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

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

New Daily NK Essay: On the Emerging Reality of High-Speed Rail in Eastern Jilin

Eastern Manchuria, for decades a cold and industrially declining region, is now a site of huge infrastructure development. Time and space between the three northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang provinces are shrinking. Meanwhile, North Hamkyung is whittling away with dysfunctional infrastructure and marginal growth at Rason.  *Read the rest of the essay, co-authored with Steven Denney, at The Daily NK. Continue reading New Daily NK Essay: On the Emerging Reality of High-Speed Rail in Eastern Jilin

Inside North Korea: French Edition

I found this French film, apparently shot in spring 2010, to be better than most treatments of the North Korean tourist experience.  Among other things, a young North Korean “rapper” is encountered in an amusement park (at 12:31), North Korean rallies are accompanied by music by Philip Glass, and the piece benefits from the use of some selected extracts from North Korean film archives. In … Continue reading Inside North Korea: French Edition

Crystalized Data: Additional Notes on the Meth Trade in Yanji

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 … Continue reading Crystalized Data: Additional Notes on the Meth Trade in Yanji

Assassin Disinformation: Western and Chinese Media Parse the Defectors

In case you hadn’t heard, two North Korean assassins were recently apprehended in South Korea on a mission to kill Hwang Jang Yop, the grizzled 87-year-old architect of the juche philosophy who defected — via Beijing — to Seoul in 1997. This assassination attempt is kind of a big deal because — apart from the cinematic revelations that the two were instructed to cut off … Continue reading Assassin Disinformation: Western and Chinese Media Parse the Defectors

Stories

Everybody loves stories, facts mixed in with dangerous interpretive tinctures.  But today is a day of no comment, of comet-less commas, of post-somatic traumas which embalm us with twisted tatoos of Sarah Palin’s soft-from-unemployment-yet-ready-for-stigmata palms. What a wicked few days its been among the commentariat — probably the only thing really worth reading stems from Alabama, and the mind of one Qiang Zhai.  Nothing has … Continue reading Stories

Crimes and Misdemeanors in Yanji

In the endeavor to put some meat on the bones of the Chinese side of the Robert Park story (e.g., What was Park doing in Yanbian and what was the Chinese police response?), a recent commenter on this site pointed my attention to the website of the Yanbian Public Security Bureau.  Sure, its posts about cops sharing some grains with local households are just standard … Continue reading Crimes and Misdemeanors in Yanji