Notes on the Music Scene in Pyongyang

I was in North Korea for several days in the middle of March 2016. While my main purpose was to visit the Sinchon Massacre Museum for a Korean War research project in which I am engaged, I was also quite interested in the performing arts and arts scenes, since those are areas which are relatively more permeable to foreign researchers and ones in which the … Continue reading Notes on the Music Scene in Pyongyang

The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the DPRK

Today, media in Beijing announced that the Moranbong Band, the all-female ensemble associated closely with Kim Jong-un, will be travelling to China for five days of performances. An academic paper I delivered last month about the Band is available in audio on SoundCloud; the accompanying Powerpoint is available at the following link: Moranbong Band presentation. Citation: Adam Cathcart, “The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the … Continue reading The Moranbong Band and Regime Consolidation in the DPRK

On the disbandment of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra and the reported death of several of its members

With respect to the matter of the Unhasu Orchestra “executions” which has been bubbling about since late August 2013, augmented by  JoongAng Ilbo reports of “stadium executions” in Wonsan in November 2013, and raised again with reports of grizzly executions of yet more musicians in spring 2015: Obviously, none of us is in possession of anything resembling a conclusive data point which would prove or … Continue reading On the disbandment of the DPRK’s Unhasu Orchestra and the reported death of several of its members

Contentious Politics on the Korean Peninsula: Workshop at the University of Toronto

In 2013-14, I was awarded a research grant by the Academy of Korean Studies for which I was the principle investigator, and was joined by two colleagues from the Sino-NK research cluster. Having traveled twice to Korea and northeast China thanks to the grant, and having gone through the various layers of grant reporting, the fun part is now happening: The publication of research results and the … Continue reading Contentious Politics on the Korean Peninsula: Workshop at the University of Toronto

Kim Ki-nam and North Korea’s Orchestral Politics

Kim Jong Eun commands attention for obvious reasons. His charismatic heft, however, also manages to obscure a number of the other personalities at the apex of North Korean politics who arguably do more to make the whole system run. Within this group there are a small handful of individuals who deserve a great deal more critical attention, and none more so than Kim Ki Nam. … Continue reading Kim Ki-nam and North Korea’s Orchestral Politics

Researching the Moranbong Band: An Abstract

Even before Kim Jong-il’s tremulously-announced death in Dec. 2011, the North Korean musical-cultural apparatus-elite-complex was in valedictory mode, producing huge orchestral canatas that expressed a perfect –and complete– vision of the Dear Leader’s full contribution to the ongoing North Korean revolution. Had Kim Jong-un chosen to take up only these modes of cultural commemoration, they were clearly within his grasp. Instead, months after his father’s … Continue reading Researching the Moranbong Band: An Abstract