Saturday, 17 September 2022

s1:e1 (10. 140)

On this day in 1972, the CBS television network first aired its dark-comedy series—based on the 1970 feature film—about a team of doctors and ancillary staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu during the Korean War. The first episodes, set in 1950, were broadcast while the US was still mired in the Vietnam War and were presented as the most careful kind of allegory, detached yet openly questioning the proxy wars of the Cold War and the value of offensive ideology. The ensemble cast included (by rank) Henry Blake McLean Stevenson (thanks, Dad), Loretta Swit, Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff and Jamie Farr and the show became less political and more character-driven after 1975 and the withdrawal of US troops—also removing the controversial laugh-track of earlier seasons.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

s11e16

Airing on this day in 1983, the series finale of M*A*S*H (see also) “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was until the Super Bowl of 2010 the most-watched event in television history and retains the title as the television episode with the most viewership, with an audience of over one hundred million tuned in. Taking place in the last days of the Korean War as ceasefire is declared (27 July 1953), the characters cerebrate decamping for a last time the mobile army surgical hospital and reflect on the fighting’s effects and legacy.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

strong and prosperous nation

Negotiating the divide between cultural and historic points of reference and by being generally agreeable and approachable, former war correspondent turned photographer Stephan Gladieu was able to recently travel to North Korea and was allowed to capture portraits of the people in a captivating series. Learn more and peruse a curated gallery of scenes from North Korea at It’s Nice That at the link above.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

cult of personality

Along with the birthday of his father, founder of the nation of North Korea, this Day of the Shining Star (๊ด‘๋ช…์„ฑ) falling on the anniversary of the birth of its second leader Kim Jong-il, 16 February, 31 Juche, according to party lore, is among the most important public holidays, codified since his 2012 death. While Kim was likely born in Siberia during his father’s exile for inciting an uprising, the foundational mythos places Kim’s birth at a secret guerrilla camp (run by Kim Il-sung) on the slopes of Mount Paektu, a place in antiquity considered holy and the origin of the Korea people, his nativity heralded by a shooting star. With celebrations spanning two days including mass gymnastics, fireworks and military demonstrations, many couples also choose this day to marry. Like a Communist version of Lent, the two-month gap between the birthday of the founder (see above) and second leader is known as Loyalty Festival Period and is interspersed with spontaneous acts of devotion and festivities throughout.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

corea: the hermit kingdom

This anthology of Korean folktales collected and retold by William Elliot Griffis from Public Domain Review is interesting in its own right for the well-intentioned desire (with notable shortcomings) to bring to a Western readership some of the country’s mythology and lore, but there’s a striking side note as well with earlier publication of the above entitled in 1882, a history of the Joseon dynasty that coined the moniker, applied to isolationist policies in general. Obviously now not new, the term gained traction and currency when invoked by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to describe North Korea.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

kps 9566

Though only in use domestically, the DPRK (North) Standard Korean Graphic Character Set for Information Interchange, is ISO compliant and renderable across all platforms and is an efficient approach to translating the large repertoire of Hangul into a format for programming and transmittable all around the world.
While not all glyphs in the standard have Unicode equivalents (like the symbol of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Hammer and Sickle and Brush, or personal cartouches for the country’s senior leadership) the standard is responsible for several indispensable emojis, like HOT BEVERAGE (☕) originally proposed as a map marker for a tea house, the black and white flags—again as map markers indicating battlefields, the ☔ and the ⚡, used as a lightning bolt or electricity but first used to warn of the dangers of high-voltage lines in the vicinity.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

the day of the sun: juche 109

Deriving its name from the meaning of Il-sung for “becomes the Sun”—one of the revolutionary leader’s noms de guerre, this day stepped in founding mythology marks Kim’s birthday, the founder and Eternal President of North Korea and has been an official holiday, the highest annual observance since 1968, proclaimed as the titular celebration in 1997—three years after Kim’s death. Simultaneously the country adopted the regnal Juche (the concept of self-reliance) calendar, reckoning dates from Kim’s birth in 1912 onward. The usual festivities have been cancelled this year with citizens urged to hold customary merriment and thanksgiving at home.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

it takes one to know one

We’ll see how much history is determined by the historic meeting between the leadership of the US and North Korea but it does already strike me as a little hollow and quite asymmetrical with the regime of Kim Jung-un being accorded the legitimatising recognition that it’s sought for some time and preternaturally under the same terms and conditions that Trump bewailed his predecessor as concessions to Iran, making America look weak and dopey.
Much in the same way that the Manchurian Candidate’s revolting behaviour has markedly improved the image of loveable, old war-criminal Bush II, not only does his eagerness to meet with Kim deflect attention from the hermit kingdom’s atrocious human rights standards (zero freedom of movement, zero freedom of speech and mandatory, universal adoration—not to give Dear Leader any more ideas) with the optics, this plum bargain asks little in concrete terms from North Korea while having US military presence on the peninsula characterised as “provocative” (after so much mutual sabre-rattling) and pledges to suspend large-scale training exercises with the South and Japan.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

la repubblica popolare democratica di corea

Hyperallegic directs our attention to a modest gallery owner and art broker in a small Tuscan village who is responsible for the vast majority of North Korean art—inspiration, motivation placards, ephemera, propaganda posters and fine art—that enters into Western markets. The article also discusses the thousand-strong studio that produces much of what the gallery resells and that has executed monumental consignments for various institutions and world leaders at steeply discounted prices.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

dear jong letter

Friday, 27 April 2018

panmunjom


Saturday, 24 March 2018

์šฐ์ •์˜ ๋‹ค๋ฆฌ, ะผะพัั‚ ะดั€ัƒะถะฑั‹

With a working-group being appointed to explore fording a second link between Russia and North Korea to supplement the Friendship Bridge—the sole crossing built in 1959 to allow train service over the Tumen River by special arrangement only and notably since last year a fibre optic cable, Calvert Journal correspondent Tom Masters candidly shares his railway journal from Pyongyang to Vladivostok. The account makes for an interesting read and the trip is illustrated with a lot of photographs. One of the only other points of entrance and egress for the country is the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge over the Yalu River, originally spanned by the Japanese Imperial Army when it occupied north-eastern China and the Korean peninsula during WWII, which allows both trains and cars but no pedestrian traffic.

Friday, 1 September 2017

rock, paper, scissors

Marking perhaps a heartening turn in the tone of sabre-rattling rhetoric, North Korea appears in its latest propaganda video to be challenging America to a dance-off, as Gizmodo correspondent Matt Novak reports, rather than the usual fare of nuclear warheads striking Guam or San Francisco.  Of course, Dear Leader has produced many counterpoints to this spectacle and there is naturally such ill-will between the two as they are too much alike and need their egos protected.  The narrow characterisation of the North Korean regime does the rest of the world a disservice as the country understands very well that it has the strategic upper-hand at what is at stake, which is nothing short of global thermal nuclear war.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

directors’ cut or good morning pyongyang

Via Gizmodo, we discover that in the North Korean capital, there is a daily morning broadcast on loudspeakers of a Theremin-sounding leitmotif that resounds throughout the city.
Although reporting appears rather dodgy and some handlers of visitors to the Hermit Kingdom disavow the existence of the routine—the implication being that they are so brain-washed that it no longer registers, this instrumental tune is a little reminiscent of the Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) soundscape composed by Vangelis and is possibly called “Ten Million Human Bombs for Kim Il Sung” but no one knows for sure. It seems eerie and oppressive at first blush but I wonder what message that North Korea intended to send.