Author: Adam Cathcart

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

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Borderlands / Chinese communist party / Yanbian

This review was originally published at, 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 the nation results in an exquisitely useful chapter for scholars concerned […]

Comrades in Crisis: Chinese-North Korean Relations in War, Occupation, and Today

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Borderlands / Chinese communist party / Chinese foreign policy / Korean War / Manchuria / Mao Zedong / North Korea foreign relations / People's Republic of China / Sino-North Korean relations
Yonsei U

On 25 March 2016, I will present the following paper at Yonsei University in Seoul, thanks to an invitation from John Delury and the Yonsei Underwood International College International Studies Program. More details about specific venue will follow in due course. The lecture will take place at 2 p.m. Title: Comrades in Crisis: Chinese-North Korean Relations in War, Occupation, and Today Abstract: In our time, the reciprocal bonds between the Korean Workers’ Party and the Chinese Communist Party […]

Report on Opium in China from the German Embassy in Tokyo, 1944

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China / German / German-Japanese Relations / history and memory / Sino-Japanese Relations / World War II
Customer Smoking Opium at an Opium Den by George Lacks

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

The Kim Il-Sung Socialist Youth League and Cultural Expression in North Korea

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North Korea / Propaganda
business of fashion pyongyang CATHCART

The following is the full text of an interview I did with Kati Chitracorn of Business of Fashion magazine, interspersed with running tweets and commentary focusing on the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League and youth culture generally in North Korea. Incidentally, I keep waiting for a reporter to do a big feature on the role of the Socialist Youth League in construction of an epic hydropower project near the Chinese border, since that has figured prominently […]

American Weimar: On Hitler, Obama, and BR Myers’ Diminution of Juche

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American Foreign Policy / German / North Korea
Hitler views Japanese art in Tokyo, 1939, via Bundesarchiv

This essay was written in Seattle in October 2011. Today I spent some time leafing through a solemn black notebook filled with sketches made primarily in the stacks at the University of Washington Suzzalo Library, reminding myself that not all good research is immediately digitized. Sometimes it takes a few months before a certain concept can swim down to the bottom of one’s consciousness and take root.  After all, in the intervening time between the initial […]

Journalist Expulsions and Beijing’s Counterterrorism Narrative

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Chinese communist party / Cultural Politics / EU-East Asia relations / French / Huanqiu Shibao / human rights / Propaganda / Soft Power / 新闻自由
Counterterrorism in China, Langfang, 2014

2015 was supposedly a triumphant year for the Chinese Communist Party, but the CCP seemed determined to end the year on a landslide of insecurity with respect to the foreign journalists within its borders. The expulsion of French journalist Ursela Gauthier was, of course, the primary case in point. As Gauthier noted, her case was not just about her single report and subsequent failure to engage in “serious introspection” and apologize to “the Chinese people” — it […]

Full Comment on the Latest American Detention in Pyongyang

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North Korea / North Korea foreign relations / Uncategorized / US-North Korea relations
Matthew Miller, via CNN

I was interviewed for a story in TIME magazine [full citation: Charlie Campbell, “The Detention of a U.S. Student in North Korea Underscores the Risks of Travelling There,” TIME Asia, 25 January 2016]. The following is my full comment: While the post-detention treatment of such individuals is always political and used for domestic and international propaganda effect by the regime, the arrests themselves are usually triggered by behavior that the North Korean authorities can classify […]