Current projects on China-DPRK research:

Decoding the Sino-North Korean Borderlands, co-edited with Christopher Green and Steven Denney (Amsterdam University Press, 2018-19). 

In the past decade, the Chinese-North Korean border region has undergone a gradual transformation into a site of intensified cooperation, competition, and intrigue. At the same time, the region has produced a significant volume of critical scholarship and media commentary in the Korean, Chinese, and English languages. This book pulls together a wide range of data on the region’s economics, security, social cohesion and information flows. Drawing from multilingual sources and transnational scholarship, the volume is enhanced by the extensive fieldwork undertaken by the editors and contributors in their quest to decode the borderland. In doing so, the volume emphasizes the link between theory, methodology, and practice in the field of North Korean studies.

Chapter — Regions within the Yalu-Tumen Border Space – with Christopher Green

This chapter moves southwest to northeast, based on fieldwork, contrasting the commercial effervescence of the Dandong and Yalu estuary with the isolated area around Hyesan/Changbai, and with the ethnic Korean enclave of Yanbian. It will refer to the following chapters but primarily be descriptive. The purpose of the chapter is to set up for readers and scholars new to the region (particularly those who work on South or Southeast Asia looking for comparative value) to understand that the border region is not in fact uniform, but a series of sub-regions each with its own form of cross-border interaction and balance of security and trade.

Chapter — Archives and Local Documents in the Study of the PRC Border Regions with Korea

This chapter assesses the recent impact of frontier studies in the People’s Republic of China and describes the advantages and problems of studying the Northeastern border regions through archival research both with and against the grain of PRC dominant historiographical trends. It shows how archival work can be done through interrogation of the author’s work in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and local historical materials in Tonghua and along the border, focusing our attention on the contested nature of historical documentation in Northeast Asia and the importance of access.

Chapter — Toward a History of Violence in the Sino-Korean Border Region, 1945-46

This chapter investigates the layers of violence in eastern Jilin in the months following the destruction of Manchukuo and the Japanese empire. Focusing on Tonghua as well as the Korean-majority area then known as Jiandao, it looks at the role of cross-border militia as well as local trials of ‘hanjian,’ or traitors, pro-Japanese collaborators, and general banditry. The chapter is based largely upon neglected memoir and local histories published in the 1980s, mixed with new sources about the Chinese Communist Party’s Northeast Bureau, which had in many instances little control over the region it called ‘Eastern Manchuria’ and where Koreans like Gang Sin-tae (who went on to become leaders of the Korean People’s Army in the future DPRK) held sway in the fluid and violent months after liberation.

Chapter — In the Shadow of Jang Song-Taek: Pyongyang’s Evolving SEZ Strategy along the China-North Korean Border – with Christopher Green

This paper centers upon two potentially transformative Special Economic Zones (SEZs) on the DPRK’s northwestern frontier – Hwanggeumpyeong and Wihwa Island. As part of a strategy for development along North Korea’s northern rim put in place by Kim Jong-il in the two years prior to his death (and following the visit of Wen Jiabao to the DPRK in October 2009), the islands fell under the management of Jang Song-taek. When Jang was purged in December 2013, the role of the economic zones came into question, which is where it remains. Using an array of non-English sources with a focus on Hwanggeumpyeong and Wihwa Island, this paper will reveal how China appears to be going along with North Korea’s new SEZ strategy in the border region in a reluctant bid to remain engaged and at the forefront of non-Korean investment in the DPRK.

War crimes and Historical Narratives in North Korea

This is a cluster of projects which include a large article with Hannah Dawson for the English historical review a manuscript about the famous massacre in North Korea another manuscript about the East German archives about the investigation of the massacre in North Korea and a piece about the museum itself in North Korea. I visited the province in the museum in March of 2016 and spent about a month in archives in materials in Britain and Germany for this project in the summer of 2015 and presented related papers at SOAS as well as Shanghai Jiaotong University.


Current projects on Sino-Japanese research:

“The Bullets of a Defeated Nation: The Shibuya Incident of 1946”, chapter forthcoming in Reconstruction of East Asia, 1945-1965, ed. Barak Kushner (2019).

Japan’s defeat in World War II brought the nation face to face with its former colonies. In the years after 1945, Japanese on the home islands glimpsed at every turn the flotsam of the empire and the stigma of defeat. Japanese migrants flooded into broken ports from settlements in Manchuria and across Asia, bereft of all but the ashes of the dead. While Japanese refugees returned, Asian migrants already lodged in Japan stood as another testimony to the failed colonial experiment. Prime among these individuals on Japanese city streets in 1945 and 1946 were the former subjects of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” – Koreans, Chinese, and, in particular, Taiwanese. In the postwar flux, Asian immigrants in Japan were eager to demonstrate competitive advantage, even national supremacy, over their former colonial masters. In 1945, Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese residents in Japan readily foresaw that the August capitulation would elevate their own status from nationless subjects into respected allies of the American occupation. Asian migrants in Japan associated with “victorious nations,” however, would prove disappointed with the American occupation. Among the ranks of states victorious in World War II, the Republic of China [ROC] was foremost in its eagerness to influence American occupation policy in Japan. As one facet of that influence, the Chinese government was eager to establish legal dominion over the Chinese and Taiwanese population of the Japanese islands. Such dominion would validate China’s self-image as a powerful arbiter of international affairs and indicate, symbolically at least, the Republic’s eradication of the “national humiliation” (国耻) inflicted by Japan. The efforts of Chiang Kai-shek’s government to appear strong in relation to Japan also served an internal political function. At a time when the Chinese Communists were pressing to “ardently scrub away the national humiliation,” the image of a humbled Japan bowing to Chiang’s Chinese government had obvious political benefits. Illustrative of China’s frustrated attempts to influence U.S. policy in postwar Japan was the Shibuya Incident of 1946 – an incident named for the district in western Tokyo which was dominated by black market activity among Japanese, Koreans, and a few hundred savvy Taiwanese. When a riot broke out in the black market on July 19, 1946, the local upheaval killed six Taiwanese and one Japanese policeman, injured many others, and set into motion two controversial trials whose effects rippled through the already unstable postwar Sino-Japanese relationship. The arrest and deportation of the Taiwanese concerned, coupled with the exoneration of most of the Japanese in January 1947, stimulated a flurry of activity by the Chinese Mission in Tokyo. The Shibuya Incident also set off a firestorm of comment in the Chinese press, adding strength to China’s already potent anti-Japanese discourse. Throughout, the incident and subsequent court cases exposed the growing rift between U.S. and Chinese interests in the occupation of Japan, highlighted issues of nationality in the postwar flux, and brought into stark relief the limits of Chinese nationalism in Japan itself. Clumsy American attempts to mend fences with the Chinese press after the Shibuya Incident directly triggered the “Oppose American Revival of Japan” movement in 1948, the last great student-led campaign of the Chinese civil war era.

Speculative Projects