only the Government that should be blamed? What about the parents who bring these children up into the world where they cannot provide for them?

Yes, everyone should have the opportunity to have children but you should only have a lot of children if you can provide for them. Otherwise, it is simply irresponsible. Moreover, “provide” does not mean feed them so that they don’t die. “Provide” means, or should mean, giving them a nutritious diet, healthy food, not junk food, spending time with them, outdoors and indoors, investing all your knowledge into your children, teaching them. I see it as, essentially, making them better than us.

Yes, it is more likely that a wealthy parent can just come out of their door and get access to a garden square, or have their own garden, but nobody stops you from going to Hyde Park or Richmond Park if you live in London – it’s free. If you live outside of London access to green spaces is even easier. While I accept that some parents work long hours and don’t have time to go to the park with their child, plenty of parents are simply too lazy to bother. Quite often only one parent works so the other one has time to invest in the kids but just doesn’t want to find time for it; as for the families with both working parents - there is always a weekend.

Jamie Oliver made a step in the right direction by starting a debate on the subject of unhealthy eating habits in poor households. You do not have to be rich to make healthy choices.

Exercising, and not eating in McDonalds is about the culture of you looking after yourself. The State and the public cannot always rescue you. Sometimes you have to rescue yourself and make the right choices.


Assad is a wounded animal, in a fight with the West

Hunters know how dangerous a cornered wild animal can be. It puts up a vicious fight because it is defending its own life and nothing else matters. That’s how I perceive Assad’s increasingly erratic behaviour.

The fight is not so much with the rebels but the West. He is acting recklessly and ruthlessly, as he is not given any real alternative. He (and those in his immediate circle) know all too well what is going to happen to them if they show weakness, if they lose. It’s hard to forget the scenes of Saddam Hussein’s death, and Muammar Gaddafi’s vile murder with militia beating him and stabbing him in the anus, Milosevic's lengthy trial and subsequent death…

The West removed these dictators, not the revolutions. Assad has discredited himself enough for the West not to let him stay alive, let alone continue to rule. He has absolutely no choice. Also, with so many sins on his hands, and if he really believes in God… - this argument should not be dismissed - no wonder he is so scared to die and face Judgment day. Deep down he knows that nothing  can justify the evil he’s been doing in his own land. 

Russia and China are there on a standby, but they are there for their own geopolitical game and are not going to protect his life if he loses. Just like they didn’t protect Saddam or Gaddafi, or even Milosevic. Nobody is sorry for a fallen dictator. 

But is the West right to corner him the way it does? Perhaps it’s time to resume the talks and guarantee some ways of saving his (despicable) life and “pride”? To choose a smaller evil between two evils? What is better: a continuous loss of lives on both sides with an increasing threat of Al Quaeda influence, or a pact with the devil?  It might be a tough and unpopular choice but if it can save lives perhaps it’s a choice worth making. 

In any case, military action is not the answer. Even a small strike would be perceived as aggression, not just by the Syrians (who might unite around Assad as a result) but it could also fuel other anti-American moods in the world. Many will not really believe in America’s long term good intentions.

The UK Parliament has truly saved Cameron from himself last week. Rushing into the war would have been a disaster, that can’t resolve anything. I believe Cameron has much purer intentions than Blair has ever had but the decision to rush into the war would have been too hot-blooded and dangerous. The vote against the motion was a fantastic result, despite that it’s being perceived as Cameron’s failure. The most important thing was that the message to the world was strong: the UK rejected military interference.

It has benefitted the UK on the world arena in countries where UK-US mistrust is high. The fact that the Parliament said “no” to the war in Syria was a massive boost for:

1) - democracy – setting the example for how things should be done, via a vote, because the UK is not a dictatorship, you know, and for that Cameron deserves praise. He listened to Parliament and to public opinion, and acted accordingly and with dignity.

2) – British image in West-sceptical countries. “Britain is against the war” was the message.  Nobody in the outside world, nobody even outside of Parliament and the Westminster village – noticed or paid attention to the motion being changed from a vote on military intervention to one of mere condemnation. People only remembered the first reports of why Parliament was recalled.

Unfortunately, as a result, some MPs who voted with the government fell victims to their own decency as their constituents messaged them with reproach thinking that they had supported military intervention. It was an easy mistake to make. People only heard echoes of the debate, and when the motion was changed it has not been shouted loud enough...

3) - not unleashing World War III. Iran’s and Syria’s defence ministers threatened on Friday to attacks Israel if Assad was in danger. Iran is obviously on the defensive as everybody knows they will be next if and when the Syrian regime falls. Israel in its turn threatened to respond to Hezbollah if it attacks it again, thus drawing Lebanon into war. Iraq could also send troops to help Assad if the situation escalates. All this makes the probability of World War III all too real.

As Britain said “no” to taking part in the war in Syria, it has managed to disassociate itself from its warmongering image, gained a renewed respect for standing up to America’s position, and avoided a direct threat from Assad against anyone who threatens his country.

Yet it also performed the moral duty of voting on this issue. It was an involuntarily wise and right thing to do, regardless of whether someone on the left rather distastefully pursued his own political interests.

* * *

Charity work for benefit claimants

Astonishing figures appeared last week that the number of foreigners on benefits soared to 400,000, up 40 per cent in just four years. 

While I accept there are different circumstances in life and some of these people might genuinely need help, I do not believe that the checks of who needs help and who doesn’t are rigorous enough. Also, why do people not leave the country if they cannot find a job?

If a person – foreigner or not - cannot find a job, why don't Jobseekers' Centres work closely with charities, and make the claimants do charity work while they are looking for a proper employment? Why not try this and check how it works? Something tells me the number of claimants will then drop pretty soon… And maybe there will be fewer people en route to the heaven of the UK where money grows on the trees (while, remember, 3.5 million British children live in poverty). 

Posted on 23 Jul 2013 07:46:08 by Marina Kim

From @MarinaKim_: Let's face it. The middle classes are becoming litterbugs.

Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is Follow Marina on Twitter.

To litter or not to litter - that isn't a question

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 07.45.41“Do not litter!” – should be the new eleventh commandment of drivers and their filthy passengers. The Lord is keeping an eye on you. Sinners will be reprimanded in a lengthy phone call.

At 75, Lord Selsdon, that very eagle-eyed man who spotted and consequently made calls to littering culprits, is old enough to get away with murder. Perhaps that is why he cared enough to do something about litter. This is your Big Society in action. Yes, he crossed the line by using his contacts to obtain private phone numbers – if true, that was rather naughty for a peer – but I like to think of him being like a strict schoolteacher, annoying us all for our own benefit.

This story to me isn't about phone calls or even new pointless laws which the police will have no resources to implement. It's about litter - and what our changing attitude to litter tells us about our society:

  • Littering has become a very middle-class thing to do. It is no longer just the louts. Don't believe me? Well, check out any SW train full of the well-heeled and the well-suited. Discarded latte cups, empty M&S bags and newspapers abound while bins, located near the exit, yearn for food but remain empty.
  • The Conservative peer Lord Marlesford proposed to fine people caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle - and it is  thus obvious we are becoming very reliant on laws to regiment every aspect of our lives. Where has common sense and common decency gone? Society is fast losing its most powerful tool - the sense of shame, and hence its ability to self-regulate. If you make laws for everything you are treating people like children, and people then become like children. The spiral goes on.
  • We are afraid to reprimand anti-social behaviour. Would we do anything if we saw someone littering or leaving that cup on the train? No, most of us are either too scared or couldn't be bothered. 

The culture of putting rubbish in the bin is just not there. A very nice and incredibly polite guy called Sam explained to me the other day his reasons for leaving rubbish on the tube: “I feel it’s ok to leave a finished cup of coffee on the tube if I put it down on a surface. I won’t throw it away on the street, but it seems ok if it’s on a surface of some sort. Also, once the train reaches the depot there is a guy who goes around to pick up all the rubbish.”

So there we have it. It has become too acceptable to rely upon other people to look after you in society. Sam couldn’t quite answer when I asked him: “What about those commuters in between the time you got off and the final stop?”

Some say the absence of rubbish bins is partly to blame. But these incidents happen despite the presence of bins at some stations. In any case, generations before us would have taken their rubbish home with them. It is becoming a norm, part of our culture. Just as it is a norm to throw away cigarette butts on the pavement. You won’t see that in Germany or Switzerland! It’s just not culturally acceptable. We have fines in place but in practice they are never implemented. 

Others blame the arrival in recent years of free newspapers which the majority of us feel is ok, and even a moral duty to leave behind for the next commuter. Well, you do risk insulting a Labour-voter by leaving a Torygraph behind. Much safer to leave a neutral and free Evening Standard. But then these are the details… 

Jokes aside, respect for your fellow human being, not the laws, should define our daily interactions with each other. If anything, I am grateful to Lord Selsdon for highlighting this issue. His alleged methods aside, oh if only there were still more like him.

Barclays' Secret

The only thing the Barclays-supported bike hire scheme has convinced me to do is not to bank with Barclays. If they cannot get bike hire right, God forbid giving them my money.

The docking stations are often full past 5pm, and a tired commuter who has just cycled in this heat from Canary Wharf to Chelsea has to spend even more time and effort trying to locate a station with empty locks. In the morning, you have to try at least one or two bikes to finally tear off a lazy sod from its comfortable nest. No wonder it didn’t want to move, it is so heavy and clumsy that it’s embarrassed of its performance on the roads… But then again you won’t need a gym with such a serious workout for your legs.

What a waste of money. If they got it right (plus provided enough safe cycling routes) then many more people would have adopted a healthy cycling lifestyle. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need for a 100 per cent increase in price on the sly over the Christmas holidays this year. 

There I was in contempt of Barclays for not being able to get it right. But last week I stood corrected as it was revealed that the bank has not actually bankrolled the whole thing, only a sixth, and the rest, i.e. £11million per year, has been taken out of taxpayers’ purses. So, for a sixth of the cost Barclays got itself a pretty good advertising deal. Not such a bad bank after all.

Everything is clear now. Barclays bikes are run as all public sector companies are meant to be run: pretty useless, and nobody wants to take responsibility and correct it. I think I’ll walk instead.

Genius Boris

How else would you call a man who is about to persuade the Chinese to spend Chinese money to bring Chinese tourists to London? London desperately needs to increase its airport facilities to bring in business and tourists. Even the frogs get more Chinese big spenders than London does. If Boris pulls off building a new mega-airport on the Isle of Grain at someone else’s expense, even his most fierce critics would have to take hats off their bolding heads to this not-just-a-pretty-face Blondie.

Posted on 23 Jul 2013 09:24:40 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Posted on 1 Jul 2013 07:25:14 by Marina Kim

Marina Kim: I feel violated at the prospect of my e-mails being snooped on

Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is and she is on Twitter as @MarinaKim_

Orwell would be turning in his grave

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 07.15.33Bread and circuses throughout history, human needs have been fundamentally simple. Wise leaders know they can do whatever they want (within the norms of a particular society) if they provide these two basics of human satisfaction. A comfortable life makes us lazy and indifferent. So lazy and indifferent that we are eager to accept that even our right to privacy the only valuable leftover of a democracy is being taken away.

Shock! Horror! Spy agencies spying! political commentators flooded twitter with jokes, demonstrating a worrying acceptance of the perverted reality, following the Snowden revelations. It was a shocking reaction to what was a seismic shift in the relationship between the individual and the State. It isnt spying on suspects: it is spying on everyone. The Guardian was the only voice of reason, not least because they had a scoop and needed to milk it as much as they could

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, one of the very few who made an official complaint, said: "The law governing state surveillance has never been fit for purpose but advances in technology and capacity mean it needs urgent updating."

It is a natural reaction from a civil rights group. But what about the general public? Thats what worries me most. My friends casually say, as they rush from work to be on time for yet another party, that it doesnt bother them, and they are happy for anyone who is prepared to sit through their telephone calls, read their texts or scan their Internet photos for clues to do so. In their view if looking through a million innocent people's stuff leads to finding one bad egg then it's worth it. All in the name of fighting terrorism.

Would you be happy for someone going through your diary? Even if it is someone who wishes you no harm, like your Mum? As much as I adore my mother, I would die from embarrassment if she read my diary. Perhaps that is why I dont even keep one! I hope it isnt too old-fashioned or naïve to want to keep your private life private. I dont walk around naked for all to see. In the same manner I only share my "naked" thoughts and views with a selected few. I feel violated, mentally raped that there is even a small chance of my correspondence being read I tried to protest against it by continuing to write in the free manner but couldnt help noticing that certain people changed their email behaviour, following the surveillance revelations.

They will tell you that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If you accept this principle today, tomorrow it may become a thought crime. Or it may be even worse. It may become a business. I wouldnt be surprised if we accept it that tomorrow our data might be sold off to big business for a profit. Collecting our shopping preferences via google or facebook, is already very valuable for advertisers. Imagine how much profit the government could make by selling off our data to big businesses? 

Something major happened. But where is the outrage? Has anybody written to his or her MP with a complaint? How many non-politically active people signed online petitions? What else has to happen to shake off this political lethargy and indifference? How soon is the law going to be amended? Will the trust between the State and the individual ever be restored?

Chakrabarti says: "The latest revelations reveal the authorities' contempt for basic privacy, legality and democracy itself. When combined with other recent scandals of intrusive surveillance its not difficult to see how blanket harvesting of personal sensitive data will be abused in years to come. We need urgent law reform and the intelligence community to be brought back under control. If that doesnt happen, we could find ourselves living in a very different country."  

A new social divide

It is a worrying sign when a Liberal Democrat appears more Conservative than a Conservative, and a Conservative seems way too liberal with things that need a very careful approach. But thats what happened with Nick Clegg's and David Camerons different stances on GM food.

In a recent radio interview, the Deputy Prime Minister said he did not knowingly give his children GM food, and favoured a precautionary approach. Post-election Cameron, however, gave his blessing to the environment secretary Owen Paterson going ahead with promoting this controversial policy. Pre-election Cameron was far more cautious

As Paterson enthusiastically pressed for a relaxation of strict EU rules on the cultivation of GM crops, it made me think that sometimes the EU is not such a bad thing after all  A worrying thought!

We have a controversial agricultural revolution imposed on us, while being given very little say in it. Paterson should listen to the farmers who complain about bad weather affecting crops, but first and foremost he should listen to us, the ultimate consumers of his policies. It should not all be about money and business. An overwhelming proportion of public does not want GMO. If the Government thinks the public is too stupid or archaic in its approach, then they should at least respect that as a sign of having to take things slowly, before bowing to big business. 

Even if the go ahead is given, we dont need to rush into growing GMO crops on a grand scale straight away. Better to continue small, and see the effect it has. Surely, that would be a far more conservative approach? Perhaps the problem is that there are too many men in politics with thick skin and subdued parental instincts. But as a future mother (well, hopefully) I feel strongly against what could potentially affect the lives of my children.

Clegg wont feed GM food to his kids, while Downing Street refuses to answer whether the PM would eat or let his family eat GMO.   Why not admit it if the PM is confident about it?  It all stinks of hypocrisy. The height of such hypocrisy is that Parliament has even banned GMO from its own restaurants! The rich and powerful will continue eating organic, just like they do now.

No doubt, GMO will be much cheaper than traditional food. Thus, it is those for whom the price tag matters, the poorest not the poorest of the world but in this very country who will involuntarily become guinea pigs for Mr. Paterson. What is it, if not yet another handmade social divide?

Magic in the air

Derren Brown a British illusionist, mentalist, trickster, hypnotist, painter, writer, and sceptic raised important social issues in his latest show Infamous. It was a case of the public coming for easy entertainment but getting educated on quite a few issues instead.

He started the show with how it felt for him coming out as gay. I certainly didnt expect a magic show to start like that. But it obviously mattered a lot to him, so we listened. The revelation made me look at the performance a bit differently. And involuntarily I couldnt help thinking he picked a very handsome young man out of the audience as a central figure for his tricks and took him on stage for a good hour or so, because. he fancied him. That was probably a mental trick and a challenge to us in its own right. 

Then, he played another trick to prove that we were all greedy (a valuable lesson to deprive us of self-righteousness). He picked a child in the audience and asked him to choose one of two envelopes: purple or yellow. One of them contained £50, and it would be his if he guessed it correctly. The child went for the yellow envelope, and he was right: £50 was his. How wonderful! Until the child learned that the purple envelope had…£300! The child, who had only just been jumping up and down with joy, fell on his seat on the brink of tears.

Edutainment at its best!

Posted on 1 Jul 2013 08:51:22 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Posted on 17 Jun 2013 08:06:51 by Marina Kim

Marina Kim: My vision of Gove with a whip and my view of how schools could be better

Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is and she is on Twitter as @MarinaKim_

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 08.05.01A lot of what we study at school bears little relevance to real life. Heads are overloaded and overheated with facts, numbers, words… The surreal vision of Michael Gove with a whip, calm but firm, is enough to scare any teacher into submission of pushing their students harder and harder. But all in vain – it seems - as so many of us simply come out confused after years of this intense acquisition of knowledge.

What is it that the education system is really lacking? How is what we learned at school helping us make decisions and communicate with others in everyday life? Does the curriculum move quickly enough with the fast-moving times? What do we really need for happiness, and how can education help us with it?

There's an ongoing debate whether we need relationship and sex classes at school, and how they should be taught. The opponents of the current system say it’s “too little, too late - and too biological.” It is difficult to determine what age is appropriate for children to learn about sex. Some kids go through puberty at eight – others could be many years later. I was a late bloomer, and played with dolls until I was 16. I can’t even imagine what shock I would have experienced had my teachers started explaining to me, before I was ready, about the process of how new humans are born. We should be careful not to educate kids too early but if we leave it too late then there is no point in it at all. There must definitely be an individual approach.

With gay marriage laws and gays able to adopt children, should schools catch up with the trend and teach about the safety of gay sex as well? Should gay relationships be discussed at the same relationship classes as straight ones? I can foresee quite a few parents being militantly against it, especially those from religious backgrounds. It could also be that children who want to learn about gay sex are bullied. Another reason for an individual approach to this sensitive issue.

Perhaps the solution could be an in-house professional psychologist who, apart from sex education, could also determine, through games and psychological tests, what kind of help this or that child needs, and teach them positive mental thinking at all times. Perhaps some deep and dark secrets, and wounds that children bear, would surface, too.

Attachment to skills from the past that are no longer relevant for today should be replaced with the development of more employment-applicable skills, including the effective use of online media resources, and building social networks that could be useful in getting jobs and developing a business in future.

Environmental study must also become a statutory part of the curriculum. Trees don’t really care if you hug them, but people should do. It is so important to teach the e-children of megapolises to notice the beauty of nature away from computer screens. Maybe David Attenborough videos should be a part of this process, too, to make this transition from e-life into the real world less scary for modern children. His videos are very inspirational, and not every child gets the opportunity to watch them at home.

Countryside camping and hill walking develop camaraderie and enhance friendships. Moreover, if children see cows in meadows or visit bee farms, they will no longer be confused where milk comes from, and learn that bees make honey.

Another type of obligatory teaching that society often lacks is about manners. Manners mean more than just being polite. It is a matter of learning how to peacefully co-exist in society. Judging by the increasingly aggressive world, such lessons must be introduced as a matter of urgency, and should be combined with general lessons of empathy, with tasks involving helping the elderly and disabled.

Such languages as Chinese, Russian and Arabic should be encouraged as useful for finding jobs and trading with rapidly developing countries. And yet in many schools the options are still just German or French. OK, at least it’s a relief that those years have not been wasted on Italian or Greek…

Gove is right to be making exams harder. This is not only a lesson in education. It is a lesson of life. The vision of Gove with a whip follows me…Such a oity that his heart already belongs to Diane Abbott… To succeed you have to work. Hard. Push yourself. He wants to put an emphasis on Shakespeare and British history. Brilliant! Apart from the obvious, this cultivates patriotism, an important but all too often forgotten quality of a good citizen.

Perhaps it would also be a good idea to introduce weekly discipline grades. Those with low discipline grades should have their parents invited to speak to the head teacher. If they don’t improve then a professional psychologist should interfere. Sometimes bad discipline signals a protest, or is a sign of trouble and unhappiness. If parents don’t notice it, a school should.

But with all the increasing educational demands, we must not forget to let primary school children be children. Pressure can increase at secondary school, but primary school should be more like edutainment - knowledge via fun and games. Two or three hour breaks in between classes would also be a good idea, as these will prolong the day enough for parents to be able to pick up their kids after work, and yet would not stress out the children.

Old boys network could work on a state school level, too. Those will be the days when papers are enraged when a Prime Minister who graduated from Stockton-On-Tees Secondary School employs another Stockton-On-Teesonian as a Minister of Education or maybe even as Chancellor…

Society is not static, and children of today make up the society of tomorrow. So, while preparing them for the worst, let’s hope that the updated knowledge and skills we are giving them will make our children better than us. If we don’t feel this is happening, it means we are failing them.

Posted on 17 Jun 2013 08:14:52 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Posted on 3 Jun 2013 07:00:05 by Marina Kim

Marina Kim: Why we need a statutory register of lobbyists now

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 21.44.09The Mercer scandal has underlined the importance of introducing a statutory register of lobbyists with access to Parliament. It is sad that only scandals triggered by journalists, the policemen of politics, bring forward common sense reforms that are long overdue.

But, as always, the devil will be in the detail. There will be no use for registration and regulation if it doesn’t cover all lobbyists, in-house and third parties, big corporations, individuals and charities. Watch for what they propose. Half-measures never bring the desired result - they just delay time until the bubble bursts again, and the real thing will have to happen. It always eventually does.

There is nothing wrong with lobbying as such. It allows interested parties to make and present their case. But when such politics is done in secrecy it makes you wonder what those concerned have to hide. Will these sting operations by the media put off badly-behaved MPs - or just make them more careful with carrying out better research before saying ‘yes’ and accepting the money? People’s trust in politicians is at stake. It is hard to argue why the £2billion lobbying industry shouldn’t be regulated on every level.

Continue reading "Marina Kim: Why we need a statutory register of lobbyists now" »

Posted on 3 Jun 2013 07:00:05 | Permalink | Comments (0)