Back to the Tumen Triangle Documentation Project: Issue 2

By | February 14, 2014 | No Comments

The Tumen Triangle Documentation Project
Sourcing the Chinese-North Korean Border

edited by Christopher Green
preface by James Hoare

February 2014

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Download the full text to The Tumen Triangle Documentation Project: Sourcing the Chinese-North Korean Border, Issue Two

“Perhaps,” as Britain’s former representatives in Pyongyang James Hoare muses on p.21, “one day we will get back there.”

“There” was Yanji, seat of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, and “then” was the turn of the 1990s. Were it that many of our readers could have been to the Tumen Triangle once, let alone a full two decades and more ago! A time when the USSR was still more or less a going concern, the massacre in Tiananmen Square was a fresh wound for so many, and Jim, then First Secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing, was with another dedicated diplomatic servant of the day, Warwick Morris, then Head of Chancery in Seoul. The two men were, they say, “just having a look around.” It was the first time for them, and clearly the first time for a lot of their interlocutors, too.

Having seen the region first hand back then, it must have been thrilling to look again today and recall the myriad ways in which it has changed. Blessed are we then to have these two experienced travellers blending their combined memories into an extended essay for this, the second edition of Sino-NK’s Tumen Triangle Documentation Project. And as for the pictures! Looking back in this way is surely the best means by which to understand today’s twists, turns, leaps forth, and retrograde steps.

That very process of documenting not only the past but also the present is the goal of this project, the first edition of which appeared on April 15, 2013. And that is why we are so pleased to also have some enormously talented practitioners and academics of today writing about their experiences on the ground inside the Tumen Triangle. Last time it was Andray Abrahamian, and this time we have completed our Choson Exchange executive set with a piece on Rasun from Geoffrey See. We’ve also got a second fantastic piece on that quixotic SEZ at Rasun written by another analyst with his ear firmly to the ground, Dr. Benjamin Habib. One of Sino-NK’s veteran contributors, Brian Gleason, leads the primary source charge; he has brought together three astute former residents of Hyesan, a major intersection within the Tumen Triangle, to discuss life in that city down the years. Again, temporal connections abound; to look forward, one must also look back. How was Hyesan while Jim was in Yanji?

In fact, there are so many great pieces in this edition, and a great many people to thank as a result: our other contributing authors, Nick Miller and our own Director of Research Dr. Robert Winstanley-Chesters, and Kim Joo-il, who, as an energetic defender of the rights of his own North Korean kin, is determined to remind the world that each and every nuclear test carried out in Kilju County carries a real cost at the local level; Robert Lauler, who took time out from his day job with North Korea Strategy Center in Seoul to pick up the slack from an overworked Chief Editor when translations from the original Korean were required; Gregory Pence of Toon Out the World and Curtis Melvin of North Korea Economy Watch, who, we ought to recall, combined on Issue 1 to provide the defining map of what constitutes our research target (see below); Darcie Draudt, who did the design work; and some deliberately anonymous providers of photos and cross-checking. One day we hope not to have to keep their names a secret.


Christopher Green

The Tumen Triangle. Image: Curtis Melvin and Gregory Pence

The Tumen Triangle | Image: Curtis Melvin and Gregory Pence

Previous issues of the Tumen Triangle Documentation Project:

Issue 1, Edited by Adam Cathcart and Christopher Green, April 2013.

Previous China-North Korea Document Dossiers:

Dossier No. 4, Nick Miller, “Contact Between China and the DPRK, 2010-12: Focus on Ambassador Liu Hongcai,” April 2013.

Dossier No. 3, Adam Cathcart and Michael Madden, eds. “’A Whole New Blueprint:’ Chinese-North Korean Relations at the End of the Kim Jong Il Era, October 21-December 17, 2011,” preface by Stephan Haggard, August 2012.

Dossier No. 2, Adam Cathcart and Charles Kraus, “China’s ‘Measure of Reserve’ Toward Succession: Sino-North Korean Relations, 1983-1985,” February 2012.

Dossier No. 1, Adam Cathcart, ed. “China and the North Korean Succession,” January 16, 2012.


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