Yongusil 23: Adam Cathcart at Ohio State University
The Yongusil opens the new year with news of a presentation that seems especially prescient in light of recent tumultuous events north of the DMZ. Dr. Cathcart will deliver a presentation entitled “China-North Korea Relations in the Kim Jong-un Era” as an IKS and ICS at OSU’s East Asian Studies Centre and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies on Thursday 9th of January.
Jang Sung-taek’s execution in the final month of 2013 was reported with seeming astonishment and occasional horror across the world; a challenge to conceptions of North Korean institutional functionality, governance and structure as well as a potential existential moment of narrative rupture.
Given the narrative continuation and apparent articulation of a cohesive and concrete future narrative for 2014 in the New Year’s Message an institutionally catastrophic rupture has not actually occurred.
But surely it cannot be business as usual following Jang’s termination and the abrupt unwinding of his business and political interests. As analysts and academics we do not have to look far across the Yalu or the Tumen for the now co-opted tendrils of Jang’s sphere of influence; speculation has been rife to the reasons for the urgency of his annihilation and apart from the more fanciful assertions of North Korea’s narratives of his inherent counter-revolutionary evil nature, most of them have been located in fulcrums of Chinese business and economic interests.
Sino-NK and Dr. Cathcart has tracked at length and in detail the complicated and labyrinthine relationships between Chinese and North Korean institutions, sovereign bodies and economic interests. We have watched to, the seeming collapse in Chinese popular support for North Korea and Chinese relationships with it in recent years, as China’s sense of control and influence in Pyongyang has waned in the light of North Korea’s nuclear capability and apparent diplomatic recklessness.
The impact and relevance of Jang’s death to Sino-North Korean relations and how such a brutal and dramatic event within the apparent pinnacle of governmental power has yet to really be seen or analysed, but it cannot surely be glossed over by Chinese institutions or popular conceptions.
Dr. Cathcart’s presentation on these relations and relationships therefore comes at an extremely interesting and opportune moment. As an academic historian and analyst, Dr. Cathcart will root his presentation firstly in source material from the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archive which addresses Chinese institutional perceptions of the Kim family and their connections to the Chinese Communist Party as well as conceptions of North Koreans resident or connected to China. Building upon this historical material and relational baseline Dr. Cathcart will move into the present tense utilizing rare translations of Chinese institutional and governmental media to investigate more contemporary relational narratives, in particular critical commentary on North Korean matters from Zhang Lian’gui, more traditional and defensive reports from Huanqiu Shibao, and intriguing “netizen” critiques of “fatty Kim the Third.”
Dr .Cathcart’s presentation ultimately seeks to support a contemporary reevaluation of China’s historical relationship with North Korea, navigating finally discourses relating to North Korean refugees within Chinese sovereign space and intriguingly in light of some of the post-Jang rumors Sino-North Korean engagement in economic and mineral issues. Columbus, Ohio is in for a rare narrative and analytical treat.