The Inquiry

BBC World Service

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

  • 23 minutes
    What does a designer handbag say about South Korean politics?

    In September 2022 a Christian pastor had a meeting with Kim Keon Hee, the first lady of South Korea, in her private residence. That meeting was recorded with a hidden camera and the film was released a year later.

    What happens in the footage is not entirely clear … except that it appears to show two people - a man and a woman meeting, and one offering an expensive bagged gift to the other. This obscure video triggered a political storm so large that some say it even affected the outcome of the country’s parliamentary elections.

    So what does a designer handbag say about South Korean politics?

    Contributors: Raphael Rashid, freelance Journalist based in Seoul Sarah Son, Director of the Centre for South Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield Jong Eun Lee, Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Greenville University in South Carolina Andrew Yeo, Senior Fellow and South Korea Foundation Chair at the Brookings Institution

    Presented by Tanya Beckett Produced by Louise Clarke Researched by Matt Toulson Production Coordinator: Tim Fernley Editor: Tara McDermott

    Image Credit: Philip Fong\Getty

    13 June 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 59 seconds
    Is Georgia turning its back on Europe?

    On the 28th of May, in a small country on the easternmost reaches of Europe, a new law came into effect.

    For the vast majority of people around the world, this new ruling, in a nation of fewer than 4 million inhabitants, went largely unnoticed.

    However, for many of the citizens of Georgia it marked a setback, throwing off course the country’s prospects of joining the European Union and aligning it more closely with Moscow.

    This week on The Inquiry we’re asking, ‘Is Georgia turning its back on Europe?’

    Contributors:

    Megi Kartsivadze, DPhil student, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford, and an invited lecturer at the University of Tbilisi, Georgia

    Professor Stephen Jones, Director of the Program on Georgian Studies at the Davis Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

    Dr. Lia Tsuladze, Executive Director of the Center for Social Sciences and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Tbilisi State University, Georgia

    Maia Nikoladze, Assistant Director in the GeoEconomics Center, Atlantic Council, Washington DC

    Production team:

    Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Lorna Reader Technical Producer: Craig Boardman Researcher: Matt Toulson Production Coordinators: Ellie Dover & Tim Fernley Editor: Tara McDermott

    Image Credit: David Mdzinarishvili/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock

    6 June 2024, 7:06 am
  • 23 minutes 1 second
    What can the world’s biggest iceberg tell us?

    The current record holder for the world’s biggest iceberg is the A23a. Back in 1986 this colossus broke away from an Antarctic ice sheet. This process of breaking off or ‘calving’ as it is known is a natural part of the life cycle of an ice sheet. But A23a then became lodged in the Weddell Sea for more than thirty years, until four years ago a gradual melting allowed the berg to refloat.

    Since then it’s been steadily on the move, heading in the same direction as Antarctic icebergs before it, towards the warm waters of the Southern Ocean, where it will eventually shrink from melting.

    As it travels, the iceberg has been playing an important role on the ecological environment around it, both in positive and negative ways. So, on this week on The Inquiry, we’re asking ‘What can the world’s biggest iceberg tell us?’

    Contributors: Dr. Catherine Walker, Glaciologist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, USA Dr. Oliver Marsh, Glaciologist, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK Jemma Wadham, Professor of Glaciology, UiT The Arctic University of Norway Christopher Shuman, Research Associate Professor, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, Maryland, USA

    Presenter: William Crawley Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Katie Morgan Editor: Tara McDermott Production Co-ordinator: Ellie Dover

    Image Credit: A23a in Antarctica, Jan 2024. Rob Suisted/Reuters/via BBC Images

    30 May 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 59 seconds
    Is Myanmar on the brink of collapse?

    In February 2024, Myanmar reactivated an old law which had been on hold for 14 years, stating adult men aged up to 35, and women up to 27 years old, must serve at least two years in the country’s armed forces. The plan is to add sixty thousand new recruits annually – and anyone caught avoiding conscription faces prison and a fine.

    It’s part of the military-led government’s bid to fight back in a brutal civil war, which broke out in 2021 after its coup seized power from the democratically elected party. A violent crackdown on the peaceful public protests that followed triggered widespread armed resistance and has energised other groups who are determined to end military leadership.

    Myanmar is no stranger to internal unrest, but this latest conflict is pushing it closer to the edge.

    This week we’re asking - Is Myanmar on the brink of collapse?

    Contributors: Tin Htar Swe, Former Editor of BBC Burmese Service & freelance Myanmar consultant Professor Michael W. Charney, Professor of Asian and Military History, SOAS, University of London Dr David Brenner, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Sussex Dr Min Zaw Oo, Executive Director, Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security

    Production team: Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Lorna Reader Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tara McDermott

    Image: A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building in Yangon, Myanmar, on 15 February 2021 (Credit: Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    23 May 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 59 seconds
    Is Turkey getting more dangerous for women?

    Historically, Turkey has always had a strong women’s rights movement, stemming from the days of the Ottoman Empire through to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey into the present day. At the top of the movement’s agenda now is the fight to protect women against violence from men. It’s three years since Turkey pulled out of the Istanbul Convention, the Europe wide treaty on combatting violence against women and girls. The Turkish Government has its own version of domestic violence law, but there are concerns that this doesn’t offer the same protection as the Convention.

    Campaigners say that femicide and violence against women continues to plague society and that there is an increasingly anti-gender rhetoric within mainstream politics.

    So, this week on The Inquiry, we’re asking ‘Is Turkey getting more dangerous for women?’

    Contributors: Dr. Sevgi Adak, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, The Aga Khan University. Professor Seda Demiralp, Işık University, Turkey. Dr. Ezel Buse Sönmezocak, International Human Rights Lawyer, Turkey Dr. Hürcan Aslı Aksoy, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin.

    Presenter: Emily Wither Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Katie Morgan Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image credit: Cagla Gurdogan via REUTERS from BBC Images

    16 May 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 57 seconds
    Has US military aid come in time for President Zelensky?

    The war in Ukraine has reached a pivotal moment.

    After months of an apparent stalling on the frontlines, Russia has recently made a series of critical breakthroughs.

    Now the race is on for Kyiv to get newly approved military aid to the front line before Russian forces attack Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv.

    The 60 billion dollar bill passed in America’s congress at the end of April allows for Ukraine to push back against Russian forces and prepare to mount an offensive next year.

    But a gap in the supply of missiles has left Kyiv dangerously exposed and huge questions remain about how Ukraine’s President will act next.

    So, on this week’s Inquiry, we’re asking ‘Has US military aid come in time for President Zelensky?’

    Contributors:

    Gustav Gressel, senior policy fellow with the Wider Europe Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Berlin office. Max Bergmann, Director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and Stuart Center, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in the US. Dr Marina Miron, post-doctoral researcher in the War Studies Department and an honorary researcher at the Centre for Military Ethics and the Department of Defence Studies, Kings College, London. Professor Olga Onuch, Professor (Chair) in Comparative and Ukrainian Politics at the University of Manchester, UK.

    Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Lorna Reader Researcher: Matt Toulson Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters via BBC Images

    9 May 2024, 7:06 am
  • 23 minutes 1 second
    Can Texas go it alone on border control?

    Last year the US state of Texas introduced a controversial law designed to control the huge number of undocumented migrants crossing its southern border with Mexico. The law known as Senate Bill 4 or SB4, allows local and state police the power to arrest and charge people with a newly created state crime - ‘illegal entry’.

    Immigration law has historically been handled by the federal government. Crossing the border is a federal crime and addressed by immigration courts that fall under the justice department.

    Now Texas is embroiled in a legal battle and SB4 has been paused. But it’s just the latest measure that Texas has taken to stop hundreds of thousands of migrants entering the US on its border. Back in 2021 the state’s Governor, Greg Abbott launched a multi-billion dollar border security programme known as Operation Lone Star. Along with his Republican lawmakers, the Governor’s argument is that Texas has a legal right to defend itself and they allege that Democrat President Joe Biden has failed to secure the US southern border in violation of the law. But with a Presidential election this November, it remains to be seen if Texas will have a more sympathetic ally in the White House in the future.

    So, on this week’s Inquiry, we’re asking ‘Can Texas go it alone on border control?’

    Contributors:

    Dr. Ernesto Castañeda, Director of the Centre for Latin American and Latino Studies and its Immigration Lab, American University, Washington DC, USA

    Dr James Henson, Director, Texas Politics Project, Department of Government, The University of Texas at Austin, USA.

    Denise Gilman, Clinical Professor, Co-Director Immigration Clinic, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Law, USA

    Julia Gelatt, Associate Director, US Immigration Policy Programme, Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC, USA

    Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tara McDermott Technical Producer: Craig Boardman Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    (Photo credit: Adam Davis via BBC Images

    2 May 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 59 seconds
    Who is country?

    Beyonce has released an album that has gone straight to the top of the country music charts.

    The 27 tracks include the work of many collaborators from the world of country music, including Black country artist Linda Martell and Dolly Parton’s 1974 song Jolene.

    It has been so well received it has become the fastest selling album of the year.

    Beyonce is usually known for her pop and RnB. Her success in the country music genre has opened up a wider debate about where country music originates from, who it belongs to and its political associations.

    This week on the Inquiry we are asking, who is country ?

    Contributors:

    William Nash, Professor of American Studies and English at Middleburgh College Francesca Inglese, assistant professor in the Department of Music at Northeastern University Taylor Crumpton, music critic and culture writer from Dallas, Texas Charles Hughes, associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and co-founder of the No Fences Review

    Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producers: Louise Clarke and Lorna Reader Editor: Tara McDermott Technical Producer: Cameron Ward Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image credit: Reuters

    25 April 2024, 7:06 am
  • 23 minutes 42 seconds
    Are synthetic opioids a global problem?

    An increasing number of people are dying from misuse of synthetic opioids. In 2022, the US recorded over 70,000 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. The government is spending billions to combat the effects of these super strength drugs. Synthetic opioids, such as Fentanyl, are made in laboratories by using materials derived from the opium poppy. China is a major hub for the production of synthetic opioids, where it then makes its way to North America through Mexican drug cartels.

    The lab-made drugs can be more deadly than the natural materials, but they are more easily accessible, and prevalence is rising across the world.

    In West Africa and the Middle East, tramadol is one of the most consumed synthetic drugs. The rise of synthetic opioids in the European market, which are being used as a substitute for a heroin shortage, is fuelling concern that these substances could lead to a rise in drug-related deaths.

    This week on The Inquiry, we’re asking are synthetic opioids a global problem?

    Contributors Ric Treble, Forensic chemist and advisor to the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Dr Angela Me, Chief of the Research and Trend Analysis Branch from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc and investigative journalist Dr Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in the Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution

    Production team Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producers: Vicky Carter and Matt Toulson Researcher: Ajai Singh Editor: Tara McDermott Technical Producer: Cameron Ward Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image credit: mikroman6 via Getty Images

    18 April 2024, 7:06 am
  • 23 minutes
    How secure is Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership?

    Six months into Israel’s war in Gaza and with no sign of a ceasefire or breakthrough in securing the release of the 130 hostages, as yet unaccounted for, pressure is mounting on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    There have been widespread protests in Tel Aviv and across Israel. There have been calls both from home and abroad for an early election to be called. And Israel’s greatest ally, the United States has sharpened its rhetoric in the past few weeks over Israel’s conduct of the war, with President Biden now saying that he believes Benjamin Netanyahu is making ‘a mistake’ in his handling of it.

    For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister looks set to continue with his military offensive and has shown no indication so far that he is willing to step down or call an early election.

    So, on this week’s Inquiry, we’re asking ‘How secure is Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership?’

    Contributors: Professor David Tal, the Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies, University of Sussex, UK Natan Sachs, Director of the Centre for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution, Washington DC, USA Aaron David Miller, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, USA Professor Tamar Hermann, Senior Research Fellow, The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem

    Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Jill Collins Editor: Tara McDermott Technical Producer: Cameron Ward Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image credit: Reuters via BBC Images

    11 April 2024, 7:06 am
  • 22 minutes 58 seconds
    Are we close to a breakthrough for Multiple Sclerosis?

    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease which can lead to loss of mobility and vision. Almost 3 million people worldwide are affected by it. There is no cure, but attempts are being made to accelerate the healing process with treatments to restore what the disease has damaged.

    At the same time, scientists have recently discovered a link between MS and a common virus that the majority of us carry in our bodies. It had been known for years that there was a link between Multiple Sclerosis and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). But then, a study finally proved the link.

    Now, trials are underway on potential vaccines against EBV and scientists are hopeful that this could be a gateway to preventing MS.

    This week on the Inquiry we are asking: Are we close to a breakthrough for Multiple Sclerosis?

    Contributors:

    Tim Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services & Science Officer for the National MS Society, US Tjalf Ziemssen, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience and Head of the Multiple Sclerosis Center and Neuroimmunological Laboratory, University Clinic Carl-Gustav Carus, Germany Jeffrey Huang, Associate Professor of Biology, Georgetown University, US Claire Shannon-Lowe, Associate Professor in Virology, Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham, UK

    Production team:

    Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Matt Toulson Researcher: Ajai Singh Editor: Tara McDermott Studio Manager: Hal Haines Production Co-ordinator: Liam Morrey

    Image Credit: Shidlovski\Getty

    4 April 2024, 7:06 am
  • More Episodes? Get the App
© MoonFM 2024. All rights reserved.