I recommend you watch how these stories develop, since most of them have yet to be really reported in the Anglophone press:
1. Legacies of Japanese imperialism in Manchuria
Chinese government organizations and affiliated NGOs are engaged in a struggle to get the old Unit 731 facility (the commemorative site for Japanese biological weapons research and atrocities outside of northeastern city of Harbin) listed as a World Heritage Site. This story seems to be making waves on the Chinese internet, but few Western journalists have been covering it (perhaps none recently).
2. A regime-sponsored uptick in Kim Il Song nostalgia in North Korea
I would have reported this in Seoul, but the source — KCNA, the official North Korean news agency — is illegal to read in South Korea. In any case, the Workers’ Party pulled out all the stops for the 16th death anniversary of Kim Il Song, reminding everyone not just of his works but his promises to deliver material prosperity for his people. It would seem that the government is setting rather high expectations for itself in the presumptive leadup to the crowning of an official successor in 2012, if Kim Jong Il makes it that long. (For links, check out my Twitter feed for today.)
3. Sino-North Korean cooperation in Yunnan?
Reporting (originating from Daily NK) that North Korean agents are active in the Chinese province of Yunnan, with tacit Chinese assistance, to hunt down would-be refugees who have made it that far from the northeast. [The same story is here in Chinese, here in the original Korean, with a hat tip to Chris Green, the man in Seoul who makes the English versions possible in the first place.] One indication if this story is true or not might come in the form of Chinese media refutations, which I have yet to see. This is a significant question, as at least some American rollback/regime change bloggers in the US tend to assume that Chinese security organizations and North Korean counterparts are like peas in a pod. Which may be the case, or, as I think is more likely, China is temporarily allowing North Korea to do this as a back-door means of giving them something privately while bashing them over the head publicly, as per the next item.
4. Revising the record on Korean War origins
The June issue of History Reference in Beijing contained at least two long articles which contained the promise of a continually transforming Chinese narrative of the origins of the Korean War. The key sentence in what appears to be the lead article is “北朝鲜的数千门炮火轰鸣, 朝鲜战争爆发 // thousands of North Korean cannons roared, and the Korean War broke out”, but it goes on to describe Stalin’s desire to occupy Japan, the U.S. letdown of South Korean security/hardware needs in 1949, and Mao’s discussions with Kim Il in 1950. The appearance of the dissenting general Lin Biao in the Korean War debate adds an additional note of intrigue. (Lin has been slowly crawling back into a host of new publications in Beijing, indicating “the center” deems it possible to reevaluate him at least in part.)
5. Back to the Future: North Korean misbehavior on the high seas
These 1174 pages of newly declassified testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations committee in 1968 are wicked interesting: Dean rusk shows up to talk about US options toward North Korea in the wake of the Pueblo disaster in 1968, and without a doubt the documents are being scoured as we speak by clever North Korean translators looking for more propaganda grist, which of course they’ll probably find.
6. Deteriorating army-civilian relations in North Korea
This is an important trope to keep an eye on. Why else would KCNA engage in otherwise ridiculous attempts to ameliorate bad perceptions, well, like this:
Story of Kim Il Sung
Pyongyang, July 12 (KCNA) — One day in October Juche 39 (1950) [ed.: while he was just taking some spare time off from weaving through burned-out cities, moving from bunker to bunker, and being targeted with napalm raids and super-bombs named "Tarzan,"], President Kim Il Sung had his car stopped near a cabbage field on his way to Changsong County, North Phyongan Province, seeing soldiers engaged in cabbage harvest. He summoned their officer and asked why they were harvesting cabbages cultivated by peasants.
The officer explained the following reason to him:
The officer went to the ri people’s committee to buy some vegetables but the committee officials refused to take money and offered all of a cabbage field to the soldiers free of charge, saying they had nothing to spare for them fighting a war. The officer persisted in paying for the cabbages but to no effect.
Listening to the reason, the President told the officer to correctly count the cabbages and fairly pay to the owner.In the evening, the officer visited the owner of the cabbage field and paid more than the price of the cabbages.
If you’re using the horrible year of Juche 39 [1950, the coming of the holocaust from the sky] to drive home the groundwork for regime legitimacy, I think you’re in a bit of trouble. But they’re just doing what they can at KCNA; certainly some poor bureaucrat has received a directive to put out more items about how to resolve contradictions between peasants and hungry soldiers. It reminds me most of Guomindang/Chinese Nationalist Party propaganda from 1948-49…
7. Yours truly
The week I spent in Seoul and Kwangju left me staggering under the joyful burden of new data/experiences/perceptions and am consequently working up, among other things, a short essay for this blog on the legacies of the Kwangju Uprising of 1980 and their meaning in China. However, I recently arrived in Taipei and will be working here for the next week on a project on Sino-Japanese relations and the rhetorical function of anti-Japanese sentiment during the Chinese Civil War and the early Korean War in China.
Further, I managed to at least update my biography/the “about” page of this blog with some photos and new publication information and anticipate having some news in the near future involving some exciting changes going on behind the scenes here at Sinologistical Violoncellist and, if I may coin a phrase, other Cathcartian areas of the internet.