North Korean Captured Documents at AAS 2014

Youngjun Kim, a Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas, and I organized a panel for the 2014 Association of Asian Studies (AAS) meeting in Philadelphia, which is taking place this weekend. The panel is centered around the captured North Korean documents available at the US National Archives, and our individual papers (though focused on different topics) make ample use of these materials.

Utilizing the Captured Documents: New Perspectives on Society, Institutions, and Foreign Relations in Revolutionary and Wartime North Korea, 1945-1953

From 1945 through 1953, North Korea experienced profound social, political, and economic changes. Our panel, grounded in the captured North Korean documents housed at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland—the only accessible North Korean archive in the world—seeks to answer three questions about North Korea during this climactic period: how and to what extend did North Koreans demonstrate agency under Soviet occupation? How did North Korea interact with and understand foreign countries beyond the Soviet Union, particularly China, the United States, and Japan? How did top-down political decisions mesh with bottom-up social processes in liberated Korea? The three panelists have all examined different areas of the captured documents, and are prepared to speak on what these materials reveal about North Korean institutions, foreign relations, and society. Retelling North Korea’s diplomatic history from the bottom-up, Charles Kraus will focus on the captured documents related to the Overseas Chinese community in North Korea. Adam Cathcart will examine comic art and foreign affairs publications to comment on the world view promoted by the North Korean state during its infancy. Youngjun Kim will frame the armed forces as a microcosm of North Korean society and explore the early development of the Korean People’s Army. Commentator Bruce Cumings, an authoritative voice on the captured documents, will spark the floor’s discussion on what the panel contributes to our understanding of the North Korean revolution as well as the Korean War.

Session Participants

From the Schoolyard to the Battlefield: Chinese-North Korean Relations through the Eyes of the Overseas Chinese in Korea, 1945-1953
Charles Kraus (George Washington University)

Enemies and Allies in North Korean and Chinese Communist Cartoons, 1948-1952
Adam Cathcart (University of Leeds)

The Origins and Early Development of the Korean People’s Army, 1945-1950
Youngjun Kim (University of Kansas)

Discussant: Bruce Cumings (University of Chicago)

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