Donald Kirk

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For years, the South Korean government and private Korean organizations have objected to Japanese textbooks that convey a rather sunny version of Japan's imperial and colonial history. Now a textbook controversy is turning Koreans against Koreans, and exposing deep divisions in Korean life.

All sides acknowledge that young South Koreans need some understanding of what's going on in North Korea, but how should high schools portray life on the other side of the border? Should they depict their neighbors as enemies or victims? Is objectivity even possible?

The government's National Institute of Korean History, convinced it's the arbiter, plans to replace existing textbooks with an authorized "correct history textbook" by March 2017, leading some to accuse the government of spreading propaganda while trampling on freedom of expression and discussion.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the dark days of Soviet rule, the inner workings of the regime in Moscow were anything but transparent. Scholars and journalists had to rely on Kremlin watching, studying every statement and deed of government officials in an attempt to divine meaning. It was an inexact science, but in the Soviet era Kremlin watchers could at least watch the Kremlin. In North Korea today, it's nearly impossible even to discover where the government and its new leader, Kim Jong Un, operate.

In July, I made my ninth trip to North Korea — my fifth to the capital, Pyongyang. But as a journalist based in the region, I can't say I have begun to understand the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

North and South Korea played their own distinctive games of power politics last week. The processes of leadership selection were enacted almost simultaneously, a coincidence that defined them so sharply as to provide a classroom lesson on the differences between the two systems.

North Korea got all the publicity, not all of it because of the long-range missile it insisted on firing in the face of warnings to cease and desist. There was also the huge outpouring in Pyongyang for the centennial of the birth of the nation's "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung at which his grandson, Kim Jong Un, made his maiden speech before thousands of wildly cheering soldiers.…  Seguir leyendo »