Author: Adam Cathcart

Before New York: Assessing the North Korean Foreign Minister

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North Korea / North Korea foreign relations / US-North Korea relations
Ri Su-yong in New York

North Korea does diplomacy like few other states in the world. The state’s well-known reclusiveness means that any foray outward is worth noticing; when combined with flamboyant attacks on adversaries (such as the insistence that the world bow before the blinding genius of their thirty-year old head of state, or risk being bombed), North Korean appearances have a way of attracting attention. The challenge is to understand if anything is actually changing in the fundamentals […]

New Koguryo Research in Pyongyang, or, How to Revive a Historical Dispute on China’s National Day

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Borderlands / Chinese nationalism / Cultural Politics / East Asian modernity / history and memory / Manchuria / North Korea / North Korea foreign relations / North Korea-Japan relations / Public Diplomacy / Sino-North Korean relations / Soft Power / Yanbian
30 September 2014, North Korean Central TV

It doesn’t take much skill at reading tea-leaves in Chinese or English to recognize that Kim Jong-un’s letter of congratulations to Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, and Zhang Dejiang on the PRC’s National Day fell far short of what, from a Chinese perspective, it should have been. Kim’s three brief sentences were newsworthy because he was ostensibly bed-ridden, but also because they indicated a lack of respect for the Chinese Communist Party. If the slight was […]

The Shenyang Trials of 1956: Presenting the Resurrection of Defeat in Heidelberg

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Chinese communist party / Japan / Sino-Japanese Relations
Shenyang 2

The University of Heidelberg will be hosting a conference later this month on post-1945 war crimes trials in East Asia, at which I will be presenting. An abstract and bio follow: The Shenyang Trials of 1956: The Resurrection of Defeat  Using now-closed files from the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archive and contemporary sources in Chinese, this paper, investigates the role of the Shenyang Trials of 1956 in configuring China’s postwar position and asserting a specifically Chinese […]

Hong Kong, the UK, and Occupy Central

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Chinese communist party / EU-East Asia relations / 新闻自由
Matthew Bell, Hong Kong

I spoke this evening to Phil Williams of BBC 5 Live about the protests in Hong Kong. While my brain was more than a bit muddled after a very full day of university lecturing (the first proper day of the semester, in fact) and finishing a grant application to a major Anglo-Japanese foundation, I think I got a few main points across: The movement is bigger than just students; the students themselves are a much broader […]

Kulturarbeit in Nordkorea

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Cultural Politics / German / North Korea
Isang Yun

My new essay on matters of classical music in Pyongyang has been posted at Sino-NK: To make a sweeping cultural generalization, German musicians tend to bring great seriousness and historical sensitivities (in the best sense) to their views of, and work with, North Korean musicians. Notions of music’s function toward binding the community/Gesellschaft together, as well as the idea of composers under tremendous political pressure, all resonate with the experiences and memories of the German […]

On Heartbreak, and Bix on Hirohito

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Japan / US-Japan relations / War Crimes / World War II

In our culture of oversharing and social media, there is such an excess of verbiage that the words ‘must read’ or ‘essential’ have basically lost their meaning. The same is true for words like ‘heartbreaking’ — if it was really breaking your heart, you wouldn’t be on Twitter. What happens if you don’t read something ‘essential’? Usually, nothing, because the term has been turned into verbal click-bait. Sometimes academics and journalists really ought to turn […]

Notes on the DPRK Association for Human Rights Studies (Part 3)

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North Korea
Mother of the Nation and Anti-Japanese Guerilla Fighter, Kim Jong Suk (collection of Adam Cathcart)

How does the DPRK position itself with respect to international standards and the discourse on universal human rights? The report does a fairly slipshod job of establishing that North Korea’s concept of human rights deserves its own standard of evaluation. A very weak attempt is made to assert that the concept of universal human rights was more or less summed up in statements made by the United States and France in 1776 and 1789, both […]