Youth Work and Class Education under Kim Jong-un

The following is my original intro to a piece I just published in Seoul after some substantial carving down. In other words, the intro was cut, but I think it still stands up, so now you can read that particular argumentative flourish here on SinoMondiale with no paywall, and accompanied by my preferred images and links. Youth Work and Class Education under Kim Jong-un Certain messages in English get repeated … Continue reading Youth Work and Class Education under Kim Jong-un

Questioning North Korea’s Narrative of the London Diplomat Defection

It took about three days for the North Korean state to put together the opening salvo to its official public response to the stunning defection of Thae Yong-ho from its Embassy in London, but it has now arrived. As I predicted in a Bloomberg interview on 17 August, the response has been quite nasty. There are several other aspects to the response that bear noting, … Continue reading Questioning North Korea’s Narrative of the London Diplomat Defection

Full Comment on the Latest American Detention in Pyongyang

I was interviewed for a story in TIME magazine [full citation: Charlie Campbell, “The Detention of a U.S. Student in North Korea Underscores the Risks of Travelling There,” TIME Asia, 25 January 2016]. The following is my full comment: While the post-detention treatment of such individuals is always political and used for domestic and international propaganda effect by the regime, the arrests themselves are usually … Continue reading Full Comment on the Latest American Detention in Pyongyang

Putting a Price Tag on North Korea’s October 10 Celebrations

I don’t doubt there is an abundance of potential fury in North Korea’s provinces, but it does seem odd that a single parade, fireworks display, and associated banquets and pageantry would eat up an amount equivalent roughly equivalent to 7% of the country’s GDP (source: CIA World Factbook, 2013 GDP est. at 28 billion). While Pyongyang remains the inevitable epicentre of state expenditure and ostentatious display, the … Continue reading Putting a Price Tag on North Korea’s October 10 Celebrations

Occupying North Korea, Witnessing Massacre? Military Sources and the Question of US/UK Forces in Sinchon

The North Korean state claims that US troops arrived in Sinchon, Hwanghae province, on 17 October 1950 and promptly began butchering civilians, culminating in over 35,000 dead by the time of their retreat on 7 December. To my knowledge, no serious writing outside of North Korea has been made to determine if the body count is accurate. However, writers and scholars like Hwang Sok-yong and Kim … Continue reading Occupying North Korea, Witnessing Massacre? Military Sources and the Question of US/UK Forces in Sinchon

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

Does North Korea Have Two Rulers? Visions of the Female General

In a Reuters dispatch published today, James Pearson uses multiple perspectives to reflect on Kim Jong-un’s 8 January birthday in North Korea. In the end, it appears that the ostensible 32nd birthday of the young ruler was not marked by a major state propaganda push, nor did North Korean workers even get the day off.  Indeed, there were no huge parades held, nor even any new songs … Continue reading Does North Korea Have Two Rulers? Visions of the Female General