Yongusil 6: Navigating the JPRS/DTIC/FBIS Archive
Welcome to External| Following on from coverage of events and presentations by Sino-NK affiliates and access to collated elements of past output, the third key string to the Yongusil bow is the External or External Publications area. “publications” for its purposes are loosely defined; however, “external” is not. This author remembers the start of his doctorate focused on North Korea, and wondering where on earth his data set would come from. Within weeks he was staring at reels of Microfilm from the Foreign Ministry of Imperial Japan (helpfully archived by the University of Southern California). Interesting and revealing in many ways, but just one of a number of dead ends down which he traveled.
No doubt every analyst and commentator of North Korean affairs or historiography has a similar story, yet somehow all found a way through the maze and settled upon information that was found to be reliable, useful, and which supported the generation of research outcomes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Yongusil could be a conduit through which readers could circumvent the frustrating, time-consuming and occasionally soul-destroying process of determining relevance and extracting value? Yes of course it would. Welcome to the External realm, a window to the useful, the utilizable and the fascinating.
Saving the Best for Last: JPRS/DTIC/FBIS | The Yongusil doesn’t believe in laying down crumbs for readers to follow. Rather, we prefer to lay down a marker of real quality with the first External posting.
It astonishes this author that more people aren’t already making use of the vast database of analysis generated by the United States Government and its intelligence services during the Cold War. The CIA Joint Publication Research Service (JPRS) and Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) collected, transcribed and translated the material produced by foreign hostile media and government information outlets all over the wider Communist world during the Cold War, engaged in daily analysis and presented the results in simple briefing documents for use by internal and external agencies. They did this in various guises from 1947 until the 1990’s.
The Soviet Union alone was the subject of 17 daily reports focusing on all matters, from mathematics right through to 4 separate reports addressing aspects of the Soviet nuclear industry. As a smaller nation, North Korea was the subject of only one report (that connected it intriguingly with events and output south of the DMZ), and then in a wider East Asian report as the Cold War began to wane. These reports, ‘Korean Affairs Report’ and ‘East Asia Report’ are vital resources for the analyst of North Korea during the Cold War, but are seldom referred to due to the relative complexity of accessing them. The time has come to make it simple in three easy steps.
1. Which Website? | The Cold War has ended, so JPRS and FBIS no longer exist. The activities in which they used to engage have been subsumed into the CIA and other intelligence agencies, while some elements of their output will eventually become accessible via Readex Corporation’s promised “Open Source Network.” However, the non-classified aspects have passed to a corner of the Department of Defense called the “Defense Technical Information Center”, and it is there that the Yongusil suggests you focus:
2. But what do I type? | Like most government or defense websites, DTIC wants you look and focus on certain things and not on others, naturally, so it won’t make it easy for you. If you type North Korea into the search box you will not get anything of use. However if you type in (in quotations), “Korean Affairs Report” or “East Asia Report” (or in fact the actual index number – an issue I may address again in the future), into the box the accessible run of reports will be revealed…
3. What is revealed? | Or, more pertinently, what isn’t revealed? Clicking on one of the links will upload a pdf of that report, some of which can be hundreds of pages long, and some others only a few. What is revealed, however, is a seldom-searched-but-invaluable set of resources, including entire issues of Rodong Sinmun, KCNA output and fascinating internal journals such as the politics journal of the Korean Workers Party (Kulloja). Interested parties should certainly start digging, now that the Yongusil has shown you the way.