Browbeatings: A Readout on the Recent Politburo Meeting in Pyongyang

A recent meeting in Pyongyang got a great deal of attention, for mostly the wrong reasons. New media upstart Vox led its North Korea coverage for the week with what could be charitably described as a juvenile taunt.   But of course Vox was hardly alone. The Guardian strained Kim Jong-un’s image through a battery of references to Kid ’n Play/Christopher Raeburn/MAN/ Marc Jacobs’s SS15 and ‘the current alt-fashion vogue in … Continue reading Browbeatings: A Readout on the Recent Politburo Meeting in Pyongyang

On Translation: North Korea in the Sinophone Gaze

Chinese writing about North Korea is peculiar. And perhaps it ought to be. Surely, well-informed insights and even genuinely insightful speculations ought to be welcomed to the table with alacrity, regardless of the nationality or linguistic tendencies of the thinker. Translators naturally serve a vital role in the enterprise of tying together Korea-oriented policy and analytical communities. Chinese writing about North Korea takes on an additional … Continue reading On Translation: North Korea in the Sinophone Gaze

Three Questions on Dandong and Chinese-North Korean Economic Relations

As the third China-North Korea Trade Fair continues, a few questions (modified from those posed by a stalwart reporter from a northern European news magazine roaming Liaoning province) and tentative answers seem appropriate. Q.: There is a great deal of new construction in Dandong and Chinese real estate companies are clearly trying to attract buyers — including possibly wealthy North Koreans.  I have been going to … Continue reading Three Questions on Dandong and Chinese-North Korean Economic Relations

On the Inoki Visit to North Korea

Given the amount of public interest in the just-concluded visit of Japanese and American wrestlers to Pyongyang, led by lawmaker (and former wrestling star) Kanji Inoki, I thought I might share a few comments I prepared just as the visit was getting underway. JAPAN-DPRK I think this particular trip is much more about Japan-DPRK relations than some sop to warmer relations with the United States … Continue reading On the Inoki Visit to North Korea

Stephan Haggard’s Comment on Sinuiju SEZs

Stephan Haggard is frequently described as one of the top North Korea analysts in the United States; his breadth of interest, range of expertise, and command of massive amounts of data, along with his keen analytical eye all serve to confirm his standing in the research community.  I was therefore glad to see that he took interest in one of my recent papers on the … Continue reading Stephan Haggard’s Comment on Sinuiju SEZs

Abusive Convenience: Chinese-North Korean Relations

In the lengthening aftermath of the Jang Song-taek execution, writers who are fond of metaphors for Chinese-North Korean relations can take heart. The bilateral relationship which had been “like lips and teeth” continues its transition into a new era, one of bleeding lips, or, as the historian Shen Zhihua puts it, a “marriage of convenience” experiencing serious discord. In order to properly review recent changes and … Continue reading Abusive Convenience: Chinese-North Korean Relations

Pyongyang Machiavelli: All of Kim’s Men

[This essay was originally published at The Diplomat on April 17, 2013.] The man at the helm in North Korea today is an accident of history, surrounded by vestigial assertions of narcissistic genius that are de rigueur for North Korea’s depiction of its own leaders. More than any time since the young Kim Il-song was surrounded by Soviet generals in the 1940s, the North Korean leader … Continue reading Pyongyang Machiavelli: All of Kim’s Men

Lux Sinica: China’s Civilizing Influence in North Korea

It takes more than a few days, or perhaps a few weeks, to sift through all the reports, speculation, and rumors surrounding Kim Jong Il’s “new deal” with China.  At the end of the day, though, it seems that a single question aids in interpreting the phenomenon: To what extent has Kim Jong Il’s visit to China spurred the North Korean regime to embrace even … Continue reading Lux Sinica: China’s Civilizing Influence in North Korea

The News from North Korea: Relations with China, Aerial Drone Denunciations, Green Totalitarianism, and the Middle East

Since the emergence of putative successor Kim Jong Eun into the public eye, the North Korean news media — specifically the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA — has taken pains to publish more content about two things: youth, and the international situation. What this equates to is an expanded view of what North Koreans are encouraging people to talk about, and how the state … Continue reading The News from North Korea: Relations with China, Aerial Drone Denunciations, Green Totalitarianism, and the Middle East

China-North Korea Succession Tiff?

The Asahi Shimbun again stirs the pot with a compelling report on Sino-North Korean relations, making some new assertions that China opposed North Korea’s hereditary system of succession recently and this past May.  Asahi’s sources indicated that North Korean grey-eminence-behind-the-throne Jang Song-taek may have twice traveled to Beijing in the May-June 2009 window both before and after the DPRK exploded a bomb on the Chinese … Continue reading China-North Korea Succession Tiff?