• Two Countries, Same Channel: Correspondent Yigal Schleifer is not a regular viewer of the Turkish version of "Survivor," which pits a Turk team against a Greek team, but he hasn't been able to miss its impact with Turks. "It was a real stroke of genius putting these two together, as it grabbed people's attention," says Yigal, who lives with his family in Istanbul. "Initially there was criticism that this was just for ratings and was irresponsible. But people are watching and laughing at the stereotypes that are coming out in the show. It has gone beyond being just a show to something that carries a message about what the two sides think of each other."
Yigal says the wider issue of the nexus between pop culture and diplomacy is intriguing. If anything, he says, the political tone has worsened in the four years that he has lived in Istanbul, even as the cultural scene has blossomed.
"It seems as if something is in the air," he says. He points, among other things, to another reality TV show called "The Foreign Groom," where two of the contestants – a Greek woman and a Turkish man – fell in love off the show. "She was voted off the show before him, and became so popular with the Turkish audience that an online forum was established where viewers could send her sympathetic messages."
• South Korean debate: On his recent trip through Seoul, South Korea, staff writer Robert Marquand took note of the intensity of the discussion over whether and how the US should stay. "It's taking place at a time when the president's popularity rating is in the single digits," Bob notes. "Yet some say that he and a team in the Blue House appear bent on creating diplomatic facts on the ground that those who want the Americans to stay longer view as sabotage." Bob also noted how quickly the official tone has adapted to North Korea's jarring nuclear test. "While I was there, a senior minister stated essentially that 'we're over the shake-up.' "
Deputy world editor