Encore post: Last Days in China, Part 1

On May 15, I attended a virtual reading offered by the Autumn House Press in Pittsburgh. One of the readers was Michael Wang, who read a piece about the Tiananmen Square massacre. Since this is now June, the 32nd anniversary, I thought of reposting this piece from 2011. At the time of the bloody crackdown, I was teaching in Seoul and would come home from my night class to watch events unfold on CNN. Later that summer, I was at the photocopy machine in the linguistics department of the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater, and a Chinese graduate … Read More

Author Interview: Human Rights Violations in North Korea, Part 1

In 2011, I interviewed my friend Dr. Sandra Fahy on her first book, Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, (Link) which was based on the testimony she’d gathered from North Korean famine victims who’d defected to Korea or Japan. Her second book is now with the editors at Columbia University Press and will be out soon.

This interview took place just after the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, when  Sandra was at home in Japan and I was in the Philippines. The next interview, which will appear on December 1, deals with the history of Read More

Scrap Pork

In the Philippines each member of the Congress is granted a lump-sum discretionary fund for spending on priority development projects, mostly at the local level. This money is called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). In July the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an exposé of a scam masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, whose companies specialize in trading agricultural products. The scam involved members of both the House of Representatives—commonly referred to as Congress—and the Senate and was estimated to have cost the country 10 billion pesos. In the widespread outrage the PDAF has generally been referred to as “the Read More

A Skeptic’s View of the Korean Student Movement

Student protest has a long tradition in Korea, in keeping with the Confucian idea of students as the conscience of society. In 1960 the student movement was a major factor in the overthrow of Pres. Syngman Rhee. After 1960, the student movement moved considerably to the left of its earlier liberal-democratic position. With much righteous indignation, the students claimed that the system was corrupt beyond reform, and they pointed to the military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee and Park’s Yushin Constitution, in which he proclaimed himself “president for life,” the slaughter of hundreds of citizens in the 1980 Kwangju Uprising and

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In a Chinese “Model Village”

It is the spring of 1985, and you have joined three teachers from Xiamen University, Fujian Province, on a trip to nearby Lin Village and its about thousand people or two hundred families. This is a “model village,” is one that the authorities recognize as exemplary, so not at all typical. This particular village was being recognized because of its rapid economic growth. Officially it was put under the “responsibility system” in May, 1985 after the villagers had a head start at private enterprise.

Your first impression is of houses made of rock and sundried brick and red tile roofs,

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