More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

  Today the NK News website published a 1600-word essay I wrote in response to Robert Collins’ extensive new report on the Organization and Guidance Department of the Korean Workers’ Party. A short series of extracts follows: More than ever since January 2017, ‘North Korea watchers’ have been wrestling with a dilemma typical for analysing autocracies: Does one take a personalist interpretation of the DPRK’s diplomacy and … Continue reading More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

On the Opening of the Ji’an-Manp’o Trade Port

As a small Chinese city on the Yalu River, Ji’an (集安) is an often-overlooked juncture for Chinese-North Korean movement of supplies and people. It was the main conduit for the Chinese troops into the DPRK during the initial stages of Mao’s intervention in the Korean War. It is the site of ancient tombs of the Koguryo kingdom, which makes it an important site for ancient … Continue reading On the Opening of the Ji’an-Manp’o Trade Port

On Think Tanks, or, What Trump Didn’t Get in Helsinki

The Trump administration has brought with it a dark winter of discontent to US think tanks. Institutions stocked with the analytical rosters of former Clinton and Obama appointees with North Korea-related expertise are hardly alone; even experts at the Heritage Foundation find themselves unable to embrace the steps being taken by this unorthodox Republican administration. The discontent within the think tanks appears to be matched by the rise of skepticism … Continue reading On Think Tanks, or, What Trump Didn’t Get in Helsinki

North Koreans Watching Fox

This post operates on sanity-preserving ground rules: No referring to: think-pieces, think-tank analyses, journalistic hot takes, outraged or absurd Tweets (other than those thumbed out by POTUS), Chuck Schumer’s courageous stand against a commemorative coin, or speculation about what this consistently incoherent White House intends to do. Do not engage with the orgy of clickbait flowing out of the inexplicable leak from the Pompeo/Andrew Kim … Continue reading North Koreans Watching Fox

On the Perils of Journalistic Moonlighting for Academics

The inter-Korean summit which occurred on 27 April coincided with a rare trench of open time and full energy for me, so I was able to write three pieces in response. None of these is full of blistering insights per se, but perhaps by discussing their production in aggregate I can convey something useful about the way the world of journalistic commentary works for academics, … Continue reading On the Perils of Journalistic Moonlighting for Academics

Notes on North Korean Musical Exchanges and Internal Narratives

A lot of people seem to be interested in North Korean cultural diplomacy these days, so the (often peer-reviewed/probably badly flawed/usually enormously fun) work which I have been doing on this issue for the last decade has allowed me to say a few not completely ignorant things about it for a wider public. [Updated 6 April 2018:] This morning I spoke about it with Canada’s … Continue reading Notes on North Korean Musical Exchanges and Internal Narratives

Media Blackout in Beijing: Reading the Empty Spaces during the Kim Jong-un Visit

Among the dozens of subplots feeding into and out of the curious-but-necessary welcome by Xi Jinping of Kim Jong-un this week is the question of information access and what it means or doesn’t mean about the robustness of the overall Chinese-North Korean relationship. I put together a few preliminary thoughts on this for an outlet based in Seoul, and link and some shorter excerpts of … Continue reading Media Blackout in Beijing: Reading the Empty Spaces during the Kim Jong-un Visit