• Drugs, smuggling and fake currency

    North Korea’s route to riches through the diplomatic pouch. Last May a sting operation in the port city of Vladivostok by a government anti-narcotics squad bagged two drug dealers and a stash of 8.5 kilograms of heroin, worth millions on the street. Nothing surprising about that – drugs, extortion, contract killing and general mayhem are commonplace in Russia’s wild east, where police are fighting a losing battle against crime gangs. Read more >

  • Celebration falls flat against tough competition

    From the vast pyramid of Foster’s beer cans that greeted Crown Prince Naruhito at the official launch, to the last honk of Alan Dargin’s didgeridoo, it was obviously Australian – but just what was it meant to achieve? Celebrate Australia, a month-long promotion of Australia’s arts, entertainment, produce and scientific achievement, finished this week after a cycle of 100 events in Tokyo and 32 regional towns and cities around Japan. Read more >

  • Asia’s Stonehenge

    Quite simply, one of the world’s great undiscovered archeological treasures. “You must be careful where you walk,” says our guide, Lan Phetrasy, as he leads us around the rim of an enormous bomb crater and onto the mysterious Plain of Jars, the most dangerous archeological site in the world. Read more >

  • Seoul sheds shadow of the rising sun

    There it stands, dominating the city from the top of Sejongno – Seoul’s main boulevard – an immense four-storey pile of grey granite topped with a copper dome, once the grandest building in all of north-east Asia. In its vaulted halls and marble-pillared galleries, the National Museum displays floor upon floor of priceless art and artefacts, the crown jewels of Korean culture. Read more >

  • Beer, blackjack and women for travellers to wild east of Siberia – Khabarovsk postcard

    Breaking the bank – how I beat the casino in Khabarovsk. It was 9 pm, but the sunlight was still filtering through the thick velvet curtains – white nights, they call them round here – as I took on the Amur Casino. Through the gloom I could see the croupiers idly spinning their roulette wheels, waiting for the punters. I took a sip of my Heineken beer and placed a pile of chips in front of me on the green baize blackjack tabletop. Read more >

  • Eating corn from cow-pats: inside North Korea’s gulag

    Kang Chol-hwan was 15 years old the first time he saw one of his friends murdered. “Until then I was too young and I was not allowed to watch the executions,” he says, in a matter-of-fact way. Kang was forced to gather with thousands of other inmates of the camp on a muddy parade ground beside a frozen stream while guards tied the condemned man to a white wooden pole with three strips of cloth. Read more >

  • The Kim is dead – long live the Kim

    It is a weird-looking contraption, shaped a bit like a five-metre cigar tube with a turret on top, thick coats of grey paint failing to conceal the clumsy welds that hold it together. It sits on a pedestal in the middle of a park on the outskirts of Seoul, with a plaque explaining that it is a midget submarine in which four North Koreans tried to sneak across the Imjin River to launch a terrorist attack on the South. Read more >

  • South Korea, economic superpower

    President Kim’s brilliant Korea. A funny thing happened some time last year while Australia was busy congratulating itself on the end of the recession and looking forward to some economic sunshine. It slipped one place down the ladder of international economies, as measured by gross national product. Read more >

  • Tiger in the taiga

    Nowhere to run. Siberia fights to save the endangered white tiger. Vladimir Shetinin crouches on the forest floor and pokes a stick at the track of a trail bike frozen in the black mud. “Poachers,” he grunts, tugging on his grey beard and cocking an ear to the sky. The only sound is the icy Siberian wind groaning through the bare boughs of the oaks and birches. Read more >

  • The world’s most secretive Stalinist state

    The great leap backwards. Yellow water, brown toilet-paper, and massive military parades – a week in North Korea. With a thunderous roar from the sound system, tanks, cannon, missiles and fighter planes boom across the great grandstand where 10,000 cadres manipulate coloured display boards with robot precision. Read more >

  • Why Korea hates the Japanese

    Undeserved tears mark tyrant’s end analysis. The legacy of occupation. Tokyo, Sunday: When Joseph Stalin died 41 years ago, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney splashed an illustration of a weeping crocodile across its front page, with the headline “STALIN DEAD – HOORAY”. Read more >

  • World War II’s last frontier – the forbidden Kurile islands

    Last outpost of the cold war. Akiko Iwasaki kneels in prayer beside the lichen- covered headstone, a smooth grey boulder cast up by the sea half a century ago and inscribed in rough-hewn characters with the names of her ancestors. She unpacks bags of lollies; she arranges a posy of plastic daffodils; she drenches the rock with a flask of water, brought from across the sea. Read more >

Looking for something specific?

A visit to North Korea’s Gulag, the fight to save the endangered white tiger in Siberia, and a week in the Cold War’s last frontier, the remote Kurile Islands.