Comment on Haggard: The North Korean Restaurant Franchise

Stephan Haggard is an endless source of extreme quantities of highly enriched North Korea information. His ‘blog’ posts (which are usually more like mini-journal articles, trenchantly done but lighter and more fluent in style)  at Witness to Transformation place him at the prow of a mighty and miraculously regular enterprise, so it’s only courteous to add data in the form of a comment if you’ve … Continue reading Comment on Haggard: The North Korean Restaurant Franchise

Pan-Asianism and the Japanese Wartime Empire

This past spring, upon the invitation of Peter Anderson, I gave a lecture to all of the first-year History students at Leeds University on the following topic, as part of a module on world history. Some of the reading materials listed at the conclusion are paywalled (or, like Marc Driscoll’s stunning Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque, should just be bought), but most are free, and all … Continue reading Pan-Asianism and the Japanese Wartime Empire

Sinews of Revolution on the Edge of Chinese and North Korean History

Peripheries are everything in the study of China, because they are so dangerous. Whether social peripheries or geographical, those who dwell on the margins — so tangibly aware of the possibilities of flight or of wresting away control from the guardians of order — pose a challenge to hegemonic structures.  When the social and geographical elements combine,  creating revolutionaries, powers residing in urban metropoles such … Continue reading Sinews of Revolution on the Edge of Chinese and North Korean History

Materials for Cognition and Cogitation

In lieu of long missives from Chengdu, where one’s ear is pressed so firmly to the Sichuan earth (and also to cellos hewn of spruce and maple from the Russian Far East, resonating with Soviet realist harmonies) that great leaps forward in prose production seem awfully distant, I’ll simply offer up the work of my colleagues: Feng Chongyi’s immense essay on the roots and structure … Continue reading Materials for Cognition and Cogitation

Manchurian Base Camp, Part III: The DPRK’s Northeastern Strategy

Manchurian Base Camp, Part I: In the 1930s Kim Il Song regarded Manchuria, or Northeast China, as an immense area into which to project anti-Japanese struggle and wherein he could hammer out the personal foundations for what would become the North Korean state.   Manchurian Base Camp, Part II: During the Korean War, North Korean elites moved back into Manchuria to escape from the horrific bombing … Continue reading Manchurian Base Camp, Part III: The DPRK’s Northeastern Strategy

Strength and Sinophobia

Beijing and its great northeastern beyond — the vast and flooded expanses of Northeast China — are looming in my immediate future. T-minus five days.  Footsteps in Beijing, amid its blackened towers and crumbled hutongs, then on and up to Dongbei.  Glancing at Manchurian maps and graphed-out agendas of the movements of my troop and its deliverables, I feel thus as if it’s September 13, … Continue reading Strength and Sinophobia

Propagandizing Manchukuo

In the mid-1930s, the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo was heavily promoted not just in Japan, but in England, the United States, and Germany.  Japanese businesses sought foreign investment in Manchukuo, even if full-bore diplomatic recognition was not forthcoming.  There are many, many travelogues to Manchuria in the years from 1933-1937 which extol Japan’s efforts to cleanse Manchuria of bandits, organize rural communities, and promote … Continue reading Propagandizing Manchukuo