Author: Adam Cathcart

Putting a Price Tag on North Korea’s October 10 Celebrations

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North Korea / Propaganda
Screen shot 2015-10-17 at 17.16.11

I don’t doubt there is an abundance of potential fury in North Korea’s provinces, but it does seem odd that a single parade, fireworks display, and associated banquets and pageantry would eat up an amount equivalent roughly equivalent to 7% of the country’s GDP (source: CIA World Factbook, 2013 GDP est. at 28 billion). While Pyongyang remains the inevitable epicentre of state expenditure and ostentatious display, the state and Kim Jong-un personally have taken efforts recently to […]

Recent Work on Sino-North Korean Relations, History, and Chinese Foreign Policy

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Choe and Liu

The arbitrarily configured 70th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party, and the presence of a high-level Chinese delegation in Pyongyang, created a need for some commentary and context.  This post aggregates some of things I did in response to the event, and in the two months since the “August DMZ loudspeaker crisis” earlier this year. On October 10, I was quoted in the Washington Post, and the Neue Zurcher Zeitung. The next day, I had a […]

On History and the “Comfort Women” Debate

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Japan / US occupation of Japan / World War II
Hyo Won Lee on Comfort Women Book

As illuminated by recent anniversaries and commemorations, history is both a malleable plaything and an obsessive object of dispute for states in Northeast Asia. In Tokyo, Abe Shinzo and his Liberal Democratic Party rework histories of colonial expansion into halcyon inspiration for an enslaved Asia, seeking to move firmly beyond the bonds imposed by Douglas MacArthur and the postwar occupation. In Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party has absorbed the Nanking Massacre victim narrative in toto, and takes thunderous credit for a 1945 victory in which it had […]

Trains, Trade, and Corruption: Dandong Data Points

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Borderlands / Chinese communist party / Chinese foreign policy / Kim Jong-un / My Publications / North Korea / North Korea foreign relations / North Korean border region / Sino-North Korean relations
Dandong Trade Fair

While analysts were surely right to parse the dynamics of the 3 September parade in Beijing, the work of assessing the state of Chinese-North Korean relations needs to go well beyond seating charts, personalities, and speculation about Kim Jong-un. As the main juncture for bilateral trade, the Chinese border city of Dandong should be near the top of any short list of generally verifiable factual indicators of Chinese-North Korean relations. Synthesizing all the stuff going on in and […]

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: The View from China

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China / Cultural Politics
twintowers via Smithsonian

  This op-ed was written in August 2010 as a submission for the New York Times but never published. Things have changed quite a lot in the intervening five years, but perhaps the reading of the Chinese sources, if not the somewhat narrow US perspective, will be of some minor value.  Many thanks to Charles Kraus, among other things a Xinjiang specialist, for his comments on it at the time. For readers in the UK seeking to […]

Othello in Pyongyang: Reading North Korea in the German Archives, circa 1950-1977

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Korean National Opera

The relationship between East Germany and North Korea was not simply a curiosity of the Cold War; it was a relationship with tangible results, interactions, and ideals. Here are some of the more interesting documents I cycled through this past week in Berlin, in the order in which they were scribbled in my notebook. (No cameras are allowed in the archives, and photocopies of original documents, once ordered, take a few weeks to arrive.) All citations are […]

Opium and National Humiliation: Another Commemoration

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China / World War II

On June 8, 1944, the German Embassy in Tokyo sent a report back to the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Ministry). Unlike so many other files dealing with foreign affairs, at this particular dispatch showed no signs of having encountered Ribbentrop’s blue pencil — the German foreign minister was notoriously narcissistic and had to see the full text of every article mentioning his name. The subject of the document was China’s Chiang Kai-shek.  In summer of 1944, […]