“Fieldwork” North Korea: an observation

north korea

 

A direct, firsthand observation by Emma Campbell, a Korean expert based in Australian National University (ANU), of daily life in the world’s most secluded country. Read her research paper in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

 

Excerpt:

 

The Chinese visitors are easy to tell apart from the general North Korean population. Not only is the Korean Workers’ Party badge missing from their jackets, but they are generally better dressed and bigger. The relative wealth of the Chinese is apparent not least because of their spending in places such as markets and casinos. The interaction with these richer neighbours must also reinforce the other imagery and experiences that remind North Koreans in their daily life of the relative wealth of China. On two occasions I encountered North Koreans watching Chinese DVDs, including one being played on a television set visible to the general public coming in and out of a hair salon. This DVD was an episode from a detective series, set in a major Chinese city, and showing the full cosmopolitanism and modernity of contemporary China with its skyscrapers, traffic, sophisticated restaurants and shops.

Of course, interactions with Chinese tourists constitute part of daily life for North Koreans who live in the key tourist cities and regions. Given the apparent efforts to grow tourism from China to North Korea, such interactions are likely to increase. Entering northeast Korea using the Chinese-constructed road from the Korean border post of Wŏnjŏng and moving onwards to other cities and towns in the Northeast region there is a visible construction boom with many tourist infrastructure projects underway. These included a spa facility in Kyŏngsŏng and a resort hotel near the town of T’umŏn. In addition, hotel construction was visible in the Ch’ilbo mountain region with plans displayed for ski resorts and other tourist facilities across this spectacular national park. These tourist facilities were all said to be aimed at the growing Chinese market20. Chinese tourists dominate North Koreas nascent tourism sector – it is estimated that in 2012 around 10,000 Chinese tourists travelled to North Korea compared to only 4,000 Western visitors21.

China’s next target in the South China Sea

south china sea

 

As China’s geopolitical stance becomes increasingly assertive, the soon-to-be superpower is now emboldening its claim in several places ‘historically assumed’ to be belonging to them. One major point of contention among them is the dispute in South China Sea. As it is disputed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, and numerous diplomatic talks have repeatedly stalled, this issue is becoming more complicating than ever.

Right now, with the latest nine-dash map released by Chinese government, there’s one country that is increasingly possibly involved in this dispute as well. And that’s Indonesia.

Victor Robert Lee, a geopolitical expert and also a novelist, analyzes this in Medium. Read the full article by clicking the link.

 

Excerpt:

 

The Natuna archipelago has been the subject of an Indonesia-China tug-of-war before. Until the 1970s the majority of Natuna residents were ethnic Chinese. Deadly anti-Chinese riots plagued Indonesia in the 1960s, early 1980s, and again in 1998, leading to a decline of the ethnic Chinese population on Natuna from an estimated 5,000–6,000 to somewhere over 1,000 currently. Many ethnic Chinese in the broader region believe to this day that a secret meeting (never publicly confirmed) was held between Deng Xiaoping (China’s premier from 1978 to 1992) and Natuna islanders of Chinese origin who asked that Deng either back their bid for independence from Indonesia, or bring their island under Chinese suzerainty.

Neither happened, and as part of a nation-wide transmigration initiative, the Indonesian government in the 1980s started to relocate ethnically Malay Indonesians to Natuna, for the stated reasons of importing skills and relieving population pressures on the over-crowded main island of Java, and, as perceived by local Chinese Indonesians, for the unstated reason of swamping the ethnic Chinese population with “real Indonesians.” That is, people of Malay ethnicity, who now number approximately 80,000 in the Natuna Islands group.