Yongusil 3: Sino-NK at JEAS, Nottingham on September 5th

By | September 04, 2013 | No Comments


School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, host of JEAS 2013 | Image : University of Nottingham

From Isabella Bird-Bishop to BAKS and SOAS  | Korean studies in the United Kingdom, while still comparatively junior as an academic discipline in size and focus compared to the area in the United States, has had a relatively long history. While current the current academic community cannot trace direct heritage or lineage (nor perhaps would it want to), to the great post-Victorian ‘lady adventurer’ Isabella Bird Bishop and her encounters with the last gasp of the Yi Dynasty, Korean Studies in the United Kingdom can trace its immediate forbears back into the 1970s.

A developing focus on Korean peninsula matters sparked the foundation in 1983 of the British Association of Korean Studies (BAKS) and the following years Centers for Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Comprised of scholars from around the UK, the BAKS is still an active academic community, holding annual symposia and publishing the journal BAKS Papers.

One of BAKS most anticipated and prestigious events is participation in the triennial Joint East Asian Studies Conference (JEAS), organised with the British Association of Japanese Studies and the British Association of Chinese Studies. Always an august and important academic gathering, in 2013 the JEAS will be held at the University of Nottingham under the banner “East Asian Societies in Transition: Challenges and Connections.” Naturally holding the Korean peninsula and especially its northern borderlands as spaces of transition, challenge and connection, Sino-NK simply had to participate.

Sino-NK and North Korean Redefinition |  Responding to the Conference’s theme, three Sino-NK researchers have constructed a panel entitled “Redefining North Korea” in which several aspects of this transition can be examined. Our esteemed Editor and founder Adam Cathcart (newly appointed to the University of Leeds), will examine the revisioning and representation of historical narratives in our contemporary period, examining the context for these narratives as they are constructed by the third generation of revolutionary dynastic leadership of the Kim family and by the new leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Dr Cathcart’s paper will remain true to historicity and source by rooting current narratives in analysis of documents addressing early CCP/North Korea relations, and in more recent output and reportage recounting the Vice Premier of China, Li Yuanchao’s visit to Pyongyang for the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice at the end of the Korean War. Christopher Green, our co-Editor, the managing editor for the Daily-NK (and a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, no less) will examine North Korea as an economy subject to both transition and connection. Holding that market mechanisms and external stores of value are developing in North Korea and are especially driven by cross-border forces, Green will review the impact upon the government and institution’s ability to maintain control of discourses with its citizenry and especially hold the field of “domain consensus.” Finally, Dr. Robert Winstanley-Chesters, Sino-NK’s Director of Research, will present a paper attempting to “Redefine North Korean Environmentalism.” Following a doctoral programme which both investigated the narratives and environmental practices in North Korea following its conception in 1953 and sought to embed it contextually within paradigms of East Asian state formation and wider developmental theory, Winstanley-Chesters will examine environmental approach in North Korea through the recently developed lens of Heonik Kwon and Byung-ho Chung’s Charismatic Politics.

Abstracts :

“Redefining Chinese-North Korean History” — Dr Adam Cathcart, University of Leeds

As the CCP has moved to “normalize” its abnormal relationship and rebalance its own regional diplomacy with North Korea under the new leadership of of Xi Jinping, the politics of history have likewise evolved. This paper will investigate recent points of inflection and change in the connected (yet distant) historical narratives of both states. What role have recent purges and power politics in both countries played in shaping which narratives are suitable for public celebration or use?  Will the third generation of North Korean revolutionary leadership honor, merely utilize or implicitly refute the deep history of ties between the two parties and proto-states? What about China’s burgeoning relations with South Korea? This paper will anchor itself in archival documents on early CCP-North Korean relations and conclude with a look at Li Yuanchao’s visit to Pyongyang for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

 “Redefining the North Korean Economy – Christopher Green, University of Cambridge

That modern North Korea is a post-communist dictatorship within which a market economy operates is now widely understood. However, there remains great confusion over the impact of North Korean marketization on both state-society relations and the future of the state itself. This paper will investigate state-society relations in the “marketization era,” looking at why the market economy presents a threat to the consensus under which the dictatorial North Korean government engages in discourse with the nation’s people, but does not foreshadow the fall of that government absent an internal or external shock. Rooted in the theories of “exit, voice, and loyalty” and “domain consensus,” it seeks to redefine our understanding of recent economic history in North Korea, and offer some thoughts for the future.

“Redefining the North Korean Environmental and Environmentalism” – Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters, University of Leeds

This paper examines environmental practice and approach within the DPRK, considering its connections with historical themes of struggle, liberation, construction and development through the analytical lens provided by Heonik Kwon and Byung-ho Chong’s recent theorisation of a Charismatic political form within the DPRK. It will examine recent examples of developmental approach and practice such as Sepho in the context of previous developmental eras through this lens seeking to establish whether there is any ground for considering the output of such practice Charismatic Landscapes”. Finally it will seek to examine in further detail this possibility and construct a typology of landscapes to serve as a future analytical tool.

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