Your Wednesday Briefing: Anger over ‘false alarm’ in South Korea

Also, military tensions in the Arctic.

Good morning. We’re covering panic in South Korea and NATO’s challenge in the Arctic.

People at a Seoul railway station watching a news broadcast with footage of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Fear and anger over South Korea’s ‘false alarm’

When North Korea launched a rocket carrying its first military reconnaissance satellite yesterday, it triggered evacuation alerts in South Korea that were followed shortly after by a new wave of messages saying that the earlier notice was a “false alarm.”

For half an hour, confusion and panic swept across Seoul. Then that anxiety turned into anger and exasperation.

The launch was later described by North Korean officials as a failure. But for South Koreans, who have grown inured to the North’s frequent provocations, their government’s reaction was a disturbing sign that it was unprepared to handle a real emergency.

“They messed up big time,” said an office worker in Seoul who woke up to the sirens.

Details: South Korea issued an evacuation alert on Baekryeongdo, an island near the northwestern border with the North, but officials were investigating why the same alert was also issued to Seoul, even though the rocket flew hundreds of kilometers west of the city. Officials in Seoul said they decided to issue an alert in the city as a precaution. The mayor of Seoul later issued a public apology.

Response: Critics say that the government’s reaction was symptomatic of an administration that has championed a tough stance against the North yet has failed to assure the public of its safety amid a growing nuclear threat.

A Russian missile cruiser at an Arctic base in 2021.Emile Ducke for The New York Times

NATO’s big challenge in the Arctic

Climate change is opening the Arctic to more commercial and strategic jostling. Russia, China and the West are all seeking to expand their military presence in the region.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend an informal NATO meeting in Norway today as the alliance is embracing Finland — and Sweden, too, the U.S. hopes — which would give the alliance new reach in the Far North.

While NATO has been cheered by Russia’s difficulties in the war in Ukraine, the alliance still has significant vulnerabilities in the Far North, where Russia has its air power, northern fleet, nuclear submarines and nuclear-armed missiles.

Russia has said it wants to make the Arctic one of its military districts, a defense expert said. China has also been busy trying to establish itself in the region and use new unfrozen routes. Creating a “northern bubble” to deter Russia and monitor China has become one of NATO’s newest and biggest challenges.

Other developments in the war in Ukraine:

Wrestlers clashed with the police as they tried to march to Parliament on Sunday in New Delhi.Arun Thakur/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shrinking space for protest in India

Two female wrestlers who accused a powerful sports official of sexual harassment were detained this week and their protest camp in New Delhi was dismantled. Two days later, the athletes planned on throwing their Olympic medals into the Ganges River and starting a hunger strike, but community leaders stepped in to appeal for calm.

Activists and opposition politicians say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has grown increasingly intolerant of dissent. Modi’s party uses its majority in Parliament to disrupt debate, the police to thwart protests and the national media — as well as trolls and social media influencers — to demonize those who question it.

Protests in the capital have increasingly been relegated to a small designated site called Jantar Mantar. There, too, permission to assemble is required from the police.

Related: Modi’s government plans on scrapping the 2,000-rupee note, worth about $24, by early fall, which has triggered a public rush to spend the bills.

Pride in Chennai, India, last June.Idrees Mohammed/EPA, via Shutterstock

What’s L.G.B.T.Q. life like where you are?

Many countries celebrate Pride in June to recognize L.B.G.T.Q. people and their struggles for equality. But that fight and that celebration look different around the world.

We would love to hear your story. What’s it like being L.G.B.T.Q. where you live? How has being part of the community changed over time? You can share your experiences with us here. We may feature your response in a future edition of the briefing.




Asia Pacific
Pakistan’s top court recently ordered the authorities to release Imran Khan, who was arrested in a corruption inquiry.Aamir Qureshi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Pakistan’s judicial system has started to resist its powerful military during the political crisis over the fate of Imran Khan, the former prime minister.
  • The first trial relating to China’s efforts to stamp out dissent by harassing its citizens overseas began in New York. A former police offer is among the accused.
Around the World
Yemenis who fled Sudan disembarking at a Saudi port last month.Amr Nabil/Associated Press
Other Big Stories
Health and Science
A Morning Read
A crew member aboard the Aquila, a fishing vessel, on its final voyage in April.Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In some coastal communities in Ireland, fishing has been the backbone of the economy, even as it has been whittled down over the years. Now, some fear that new quotas agreed after Brexit and the retiring of boats will be the final death knell.

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Freddie Mercury wrote most of the lyrics by hand on stationery from a defunct British airline, British Midland.Lauren Fleishman for The New York Times

Could it have been ‘Mongolian Rhapsody’?

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” released in 1975, sold millions of copies, topped charts and helped redefine what pop music could be.

But it could have gone a different way — in one aspect, at least. An early draft of the song by Freddie Mercury reveals the word “Mongolian” scratched out, suggesting that he once considered giving the anthem a slightly different title.

The draft is among thousands of items that belonged to Mercury that are being auctioned in September by Sotheby’s. The sale includes drafts for other Queen hits including “Somebody to Love,” “We Are the Champions” and “Killer Queen.” All show Mercury searching for words to make his lyrics sing, sometimes trying out multiple lines.


What to Cook
Yossy Arefi for The New York Times

Buttermilk adds gloss to this herbaceous take on a classic macaroni salad.

What to Read

Geena Rocero, a transgender model from the Philippines, writes about living openly in her memoir, “Horse Barbie.”

What to Listen to

Witch, a rock band from Zambia, is putting out its first album in about four decades.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Sticky stuff on a tree (three letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin and Amelia

P.S. Our colleague Julie Turkewitz spoke with KALW about her reporting on Afghans crossing into the U.S. on foot through South America.

The Daily” is a political fight between Republicans in Texas.

We welcome your feedback. You can reach us at



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