All posts tagged: Yanbian

Hyun Ok Park’s History of the Cultural Revolution in Yanbian

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Borderlands / Chinese communist party / Yanbian

This review was originally published at, as part of a roundtable including contributions from Andre Schmid (University of Toronto) and Robert Winstanley-Chesters (Australian National University).  Paradoxically, scholarship that attempts to explode the frame of the nation-state can be most useful for scholars concerned precisely with what occurs within state boundaries. In the case of The Capitalist Unconscious: From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea, the ardent drive to reframe the nation results in an exquisitely useful chapter for scholars concerned […]

Yuanization and Currency Politics on the DPRK’s Chinese Frontier

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Borderlands / North Korean border region / Sino-North Korean relations / Yanbian
DPRK Currency on Sale in Beijing. Image via China Daily.

North Korea’s long border with the People’s Republic of China is often seen as a permeable membrane for the movement of people and goods — in other words, as a conduit for smuggling. The movement of DVDs, USBs, and illicit drugs seems to get the most press (although North Korea is also involved in legal enterprises in China). Just as important than such illegal activity, if not moreso, to the ongoing functioning of the modified […]

Viewing the DPRK’s 66th Anniversary through a Chinese Lens

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Sino-North Korean relations
Tumen City, PRC

The realities of daily life in North Korea are, at best, elusive for the outsider to grasp. A lack of personal experiences often interfere. Those of us who have never known hunger or the terror of a certain knock on the door can read tales of depravation of food and basic personal rights only in shock. In today’s world beyond the DPRK, empathy (and its contemporary twin, the online or broadcast expression of outrage) is […]

Chronicling the History of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in the PRC: 1990 Edition

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Ambassador Jim Hoare has written a delightful and very informative essay for, the website for which I serve as chief editor. When based in Beijing in 1990, Ambassador Hoare took a trip up to Yanji with Warwick Morris (who, unbeknownst to him at the time, was another future UK Ambassador to North Korea). Their photographs and recollections are included in a newly released (and free) e-journal, entitled The Tumen Triangle Documentation Project, Vol. 2, […]

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

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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 as Beijing or Nanjing intensify that process of control governed […]

Crystalized Data: Additional Notes on the Meth Trade in Yanji

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North Korean border region / Yanbian

The story of illegal drug distribution across the North Korean border and into China is now being told with a bit of flair in the pages of Newsweek. As regular readers of this blog will know, I find fieldwork in the Chinese borderlands with North Korea always to be an exciting process.  Exciting though it may be, it is a process that — speaking for myself — has not been made more exciting by exposure […]

North Korea: Examination Materials

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American Foreign Policy / history and memory / Korean War / Manchuria / North Korea / North Korea-Japan relations / North Korean border region / Sino-North Korean relations / Yanbian

I recently completed a month-long lecture series on North Korean-Chinese relations at Pacific Lutheran University.  Because these lectures were occasioned by a course I teach at PLU (hell yes I teach courses, credits and grades dropping from my very fingertips!), I had the pleasure of writing an exam on the topic. Here, in no particular order, are a few of themes or questions which were covered in the lectures and which my students consequently suggested […]