Author: Adam Cathcart

Data Points from a Summer of Ambivalence in Chinese-North Korean Relations

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China / North Korea / Sino-North Korean relations
PRC Ambassador

As  summer gets underway in earnest, China’s new Ambassador to North Korea is getting to work in Pyongyang and surrounding points. While Chinese academics fulminate at the lack of coordination offered by North Korea to its socialist ally, and PRC state media inexplicably seems to encourage various forms of speculation about Li Jinjun’s having been ‘frozen out’ from contact with North Korean officials, I thought it might be useful to revisit a few data points from last summer. […]

Williams and Wu, The Great Wall of Confinement: A Review

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Beijing’s pride in having hosted the 2008 Olympics and China’s protean economic growth contain a dark underside—unemployment, crime, corruption, and prison camps. Prison camps, or laogai, are the subject of Phillip F. Williams and Yenna Wu’s monograph which interweaves memoirs, fiction, and strands of social science and literary theory to uncover aspects of the contemporary Chinese prison camp. This text is not only important and innovative, it is glittering with details on a rarely revealed […]

On the disbandment of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra and the reported death of several of its members

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Music / North Korea
Mun Kyong-jin in Paris, 2012

With respect to the matter of the Unhasu Orchestra “executions” which has been bubbling about since late August 2013, augmented by  JoongAng Ilbo reports of “stadium executions” in Wonsan in November 2013, and raised again with reports of grizzly executions of yet more musicians in spring 2015: Obviously, none of us is in possession of anything resembling a conclusive data point which would prove or deny the Unhasu assertions. What I have instead, besides my […]

North Korean Purges and Scuttlebutt

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American Foreign Policy / Sino-North Korean relations / US-North Korea relations
Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 14.53.06

A few days after publishing a 2500-word analysis of the Hyon Yong-chol purge aftermath (an abbreviated version of which was published by the Guardian), I spoke with Steve Miller of the Asia News Weekly podcast about a number of issues relating to North Korea and the situation in northeast Asia. A sound & video recording of our conversation, along with some prefatory text, is available here.

On the PRC Ambassador in Pyongyang, ‘Comfort Women’ Activists, and the Women Cross DMZ Reception

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history and memory / Korean War / North Korea / North Korea and the Third World / North Korea-Japan relations / North Korean border region / 新闻自由
DCF 1.0

This morning I turned on my computer and immediately became wrapped up in a somewhat quixotic quest to find the origins of a rumor. The rumor being that the Chinese Ambassador in Pyongyang ‘had yet to be recognized by the North Korean government.’ A question to that effect had been asked (or should we say planted?) at the 25 May Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference in Beijing, which had then triggered a bunch of […]

On Memorial Day, and Korea

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history and memory / Korean War / Pensee

One day in May back in the 1990s, an old man stood about ten meters from a small flag on my father’s grave in Minnesota and gave a speech about Korea, the ‘forgotten war.’ For me, the war hadn’t been so much forgotten as learned and immediately neglected. One simple dot-matrix printout had been made (being a hoarder who needs to read everything multiple times before forgetting it, I still have it) which said KOREAN […]

Full Comment on Women Across the DMZ March

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American Foreign Policy / history and memory / North Korea / US-North Korea relations / War Crimes / 新闻自由
Coleen Baik image from Pyongyang, 22 May 2015

As observers of current events on the Korean peninsula will be aware, a group of peace activists is presently in North Korea and will be crossing the DMZ tomorrow, from Kaesong, into the South. Their efforts have been the focus of much conversation.  I was asked to share my views with the Christian Science Monitor, which yesterday published a short extract from the following remarks. 1. Do you see this event having any potential to spark meaningful […]