Author: Adam Cathcart

Comment on the Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan

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history and memory / Japan / Sino-Japanese Relations / 新闻自由

Richard Lloyd Parry, Tokyo Bureau Chief for The Times (London), kindly alerted me to an open letter recently published by a large number of academics nicely timed to follow on the heels of the various controversies which had been re-stirred by the Abe Shinzo visit to the United States. The letter manages to delicately get around a frequently-encountered problem: The essentializing of “Japan” in discussions of how the nation is not living up to expectations in terms of […]

Full Comment on the North Korean Execution Rumours

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Kim Jong-un / North Korea / North Korean border region
KJU machine gun hands

Adam Taylor at the Washington Post was kind enough to get in touch with me for a piece he wrote about some recent and rather grisly execution rumors stemming from new satellite imagery as interpreted by Joe Bermudez and the folks at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). A lightly modified version of my full response follows: I think it’s an awful lot to read into what is, at the end of the […]

Kim Jong-un: purges, paranoia, plots and the cancelled trip to Moscow

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North Korea / North Korea foreign relations
KJU exiting aircraft May 2014 Rodong Sinmun

After months of public relations flirtation that led the world to believe that Kim Jong-un would be taking his first foreign trip as head of state to Moscow this month, North Korea has abruptly cancelled the voyage, according to a Russian diplomatic source. The news comes on the heels of South Korean intelligence reports of yet more purges in the upper echelons of the north, where the spring has been punctuated by executions. The victims […]

Bubble at the Summit: Insecurities in Kim Jong-un Itineraries

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Borderlands / factionalism in North Korea / Kim Jong-un / Kim Jong-un health / Manchuria / North Korea / North Korean border region / Op-Ed / Sino-North Korean relations / Yanbian
KJU Wonsan

Is Kim Jong-un staggeringly confident, or do his behaviours and travel itineraries betray personal neuroses and structural fears? The short answer is that it depends on the issue under discussion. Let’s take the economy for starters. Like a shrimp rediscovering its appetite after an awful oil spill, the North Korean economy appears to be improving, or so argue a number of indicators. Several smaller dams around the Huichon behemoth are coming online, meaning there is more power […]

Notes on Kim Ki-nam, and on North Korean Cultural Production

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Music / North Korea
Rodong Sinmun Singers 2015-04-18-04-02

The Chosun Ilbo carries the news that Kim Ki-nam, head of North Korea’s Ministry of Propaganda and one of the few remaining members of the famous funeral cortege of December 2011, has finally stepped down from his post.  I previously analyzed the possibility of Kim Ki-nam’s retirement, and his place in the North Korean system, in this June 2014 article on musical propaganda. Earlier in spring 2013, I described Kim Ki-nam’s unique role in the North Korean system […]

Koreans and Military Training in Japan, 1947-48

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Korean War / US occupation of Japan

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in a single box at the US National Archives — otherwise known as RG331 (Allied Operational and Occupation HQ), SCAP Government Section, Administrative Division, Purge Miscellaneous File, 1945-51, box 2054, “Administration to Directives [Screened].” This is a box of “screened” purge candidates. It is hugely disorganized, with no real folders, everything mixed in together, but amid the probably 2000 pages there are many single documents of great interest. Without […]

Ideology and Anti-Factionalism: A Survey of North Korean Workers’ Party Publishing Output in 1958

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history and memory / North Korea

In May 2010, the US Central Intelligence Agency released a file which it had had in its files for many decades: Korean Books (in Korean), No. 1, Catalogue of Books by Korean Worker’s Party Publishing House.  While in most other contexts such a text would be open-source, finding the book (along with a hell of a lot of extremely interesting materials) during today’s foray into the CREST database at the US National Archives in College Park, […]