Yongusil 7: Woodrow Wilson Center Archive

By | September 20, 2013 | No Comments

As suggested in the first Yongusil post of this series, it is not that historical data or published information on North Korea derived from deep research or possessed of an empirical focus is scant or simply does not exist. Rather, the problem seems to be its diffuse and hidden nature. The JPRS archive addressed in Sino-NK’s Yongusil 6, for instance, is a rich repository of not only the analysis of the U.S. intelligence community relating to North Korea, but also extensive translations of KCNA and Rodong Sinmun output during a period from which that material is now otherwise completely inaccessible.

North Korean History, Declassified | If you are among those who might question whether such a database is inherently compromised by virtue of its ideological and institutional locale within the United States defense and intelligence communities, it is still possible to garner the opinion and analysis of the opposing side, though we must rely again on institutions of the United States for our glimpse into this field. (We will later in the Yongusil: External Series focus on material held by the Russian Academy of Sciences Far Eastern Division for some balance.) Specifically, this post seeks to point the reader in the direction of the esteemed Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


The Wilson Center was established in 1968 as part of the Smithsonian Institution. | Image: Wilson Center

Revealing Remnants from the Cold War | The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an academic and analytical center, researches an enormous variety of world issues. Within the Wilson Center’s remit is the fascinating and extensive archive of the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP). This project became the analytical repository for a vast collection of material sourced from the Foreign Ministry archives of a number of ex-Communist nations as those nations opened up in the early 1990’s and allowed academics access to their internal documentation. One of the great collections of material focusing on North Korean international relationships was held by the Hungarian government and the CWIHP supported one scholar, Balazs Salontai, to construct one of the first studies of this material. His output, the groundbreaking book “Kim Il Sung in the Khrushchev Era: Soviet-DPRK Relations and the Role of North Korean Despotism” and the archival material from which he constructed it are still hosted within the archive, as are a number of other analyses of the archives and documentation of other nations. The project also serves as a home for Charles Kraus, an analyst of China’s borderland regions as well as a supporter and co-founder of Sino-NK.


The Cold War International History Project was founded in 1991 to integrate newly available information from within the dissolved Soviet bloc into historiography of the Cold War. | Image: Wilson Center

Also of note, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosts the North Korean International Documentation Project (NKIDP). This project hosts a panoply of useful material, both historical and contemporary, for the analyst of North Korea, and publishes a renowned series of digital dossiers containing extensive documentation of North Korean affairs throughout its history. Sino-NK has had a number of connections with the project and it is currently hosting documentation of the relationship between Radical African-American political movements and North Korea in the 1960s provided by Benjamin Young, a Sino-NK contributor. The Research Room recommends the work, approach, and archives of this esteemed academic institutions in its many useful guises.


The North Korea International Documentation Project is also affiliated with the University of North Korean Studies (Seoul) and the Syngman Rhee Institute at Yonsei University (Seoul). | Image: Wilson Center

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  1. Thanks for the write up. As of writing this comment (September 2013), there are approximately 1700 documents related to Korean history since 1945 on DigitalArchive.org. We have several hundred more in processing right now and we expect to break the 2000 document barrier by December 2013. Everything we do is free and open to the public.

    The translated documents on North Korea come from dozens of archives in the former Soviet Union, China, (East) Germany, Romania, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada. We still have thousands upon thousands of pages of untranslated documents from all of these countries offline.

    Though many books and articles have cited these documents since 2007, Charles K. Armstrong’s Tyranny of the Weak (2013) is the first book to fully make use of NKIDP’s vast archive. We expect that the new Digital Archive will encourage others to do so as well.

    As a general note, we are always eager to make contact with researchers using new archival sources. For example, we hope to soon get our hands on Japanese documents. Anyone interested in sharing documentation, or even just research reports, should touch base with us at NKIDP@wilsoncenter.org

    A little bit of boring background information: the Cold War International Project (CWIHP), which was founded in 1991, published a series of groundbreaking collections on the Korean War in the 1990s and early 2000s. Wanting to devote more resources to the study of the DPRK, the North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) was founded as an offshoot of CWIHP in 2007. The projects are still deeply interconnected and share the same staff and director.

  2. Fabulous, Chuck. Thanks for the information and keep up the good work!

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