"newsline." i'm ross mihara in tokyo. the trial of the captain and crew members from south korea's ferry disaster has begun. the group is facing a range of charges in connection with the april sinking. captain lee joon-seok's lawyer denied the charges of homicide. the "sewol" sank off the country a's southern coast leaving over 300 people dead or missing. 15 crew members have since been indicted. the trial is under way at a courthouse in the southern city of gwangju. the captain and three others
face charges of homicide through willful negligence. prosecutors accused them of not taking any action that may have saved lives. they said crew members were aware that the passengers would be trapped and killed when the ship sank, but the captain's lawyer denies those claims. he says the captain asked passengers to wear life vests and ordered an evacuation announcement. 292 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster. 12 people remain unaccounted for. most of the victims were high school students on a school trip. the captain and other crew members repeatedly told passengers to stay inside their cabins as the ship began to list but they were themselves among the first to flee on coast guard rescue boats. crew members are obliged by law to rescue passengers. prosecutors have pointed out that heavy overloading and insufficient securing of cargo weakened the ship's ability to recover its balance.
they say that a crew member turned the vessel too sharply. this also contributed to the accident. president park geun-hye apologized to the nation for not dealing with the accident in an appropriate way. some citizens claim that cozy relations between the public and private sectors resulted in lax safety oversight. park pledged to reform the rules dealing with maritime safety. park's ruling party avoided a major backlash from voters in local elections last week. her party and the opposition split the vote, but the country's media outlets have called on the president to view the results as a warning. south koreans are paying close attention to the outcome of the trial and many are eager to watch the case unfold firsthand. nhk world's anna jung reports. >> reporter: many waited outside the district court in a southern city for the trial to start.
officials modified a courtroom to add more seats. and they have set up another room with a television screen so families can follow what's happening. all of the 15 crew members were present with their 7 lawyers while prosecutors made a case against them. they're charged with homicide or violation of a ship safety act. the families of victims showed their anger and demanded justice. the crew members caused widespread outrage in south korea. authorities say they were among the first group of people who evacuated the ship. >> translator: a single death can mean a homicide conviction. these people have to pay the price for lots of deaths. >> translator: it's a great pity our country doesn't have a manual for dealing with this kind of disaster. we need to learn from this experience and come up with safety measures that are precise and thorough. >> reporter: the ferry disaster
has rocked the country's tourism industry. travel agents have seen a downturn in business. transportation companies and restaurants have also seen a slowdown in sales. in the weeks after, president park geun-hye announced she will dissolve the coast guard. she said officers failed to fulfill their duties and government officials said they will set up a new body to strengthen safety management. many people are watching to see what the government will do next. they want their leaders to put politics aside to make sure south koreans are safe. anna jung, nhk world, seoul. president park has named a university professor and former journalist as her new prime minister. the appointment is considered part of her effort to regain public support after the ferry disaster. park named moon chang-keuk to the post. he is a visiting professor at
seoul national university. moon will succeed the outgoing prime minister who took responsibility for the government's handling of the accident. moon is a former chief editorial writer at one of south korea's major newspapers. the president's office said moon can properly push the state agenda, including reform of public offices. park also named south korea's ambassador to japan as head of the national intelligence service. lee has shown eagerness to mend the strained relations between japan and south korea since his appointment as top envoy to tokyo a year ago. china is reminding hong kong it has ultimate authority over the territory. the government's first white paper issued tuesday comes as hong kong activists call for greater autonomy from the mainland.
the state council report gives a positive assessment of the former british colony's development since its hand-over to china in 1997. the paper says hong kong has a high degree of autonomy under the one country/two systems policy. but it says some people in hong kong are confused or lopsided in their understanding of the policy. the document points out that the national people's congress has the power to override decisions by the hong kong legislature. some hong kong residents are increasingly frustrated with china's growing influence on their lives. activists are criticizing the white paper for putting pressure on the territory. the pakistani military carried out air strikes on militants near the afghan border for the attack on occur achy's airport. >> the siege by insurgents in
the nation's largest city said the air raids on tuesday morning bomb boarded nine hideouts by islamic extremists in the tirah valley. they say the assault killed 25 militants. the taliban attacked the international airport in karachi 26 hours earlier. authorities say seven more bodies were found at the airport on tuesday. that raises the death toll from the incident to 39, including the attackers. on the same day, armed insurgents attacked a training facility for security guards near the airport. a gunfight erupted with security officers, closing the airport for about an hour. the pakistani taliban also claimed responsibility for that incident. the air strikes are heightening public concerns. pakistanis fear that islamic militants may carry out retaliatory attacks. prime minister nawaz sharif formed his administration last year pledging to build peace with extremists. peace talks began earlier this
year but the airport siege could set everything back to square one. nhk world's masaki suda has this report from islamabad. >> reporter: the taliban attack on pakistan's main international airport in karachi has highlighted the difficulties of protecting sensitive targets in the country. >> translator: it is an uneven fight. pakistan is now a conflict zone so keep this in mind that there are threats everywhere. every area is a target. every building is a potential target. >> reporter: the pakistani taliban emerged in 2007 and is now the country's largest alliance of islamic extremist groups. the organization rejects western democracy and culture and fights to establish a strict islamic state. the group was behind the notorious assault on malala yousafzai, a teenager
campaigning for women's right to education. the pakistani taliban is based in the northwestern tribal region bordering afghanistan. in recent years, the area has been under attack from u.s. drones sending some insurgents fleeing to karachi. analysts fear they may take root there. the airport assault is another sign of the government's inability to reconcile with the taliban. at one time, the pakistani military refrained from attacking north waziristan, the insurgent group's last base. it said cornering the militants would backfire. militants used the area as a base for attacks on international forces in afghanistan. but when they also began attacking pakistani targets, the pakistani military resumed air raids on the region earlier this year.
the airport seizure demonstrated the pakistani taliban can still launch massive terrorist assaults. there is still a long, rocky way ahead before pakistan can restore security. masaki suda, nhk world, islamabad. a japanese man is hoping his country's appetite for noodles will help bring peace to war-torn mindanao. he's teaching locals on the philippine island how to grow buckwheat. he wants to lure rebel fighters away from decades of war and into farming work. nhk world's kathleen ocampo has more. >> reporter: muslims make up about 20% of the population in mindanao.
muslim rebels on the island have been struggling for independence for more than 40 years. they've clashed repeatedly with government troops, leaving more than 60,000 people dead. but in march, the government and the country's largest rebel group signed a peace deal. the decades-long conflict has left mindanao the poorest region in the philippines. takeyoshi sumikawa wants to change that. he and a friend started growing buckwheat on a trial basis on a hunch that the grain would grow well there. >> translator: farming serves as the basic foundation of people's lives. i think the area is ideal for growing buckwheat, which needs plenty of rain and sunshine.
>> reporter: he secured backing from a japanese company willing to purchase buckwheat from foreign countries at low cost. he has been working on this project in mindanao for seven years. buckwheat in the philippines sells for about twice the price of corn. it has the potential of earning farmers more money. >> translator: our lives have become more stable if there's constant demand for buckwheat. >> reporter: the first challenge facing officials in mindanao is to disarm the muslim rebels. they're said to number as many as 10,000. the next test is to help them rebuild their lives. on this day, sumikawa visited the village that's home to many rebels. he wanted to convince them they can earn more money by growing buckwheat. >> this land, soil is very good.
you can harvest two times a year. >> reporter: this man is a senior member of a rebel group with 800 fighters. his four sons also belong to the group. fighting for independence has been their top priority. until now, becoming a soldier was only natural. >> translator: i'm exhausted from fighting. from now on we must work to bring a bright future for our children. >> reporter: he plans to start growing buckwheat. he says he wants to build the basis for his new life. sumikawa's efforts are already bearing fruit. some 15 farmers have started growing buckwheat on a trial basis. this year he hopes to increase the number of growers tenfold with rebel support.
a major japanese food processing company is spending its hopes on the buckwheat. exports of the mindanao-grown buckwheat to japan are expected to start this year. noodles made from the grain will be sold at stores around the country. >> translator: i hope the buckwheat production here will spread. my dream is to see a peaceful and robust philippines. i'm not sure how long i can keep working, but i'll do all i can. >> reporter: if successful, the buckwheat project holds a lot of promise. it will enable former fighters kathleen ocampo, nhk world, mindanao. >> that wraps up our bulletin. i'm chloaphansa narula in bangkok.
emerging economic powers still struggling with poverty. emboldened citizens still demanding democracy. the threat of violence. the push for peace. the shadow of conflict. get news and insight on south and southeast asia every weekday live from bangkok. only on nhk world "newsline." suspected islamic extremists have kidnapped 20 women in northeastern nigeria. it's close to the area where boko haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in april. a borno state official said an armed group kidnapped the women on thursday. eyewitnesses say the women were forced to enter the group's vehicles at gunpoint. they were then driven away to an unknown location. the abduction happened close to the school where boko haram militants took female students. security authorities suspect they are also responsible for the latest abduction. the nigerian government has deployed the military to crack down on the group and rescue the
schoolgirls, but boko haram is increasing its attacks in an attempt to gain control and establish a state based on islamic law. people in indonesia are getting ready to choose a new president. they'll appealed to voters in a televised debate. the ja karka governor is running against former general. they're looking to succeed incumbent president. the election takes place next month. the candidates discussed how to promote democracy and how to get rid of corruption in indonesian politics. the biggest group in parliament called for more transparency in the public procurement system. the third largest group in
parliament proposed fighting corruption by raising the salaries of civil servants. indonesia's economy is the largest in southeast asia. but many people fear widespread corruption could hinder growth. opinion polls say joko is the front-runner. the world cup opener in sao paolo, brazil, may get stuck with crippling traffic. subway workers in the city suspended their strike, but they're threatening to walk out again on thursday, opening day. sao paulo's metro worker's union launched the strike last week after failing to agree with management on a pay raise for workers. the state metro company responded by firing dozens of striking employees. the union decided to suspend the walkout on tuesday. a court ordered it to pay a fine of more than $220,000 per day if it fails to operate a certain number of trains. but if wage negotiations break down again, workers may resume
their strike. soccer fans will be deprived of a vital means of transport from the city center to the world cup venue. japanese prime minister shinzo abe is trying to set a new strategy in motion for economic growth. he called on experts to work out an effective policy package to achieve that goal. abe issued the instructions to members of the industrial competitiveness council when he was presented with draft measures to revitalize the economy. the draft calls for reforms in corporate taxation. the key is corporate tax cuts. it also proposes changes in employment and work practices. it says managers should evaluate their workers by how well they perform, not how many work hours they put in.
>> translator: a virtuous cycle is emerging in the nation's economy. we should not ahow it to remain temporary. we should make it sustainable. the key is to free the potential of japanese businesses and people. so we can all rise up to our challenges. >> the cabinet is expected to approve the package later this month. a japanese government report said the country's real estate market is pulling out of deflation. it notes land prices in metropolitan areas have started rising. that is due in part to development projects for the 2020 tokyo olympics. government officials say in an annual white paper that the upturn in land prices is especially pronounced in tokyo's bay area. the paper points out land prices if regional cities are also rebounding due to increasing demand for development.
the white paper calls for st stepped-up efforts for existing homes. another white paper is out, this one on tourism. in the report, government officials stress the need to build better transit systems to prepare for the olympics. and also to achieve a goal of attracting 20 million tourists a year from overseas. the document says the government should learn from other cities that have successfully hosted the olympic games. ahead of the 2020 event, it urges the government to hold more international conferences and other events to promote tourism. consumer prices in china rose in may at the fastest pace in four months. that is an indication that the country's economy was picking up momentum. the national bureau of statistics said the consumer price index jumped 2.5% last month from a year earlier.
that compared with a 1.8% increase in april. higher food and clothing prices contributed to the rise. the bureau also released the producer price index. that continued to fall in may, down 1.4% year on year. the rate of decline was smaller than the previous month. engineers at japan's mazda motor have unveiled a small, cleaner diesel engine with enhanced fuel efficiency. they say they'll be able to produce fuel-efficient cars without relying on hybrid systems. mazda engineers say the 1.5 liter engine will be installed on a sub-compact model that will go on sale later this year. the fuel economy will be better than the 26.7 kilometers that a small toyota car has recorded. that's the best fuel performance to date in japan including hybrids and mini vehicles. officials note that the engine drastically cuts nitrogen oxide
emissions. diesel cars are widely popular in europe. they're considered eco friendly and fuel efficient. in japan hybrids remain more popular. in japan, big is better, at least when it comes to sweet potatoes. but a small producer is bucking tradition and finding sweet success overseas. >> reporter: this high-end supermarket in hong kong carries a selection of products from japan. one section of the store is set aside for small sweet potatoes from the southwestern city of kushima. more and more shoppers have been buying them. >> translator: i usually eat sweet potatoes of this size. they taste great. >> reporter: many people here use rice cookers to steam sweet potatoes. smaller ones cook easily so they sell well. most japanese sweet potato
farmers don't grow smaller varieties. preparing them for shipment takes longer than for larger ones, and small potatoes fetch a lower price in japan. but one businessman saw an opportunity overseas. his company grows small sweet potatoes for export to hong kong. they are about half the size of regular ones. the firm has just eight employees and four hectares of fields. the workers handle everything, from growing the potatoes to shipping them. makoto ikeda is their leader. a few years ago, he had a problem. sweet potato prices were falling and the company was losing money. he worried that the transpacific partnership free trade talks could open the door to more imports. >> translator: we faced several challenges three years ago, including falling prices and the tpp.
i thought unless i took action, i wouldn't be able to survive. >> reporter: that's when ikeda heard that smaller sweet potatoes sold well in other countries. he decided to bank his company's future on them. ikeda has come up with his own growing method. he makes rows narrower than those used for regular sweet potatoes. planting this way keeps the potatoes from growing too large. most japanese shoppers have little use for small sweet potatoes. but in hong kong, they now fetch about $2 per half kilogram. ikeda's company ships 30 tons of the tubers there every year. including those grown by other farms. sales have tripled over the past three years and the company has started exporting to singapore and taiwan. ikeda is always looking for ways to increase sales.
he sent some workers to hong kong in march with five varieties of sweet potato. their job was to find out which ones people liked. >> translator: they love stronger tastes. >> translator: they prefer distinctive tastes, like really sweet or spicy. >> reporter: ikeda decided that this year, he'll grow even sweeter potatoes. >> translator: products that don't meet local needs will gradually be forgotten so we have to keep making improvements. >> reporter: ikeda's story shows that with the right approach, a product as simple as the sweet potato can become a hit. other business people might want to follow his lead. maybe they, too, will discover new markets and new growth opportunities. every morning investors turn
their attention to asia. the tokyo market leads the way. and markets around the world follow. >> from the decisions that could change the course of the economy. >> up-to-the-minute market reports. >> analysis by specialists from around the world. >> get all the latest business news and insight every day, here on "newsline." take a look at the three-day weather forecast.
> welcome back to "imagine-nation." i'm nicholas pettas. >> and i'm chiaki horan. >> i'm feeling a little bit playful. >> really? >> i am. >> today's feature is a game for smartphones. >> a new game for smartphones. >> called battle cats. yea! every time i introduce a smartphone game on this show, i always get addicted to it. >> that's because you have a lot of free time to play on your phone.