The Korean War “ended” exactly fifty years ago at Panmunjom. On July 27, 1953, United States and United Nations commanders on one side, and the North Koreans and Chinese commanders on the other, agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities. Most histories of the Korean War stop there.
Monica Macias, the youngest daughter of Equatorial Guinea’s first president at just seven years old, lands in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1979. Her father had sent her to the country to study, but what was meant to be a shorter visit grew to a decade-long stay when her father was ousted in a coup.
Korea was a unified, homogeneous country from the seventh century CE until 1945 when in the wake of the Second World War it was partitioned by the United States and the Soviet Union and formally became two separate states in 1948. Since that time, writes James Madison University history professor Michael J Seth, Korea has been a nation divided into vastly different social systems and “perpetually at war” with itself. Seth’s new book Korea at War attempts to describe and explain this geopolitical transformation.
Tales of love, loss and survival set in the war-torn Korea of the 20th century are cleverly linked in the life of one female “trickster” in this debut novel from South Korean writer Mirinae Lee. Seven individual stories are connected through the device of an elderly lady, Mrs Mook, recounting her experiences. Listening carefully is Lee Sae-ri, a middle-aged divorcee who works at the Golden Sunset retirement home where Mrs Mook lives. In a bid to ease the residents through their final years, Lee Sae-ri has taken it upon herself to write their “obituaries” by recording their personal histories.
Socialist women have been erased from the history of the international women’s movement. When we write them back in, and center Asia in the process, we arrive at a richer, more complex, and more accurate understanding of global feminisms.
In 1960, the Soviet Union founded a university in Moscow—soon to be called the Patrice Lumumba University—with the aim of educating students from newly independent states, many of whom came from African countries. Now called the People’s Friendship University of Russia, the university has a famous list of alumni including former heads of state of Central American and African countries, among others. But the Soviet Union wasn’t the only socialist place to offer educational opportunities to students in the developing world. Cuba, China, and North Korea also did and it’s the last that forms the subject of Monica Macias’s new memoir, Black Girl From Pyongyang: In Search of My Identity.
It’s a cliche to call North Korea the most isolated country in the world. Those of us living outside the country often have very little idea of what life there is like, often only seeing what its government would like us to see: military parades, missile launches, and joyous crowds.