Discovering mineralogical terrains and landscapes of North Korean and Soviet development, 1945-1950, in the Captured Documents collection

Robert Winstanley-Chesters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Purpose-North Korea's 2013 engagement with an Australian mining company to extract Rare Earths was framed both a-historically and as a threat. This paper takes a wider view of North Korean mineral histories to seek evidence of the landscapes of Pyongyang's mineralogical development and the political-social spaces of its mining past. Design, Methodology, Approach-The paper engages in a review of North Korean mineral history, informed by the University of Hamburg and the Hamburg Museum of Ethnology's Gottsche collection, the records of the Colonial Government General of Chosen and primarily from NARA's Captured Documents collection (RG242). The paper considers these through the lens of social geography and political-social landscapes, utilizing recent analytical methods deployed within work on North Korea whose focus is political charisma and the revolutionary "everyday." Findings-The paper reviews archival material addressing past mineral histories of the Korean Peninsula. In particular it identifies and considers particular documents with a larger collection recounting North Korea's early mining history. These documents suggest a reconfiguration of mineral spaces to better suit both the revolutionary political aspirations and the mineralogical exploration of a young North Korea and its partner the USSR. Practical Implications-The material encountered could prove supportive of analysis of the early social and developmental history of North Korea, suggesting mineralogical development goes hand in hand with social and cultural development. Originality and Value-This paper is unique in its consideration of this material through a mineralogical frame. It is hoped that this alone bestows value, however, the paper's consideration of different spatial aspects of North Korea's historical developmental-social landscape could also be of contextual value
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9-25
    JournalNorth Korean Review (NKR)
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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