Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea

Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea : Landscape as Political Project

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Environmental and developmental matters have long proved key to North Korea's "revolutionary" industrial and economic strategies. They have equally been important to Pyongyang's diplomatic and geo-political efforts both during the Warsaw Pact period and in our contemporary era following the collapse of its supportive and collaborative partners. However, while environmental issues have been very important to North Korea, academic analysis and commentary addressing this field of governmental and institutional functionality has been almost entirely lacking.

This book fills this analytical void. Taking a narrative view of developmental approach throughout the political and ideological history of North Korea, Winstanley-Chesters first considers its impact on its landscapes and topographies in general throughout the era of the Kim dynasty. Second, in light of recent academic analysis suggesting North Korea as a space of Charismatic politics, the book focuses on the specificity of individual developmental sectors and projects, such as those addressing forestry and hydrology, seeking to trace general trends into these more particular environmental fields.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 122 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 15.24mm | 317.51g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739187775
  • 9780739187777
  • 2,281,956

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: Nature as Heroic Participant in North Korea
Chapter 2: Juche and the Theorization of a Place of "Lived" Utopian Fulfillment
Chapter 3: Building a Landscape of "Lived" Utopia: Deforestation and Afforestation
Chapter 4: Building a Landscape of "Lived" Utopia: Tideland Reclamation
Chapter 5: Conclusion
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Review quote

Robert Winstanley- Chesters' Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea is an ambitious work. Far from being an unpredictable country that merely muddles through, Winstanley- Chesters presents a North Korea that was able to turn its pursuit of survival into a cohesive ideology and utilize it as justification for its developmental policies. Given the scholarship conducted on North Korean ideologies like juche and songun, it is surprising that it wasn't until Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea that an in- depth look at the role of ideology was conducted. Usually studied separately, Winstanley- Chesters' work opens the floodgates to future research on the topic on the influence that ideology has on policy. Because of his sharp analysis on the topic and its role as a predecessor for future studies on the role of ideology in policy, I highly recommend Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea. * North Korean Review * Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea could very well become a landmark geographical publication in the environmental humanities.... This book had me hooked on page one.... I am pleased to recommended the book...for reading by my academic colleagues.... By the time I had read the concluding chapter of Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea I felt Winstanley-Chesters had convincingly demonstrated to me through his efforts that developmental narratives and narratology of North Korea have been an underresearched field of analysis and study that he has successfully begun to remedy with the publication of this book. * AAG Review of Books * The nexus between North Korean ideology and development policy in the context of environmental management is an unexplored niche in the academic literature on the DPRK. Given how integral environmental management is for food security and natural disaster adaptation in North Korea, it is astounding that more attention has not been paid to this topic. Winstanley-Chesters' scholarship in this book is impeccable. The two case studies-tidal reclamation and forest management-provide strong evidence for the coding of revolutionary utopian ideology into the North Korean government's environmental projects. -- Benjamin Habib, La Trobe University Winstanley-Chesters shows that one can understand a great deal about what makes North Korea tick simply by reading its propaganda, especially the canonical texts addressed to its own population. He does so by rereading Kim Il Sung's 1964 Rural Theses and examining the regime's writings about massive tidal reclamation projects, and the struggle to reforest the country devastated by Japanese colonialism and war. Many states remade the environment in the image of their leaders: Pharaonic Egypt; post-Stalinist Russia; Maoist China. But few enlisted nature itself as part of their monumentalist legacy, not just imposing vast projects atop of nature, but transforming natural systems wholesale to embody revolution, to demonstrate absolute dominion, or to express radical utopian nationalism. The author shows how the regime recalibrated these vast mass mobilizations at critical junctures, providing technical and institutional forms to lend rationality to these efforts, and using "on-the-spot" guidance to correct deviations or errors of implementation in ways that distinguish the DPRK from neighboring China to which it is often compared. A must-read in the burgeoning literature devoted to how North Korea has achieved the apparently impossible: survival against all odds after the end of the Cold War. -- Peter Hayes, Nautilus Institute for Security and Stability For the late cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove, the environment is not a thing out there but a salient entity that has a constitutive power in human society and politics. Following closely this great disciplinary tradition, this eye-opening book written by a gifted geographer does a great service to the vibrant field of North Korean studies today by tuning its scholarly interest squarely, and uniquely, with what the country's leadership has long held as its supreme political interest-how to build a sacred, everlasting landscape of power. -- Heonik Kwon, University of Cambridge This book is a unique exploration of North Korean geographic landscape and its ideological construction. Using a wide range of vernacular materials, and deciphering North Korean narratives in a situated approach, Robert Winstanley-Chesters elucidates the great environmental discourses that framed, and still determine, North Korean trajectory towards development. The rigorous focus on tideland reclamation and forestry management, familiar to the author, is particularly powerful in illustrating the logics behind the fabrication of North Korean landscape. Robert Winstanley-Chesters allows us to reconsider the charismatic political structures behind the North Korean landscape and, doing so, sheds new lights on the present North Korean crisis.
This book is a must to anyone interested into North Korea beyond the usual surface of politics, and will trigger fruitful comparative approaches for geographers interested elsewhere in a critical approach of landscapes as political projects. -- Valerie Gelezeau, Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales
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About Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Robert Winstanley-Chesters is research fellow at Australian National University.
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