News of the World: 1998
Asian Financial Crisis Trickles Down
When Thailand's economy, once one of the strongest in Asia, collapsed under the weight of foreign debt in 1997, its downfall set off a chain reaction in the region, sparking the Asian currency crisis. While far from completely recovered in 1998, Thailand appeared to be in better condition than many of its Asian neighbors, whose financial downturn provoked political upheaval.
South Korea's currency also underwent a massive devaluation in 1997, and the subsequent political instability brought Kim Dae Jung to power in February 1998. Once imprisoned as a dissident, Kim became the first South Korean president ever elected from the political opposition.
In fall 1998, disagreement over how to rectify Malaysia's economic downturn led Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad to denounce and jail his heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, inciting protests throughout the country.
But the international community was most alarmed when Japan's economy, the world's second-largest after the United States, began experiencing its worst recession since World War II, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in July 1998. Japan's uncharacteristic vulnerability augured the development of the Asian crisis into a global one.