Crystalized Data: Additional Notes on the Meth Trade in Yanji

The story of illegal drug distribution across the North Korean border and into China is now being told with a bit of flair in the pages of Newsweek. As regular readers of this blog will know, I find fieldwork in the Chinese borderlands with North Korea always to be an exciting process.  Exciting though it may be, it is a process that — speaking for … Continue reading Crystalized Data: Additional Notes on the Meth Trade in Yanji

Crimes and Misdemeanors in Yanji

In the endeavor to put some meat on the bones of the Chinese side of the Robert Park story (e.g., What was Park doing in Yanbian and what was the Chinese police response?), a recent commenter on this site pointed my attention to the website of the Yanbian Public Security Bureau.  Sure, its posts about cops sharing some grains with local households are just standard … Continue reading Crimes and Misdemeanors in Yanji

News from Yanji

Well, North Korea may be on fire, but the wise Chinese Communist Party has apparently decided that releasing the news in the PRC would disturb social harmony.  Or otherwise interfere with its evolving master narrative on North Korea.  As Professor Jonathan Pollack reminds us, the PRC narrative now includes sticks as well as carrots, and features some unprecedented public criticism of North Korea. So instead … Continue reading News from Yanji

Grain Politics and Sichuan in the 1950s

There are few lines of historical investigation more fraught in China than those concerned with food, security, and famine in Sichuan province in the 1950s. But where to start the investigation? Which reference points obtain? For Frank Dikotter, the reference point is Mao, and the beginning point seems to be 1953. In his book Mao’s Great Famine, the historian locates the origins of the famine … Continue reading Grain Politics and Sichuan in the 1950s

Hyun Ok Park’s History of the Cultural Revolution in Yanbian

This review was originally published at SinoNK.com, as part of a roundtable including contributions from Andre Schmid (University of Toronto) and Robert Winstanley-Chesters (Australian National University).  Paradoxically, scholarship that attempts to explode the frame of the nation-state can be most useful for scholars concerned precisely with what occurs within state boundaries. In the case of The Capitalist Unconscious: From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea, the ardent drive to reframe … Continue reading Hyun Ok Park’s History of the Cultural Revolution in Yanbian

Collaborative Research and the New North Korean Social History

The writing of North Korean history is a difficult, exciting, contested, and increasingly social endeavour. Research networks and sharing of sources of ideas are more important than ever. Charles Armstrong’s publications of the early 2000s pointed in the direction of archivally-sourced and culturally-based treatments of early North Korean history, both during the period of state formation and during the Korean War (1945-1953). Much work, however, … Continue reading Collaborative Research and the New North Korean Social History

Fireworks from the Bunker: North Korea’s Role in Borderless Tourist Zone Revealed

Everything about this Reuters piece about a possible breakthrough in Chinese-North Korean cross-border tourism is great, until: “The [tri-national] zone is the latest push by North Korea to transform itself into a tourist attraction.” While it is true that North Korea has spent a huge amount of money on tourism prestige projects (i.e., Masik Pass Ski Resort) since Kim Jong-un came to power, it is far … Continue reading Fireworks from the Bunker: North Korea’s Role in Borderless Tourist Zone Revealed

Hungry Soldiers, Bloodshed on the Tumen: Sources [Updated]

[Update: An much-expanded version of this post, including a full translation of a Chinese editorial about the matter, was published yesterday at Sino-NK.] On the morning of 27 December, a North Korean soldier reportedly left his post in North Hamgyong province, walked across the frozen Tumen river into a small village in the PRC’s Helong county, and proceeded to shoot and kill four civilians before being wounded … Continue reading Hungry Soldiers, Bloodshed on the Tumen: Sources [Updated]

Viewing the DPRK’s 66th Anniversary through a Chinese Lens

The realities of daily life in North Korea are, at best, elusive for the outsider to grasp. A lack of personal experiences often interfere. Those of us who have never known hunger or the terror of a certain knock on the door can read tales of depravation of food and basic personal rights only in shock. In today’s world beyond the DPRK, empathy (and its … Continue reading Viewing the DPRK’s 66th Anniversary through a Chinese Lens

Comment on Haggard: The North Korean Restaurant Franchise

Stephan Haggard is an endless source of extreme quantities of highly enriched North Korea information. His ‘blog’ posts (which are usually more like mini-journal articles, trenchantly done but lighter and more fluent in style)  at Witness to Transformation place him at the prow of a mighty and miraculously regular enterprise, so it’s only courteous to add data in the form of a comment if you’ve … Continue reading Comment on Haggard: The North Korean Restaurant Franchise