Memory and Reproduction: A Study of 1980s Chinese Ethnic Korean Revolutionary Narratives—Yun Il-san’s The Roaring Mudan River

The Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies recently published a new and very exciting paper by two Chinese scholars focusing on an area of great interest to me, and hopefully to readers of this blog: namely, the Chinese Korean region of Yanbian. (Fortunately there is no paywall, nor is any login or registration needed; the full pdf is here). This paper presents a valuable window into a … Continue reading Memory and Reproduction: A Study of 1980s Chinese Ethnic Korean Revolutionary Narratives—Yun Il-san’s The Roaring Mudan River

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

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

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

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

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

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