Author: Adam Cathcart

From Hyesan to London: Hyeonseo Lee and the New North Korea Defector Memoir

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EU-East Asia relations / human rights / North Korea / North Korean border region / Yanbian
June 23 Abulouwang Hyeonseo Lee

Hyeonseo Lee has produced an excellent memoir, a text which, along with John Sweeney and Emma Graham-Harrison, I will be discussing with her at an event organized by The Guardian in London tomorrow night. Having worked my way through a review copy of the text this past week, I am happy to convey that the book goes beyond some of the now-stereotypical gestures of the suddenly expanding ‘North Korean defector genre’. Through the book, readers […]

Opera North and ‘The Flying Dutchman': A Review

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Art / Cultural Politics / German / Opera
Middle Wagner

While having ostensibly little to do with the East Asian themes that normally permeate this website, the following post is connected to my interest in German classical music and specifically opera. Regular readers more interested in Northeast Asia can trace Wagner’s relevance for studies of state-driven culture in the region more fully via my article ‘North Korean Hip-hop? Reflections on Musical Diplomacy and the DPRK‘ (Acta Koreana, 2009).  — Adam Cathcart, University of Leeds  Opera North […]

Regional Government and Political Integration in Southwest China, 1949-1954: A Review

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Borderlands / China / Chinese communist party / Tibet
1950年11月兄弟民族代表团在重庆解放碑参加集会

Dorothy J. Solinger: Regional Government and Political Integration in Southwest China, 1949-1954: A Case Study. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. Review by Li Wankun, University of Leeds In traditional Chinese histories, the Southwest has often been considered as the most independent area in China, labeled as “the land of barbarians”(manhuang zhidi / 蛮荒之地). Accordingly, the concept and boundaries of “the Southwest” (xinan/ 西南) has fluctuated greatly over time. Anchoring the region is the province […]

Songs, Film, and Ideological Shifts in the DPRK

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Art / North Korea / Propaganda
Rice Plant Flower

Unlike songs which can put forth a new policy line in the space of a day or two, films take longer to congeal and embody ideological shifts. Chinese media covered this film “Rice Plant Flower” 《稻花》with a slight implication that there might be something about wealth accumulation in it, but it looks to be quite orthodox and in no way indicative of the Party’s reported relinquishing of limited control to selected farmers, let alone a […]

Meth, Road-Tripping, Drought, Aid, and Forbidden Love: Five North Korea Stories from China

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Sino-North Korean relations
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Microblogging in English or Chinese continues to present limits on and challenges for academics who ‘watch’ Northeast Asia. Certainly, in the process of gathering information about the region, it has gotten rather easy to share pithy viewpoints, but the problem of why one is sharing a given piece of information is not always self-evident. Take these two tweets as a study in contrasts:   Personal blogs seem to be a good medium through which a slightly more considered and […]

On Kim Jong-un’s ‘Achievements’ and the North Korean-Chinese Relationship

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Kim Jong-un / North Korea / Sino-North Korean relations
Liu Hongcai, Chinese Ambassador in Pyongyang, extreme left, looks on while PRC Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu presents a gift to a nonplussed Kim Jong Il two days before his 69th birthday -- courtesy Huanqiu Shibao

This past December, many observers of the scene in northeast Asia had questions about the ‘three-year mourning period’ which was coming to an end, ostensibly, in North Korea. Since Kim Jong-il had been continuously eulogized and memorialized since his death, questions were being raised about Kim Jong-un possibly being seen as lacking in respect for his father. There were also questions about a possible change in course to the relationship with China — namely, could […]

The Perils of Reporting on North Korean Workers in China

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China / Manchuria / North Korea / North Korean border region / Sino-North Korean relations / Yanbian
Sim Chi Yin, Le Monde

On the last day of the wondrous month of May, Brice Pedroletti, the Le Monde correspondent in China, was in the city of Tumen, along the northernmost point of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  With him was travelling a photographer from Singapore; their task was to travel down the isolated stretch of the Tumen River (which is the border between China and the DPRK) in search of details about the recent rash of border […]