Blueprints and Rumors in Sinuiju and Dandong

Last week Christopher Green and I assessed the outlook for concerted Chinese-North Korean development in the critical corridor for trade between Dandong (PRC) and Sinuiju (DPRK). Using the October bilateral trade fair in Dandong as the test case and a number of Chinese-language press releases as sources, we argued that the trade fair should not be interpreted as evidence of a new receptivity by North Korea … Continue reading Blueprints and Rumors in Sinuiju and Dandong

Trains, Trade, and Corruption: Dandong Data Points

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 … Continue reading Trains, Trade, and Corruption: Dandong Data Points

North Korean Forestry Purge Rumors, and the China Angle

John Power, writing at The Diplomat, asks how credible the latest rumour is from South Korea. Was Choe Yong-gun killed for disagreeing with the Supreme Leader on forestry policy? He (the journalist, not the apparatchik) appears to be on to something: The absolutely explosive rumour about a North Korean scientist who defected with a USB chock full of biological weapons research secrets from Pyongyang has not been … Continue reading North Korean Forestry Purge Rumors, and the China Angle

Occupying North Korea, Witnessing Massacre? Military Sources and the Question of US/UK Forces in Sinchon

The North Korean state claims that US troops arrived in Sinchon, Hwanghae province, on 17 October 1950 and promptly began butchering civilians, culminating in over 35,000 dead by the time of their retreat on 7 December. To my knowledge, no serious writing outside of North Korea has been made to determine if the body count is accurate. However, writers and scholars like Hwang Sok-yong and Kim … Continue reading Occupying North Korea, Witnessing Massacre? Military Sources and the Question of US/UK Forces in Sinchon

Dandong Discourse: China-DPRK Trade Fair, and Rumblings in Xinchengqu

Historians have surely seen better days between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kim-centric Workers’ Party of [North] Korea, but business continues apace today in the borderland. The main item seen in the past few weeks (i.e., something “new” that hasn’t yet made it yet into our wonderful Anglophone discourse) is the subject of today’s post. And the news is that the China-DPRK Trade Fair and Culture/Tourism Expo … Continue reading Dandong Discourse: China-DPRK Trade Fair, and Rumblings in Xinchengqu

From Hyesan to London: Hyeonseo Lee and the New North Korea Defector Memoir

Hyeonseo Lee has produced an excellent memoir, a text which, along with John Sweeney and Emma Graham-Harrison, I will be discussing with her at an event organized by The Guardian in London tomorrow night. Having worked my way through a review copy of the text this past week, I am happy to convey that the book goes beyond some of the now-stereotypical gestures of the … Continue reading From Hyesan to London: Hyeonseo Lee and the New North Korea Defector Memoir

The Perils of Reporting on North Korean Workers in China

On the last day of the wondrous month of May, Brice Pedroletti, the Le Monde correspondent in China, was in the city of Tumen, along the northernmost point of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  With him was travelling a photographer from Singapore; their task was to travel down the isolated stretch of the Tumen River (which is the border between China and the DPRK) … Continue reading The Perils of Reporting on North Korean Workers in China

On the PRC Ambassador in Pyongyang, ‘Comfort Women’ Activists, and the Women Cross DMZ Reception

This morning I turned on my computer and immediately became wrapped up in a somewhat quixotic quest to find the origins of a rumor. The rumor being that the Chinese Ambassador in Pyongyang ‘had yet to be recognized by the North Korean government.’ A question to that effect had been asked (or should we say planted?) at the 25 May Ministry of Foreign Affairs press … Continue reading On the PRC Ambassador in Pyongyang, ‘Comfort Women’ Activists, and the Women Cross DMZ Reception

Full Comment on the North Korean Execution Rumours

Adam Taylor at the Washington Post was kind enough to get in touch with me for a piece he wrote about some recent and rather grisly execution rumors stemming from new satellite imagery as interpreted by Joe Bermudez and the folks at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). A lightly modified version of my full response follows: I think it’s an awful lot … Continue reading Full Comment on the North Korean Execution Rumours

Bubble at the Summit: Insecurities in Kim Jong-un Itineraries

Is Kim Jong-un staggeringly confident, or do his behaviours and travel itineraries betray personal neuroses and structural fears? The short answer is that it depends on the issue under discussion. Let’s take the economy for starters. Like a shrimp rediscovering its appetite after an awful oil spill, the North Korean economy appears to be improving, or so argue a number of indicators. Several smaller dams around the … Continue reading Bubble at the Summit: Insecurities in Kim Jong-un Itineraries