Yongusil 1: Robert Winstanley-Chesters at the Royal Geographical Society on August 29
The first manifestation of a new string to Sino-NK’s bow, this post serves as an opening coup d’archet at the founding of the Research Room.
As the metaphorical “back room” of Sino-NK, the Research Room will visualize and describe the collective academic output and action of our striving analytical institution. We hope to keep readers up to date with the direction, approach and success of our various and varied projects, give samples of some work in process and, when appropriate, provide access to our data in the raw.
The Research Room will also seek to reveal and interpret the research directions and outputs of other academic and analytic sites and scholars, giving Sino-NK’s view of new discoveries that are being made by others, as seen in our Roundtable series, our Interview series, and in the work published in journals around the field. Examples of data sets in progress will include our readings of the neglected but vital works of Kim Il-sung, as well as the Archives of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Because of our ties to East Asia, we are calling this site “the Yongusil,” which is Korean for Research Room. (Readers are of course welcome to call it by either descriptor.) The Research Room will by its very nature be a place of progress, but will also be in progress, so travel with us as we journey.- Robert Winstanley-Chesters, Research Director
North Korean Frontiers in Post-Graduate Geography | On August 29, Robert Winstanley-Chesters will present a review of his doctoral thesis (“Ideology and the Production of Landscape in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” University of Leeds, 2013) as part of a panel entitled “New Frontiers in Postgraduate Geography” at the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is an esteemed British academic institution founded in 1830. It funded and supported much of the late Victorian and early twentieth century adventuring that provided the analytical, empirical and evidential claim for British Imperial ambition, including expeditions by Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Ernest Shackleton and Edmund Hilary (to name but an exulted few). However, it is now a very different beast; in our contemporary times it supports academic research and development within the diffuse field of Geography, from issues generated by climatic and environmental change to the impact of neo-liberal planning and gentrification on urban spaces. The RGS-IBG Annual International Conference is a key event in the yearly calendar for the Geographers of the United Kingdom and beyond, and attendance and presentation is both vital and prestigious.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters’ participation in the New Frontiers in Postgraduate Geography strand positions his research within Geographic practice and analysis. Robert will not simply be introducing the output of his research as represented by his doctoral thesis (which is due for publication with the Rowman and Littlefield imprint Lexington Press); he will also be commenting on the methodologies used and addressing the methodological and analytical questions raised for the Geographic field by North Korea in general. Robert will be asking questions of the framework and structure of Geographic and Political Ecological approach in light of the difficulties and non-normative research and academic space that is North Korea. Robert will also be introducing potential directions for future research and possible connectivities within the East Asian context for his work, and the extension of his work by others.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters’ Abstract | One of the few areas still divided by the geo-political status quo of the Cold War, consensus holds that unlike the south (the Republic of Korea), the northern half of the Korean peninsula (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) remains in a state of political arrested development. In diplomatic matters the country serves as a narratological thorn in the side of international consensus, represented as both a dangerous military threat and a famine ridden economic basket case. Academic narratives surrounding the country, its ideology, policy and functionality are equally confused, opaque and corrupted, and for Geographers of all approaches and inclinations it seems an analytic and data void.
The research that formed my thesis and is reviewed within this paper seeks to cast light on this confusing gloom through an investigation of the geographic and ideological environmental narratives of North Korea. Utilizing tools of critique and investigation sourced from Political Ecology and Korean Studies, I engage with and analyze the claim of the country to be a geographic space in which revolutionary utopian potentialities are not only possible, but fulfilled, uncovering geographical and developmental narratives at the furthest limits of accessibility and analysis.