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About this book

This open access book explores the histories and geographies of fishing in North Korea and the surrounding nations. With the ideological and environmental history of North Korea in mind, the book examines the complex interactions between local communities, fish themselves, wider ecosystems and the politics of Pyongyang through the lens of critical geography, fisheries statistics and management science as well as North Korean and more generally Korean and East Asian studies. There is increasing global interest in North Korea, its politics, people and landscapes, and as such, this book describes encounters with North Korean fishing communities, as well as unusual moments in the field in the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It addresses fish, fishing infrastructure, fishing science and fishing statistics and other non-human elements of North Korean and other nations’ developmental regimes as actors and participants within them as much as humans and their technologies. The book enables readers to gain extensive insights into the aspirations and practices of fishing in North Korea and its neighbours, the navigation of difficult political and developmental situations and changing ecological realities in a time of environmental and climate crisis familiar to many across the globe.

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Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. Watery Introductions

Abstract
The book’s introductory chapter outlines its ambitions, aims and objectives. Fish, fishing and fishing communities are perhaps among the most opaque and little-studied developmental ecosystems. Equally, North Korea is one of the most difficult to study and confusing research sites on the globe. In introducing this book, its shape and objectives, this chapter aims to give a coherent and comprehensive sense of how this opacity and difficulty might be overcome and managed. In particular, the chapter engages with the literature of vibrant, lively and non-human matters, as this is the lens through which the author seeks to explore the realm of fish, fisherpeople and fishing. Following the work of scholars such as Jane Bennett and Sarah Whatmore, the interactions and exchanges that mark out such a complex ‘web of life’ will be explored in a wide variety of scales, sites and situations. Vibrancy and liveliness of such fishing matter(s) will be considered in the context of both abundance and scarcity, vitality and degradation within this book and an introduction sensitive to thoughts and theories, which might bind these varied situations together is important to that consideration. Vital to this watery introduction to will be a sense of the nature of the web of life within which these vibrant matters function, especially in the political and politico-social sense of that web, focusing as it does on North Korea, a national polity possessed of its own peculiar, distinct and local form of politics. While Jason Moore, who coined the notion of the ‘web of life’ used within this book, sought to unpack the place and role of nature within a web of capitalist life, of course, North Korea is anything but a conventional space of capitalism. This book roots its analysis of Pyongyang’s ideology within that produced by Heonik Kwon and Byung-ho Chung, which holds it to be characterised by a theatric or charismatic politics recognisable to both Max Weber and Clifford Geertz. Finally, this introduction engages with the methodologies and literature of fishing histories and geographies across the globe. The watery terrains of this book, therefore, from North Korea and its neighbours are complex assemblages of the symbolic, constructed and co-produced as well as the concrete and the vibrant.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 2. Geographies and Histories of Fish and Fishing

Abstract
While many developmental sectors and their communities have sparse historical or geographic records, recent works on environmental history and historical geography have sought to fill in some of the gaps. Work on histories of forests, pollution and some land mammal and reptile species has contributed a great deal in the effort to move the realm of history beyond that of human experience. Fish and fishing, however, are certainly under-researched in both a historical and geographic sense. Even in the field of anthropology, an academic discipline with a concern for the edges and outliers in human development, fishing communities—their societies, traditions and histories—have not received much in the way of exposure or interest. This chapter, therefore, outlines what can only be a partial and incomplete focus on the wider global histories and geographies of fish and fishing. For the most part histories and geographies of fish and fishing have been extremely focused on the northern hemisphere. Histories of European fishing development and stocks abound, especially those focused on the traditions of the Cod and Herring fisheries prior to the twentieth century, and to the area around Newfoundland’s Grand Banks. Histories of colonialist, modernist and capitalist technologies as they were deployed in the pursuit globally of whales and seals are also quite abundant. Histories and geographies of fishing in the Pacific, Africa and Southeast Asia are few and far between: however, those that are encountered within this chapter are considered for their methodological approach to the study of fishing communities and territories outside of the traditions of European or Western fishing practice. Fish and fishing community histories and geographies of Chinese and Japanese fishing are of particular interest and transfers of technology, spiritual mythologies and cultural traditions which intersect with those of Korea are vital to this chapter. Finally, this chapter explores the history of Korean fishing traditions and practices, considering what material exists from the records of the pre-1907 Chosŏn state, as well as the material gathered by Japanese academics and colonists during the period from 1907 to 1945. These are combined with the few seminal studies of Korean fishing communities in more recent times, especially that of Gageodo, South Korea’s most southwestern community which itself has been a fieldwork site for the author of this book during its formation.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 3. Fish and Fishing Knowledge(s) as Vibrant Matter

Abstract
Having outlined the theoretical background behind the notion of matter and matters as vibrant or lively in the introduction, this next chapter uses the theoretical framework provided by Jane Bennett, Sarah Whatmore and others to more deeply explore what its deployment within the realm of fishing would mean. Contrasting recent work on the intersection between human form and matter and the bacterial and viral realm, an intersection which is inescapable for humans and has begun to suggest a meshing and merging of humanity’s apparently independent nature with other, unexpected forms of nature, the chapter considers the importance of knowledge and statistics about fish and their geographies in wider histories of fishing. The changing form and shape of available and known fishing resource, as well as the individual and collective behaviours focused on the extraction of fish and their importance to geopolitics is considered Fish and other creatures of the sea and of the seabed themselves, therefore, are held to be vibrant matters in the web of political and developmental life. Knowledge, therefore, as ephemeral matters with real impact on both fish and human communities and political groupings focused on fishing. Given the previous chapter on histories and geographies of fishing, those histories and terrains will be further considered in this chapter, the embedded vibrant and lively statistical and living materials active at different levels of temporality and materiality, providing a sense in which fishing interactions from the past and future impact on the geographies and communities of the present, especially those in forthcoming chapters of the book.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 4. Fishing in North Korea, A History and A Geography

Abstract
Having considered deeply the theoretical framing of vibrant or lively matters in the previous pages, chapter four focuses directly on a territory widely considered to have a material and political relationship which is the opposite of vibrant, North Korea. With the political theorisation surrounding the politics and ideology of Pyongyang outlined in the introduction in mind, the chapter explores the intersections between fish and fishing and the developmental agendas of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and now Kim Jong Un. Tracing the focus on fishing and fishing resource and the connections and enmeshing with the different periods of North Korean political and industrial development, the chapter explores this periodisation and impacts on the lively matters of North Korean fish and fishing. This history and geography reaches back to the pre-history of North Korea, examining the transformation of fishing and fishing infrastructures during the period of Korea’s opening up and the colonial period under Japanese occupation. Unlike Japanese fishing practices, traditional Korean fishing was focused on the shore and the near sea, Koreans did not historically venture out into the deep sea or the wider oceans. While Japanese colonialism developed Korean fishing practices in a more extensive and technological manner, North Korean fishing following the Liberation in 1945 was still technologically and infrastructurally challenged. This became worse following the Korean War of 1950–1953, and North Korea’s fishing practices and rights have since then been challenged by the post-War status quo of maritime demarcation, in particular the Northern Limit Line and more contemporary practices of sanctioning and restriction which are also produced by geo-politics. Pyongyang has therefore continually fought to extend its fishing reach, with seemingly little success, but fish and maritime resources have become much more important to North Korea following the crisis period of the early 1990s. Fish in recent North Korean history have become vital to the provision of food given the collapse in soil health and agricultural capacity and also once an important element of economic exchange given their non-sanctioned status until 2017. Following UNSC resolution 2371 in August of 2017 of course fish and maritime products have now been problematized as other North Korean matters and materials and this will also be considered by the chapter. In a later chapter a specific location and community of fish and fisherpeople will be encountered, but this chapter more generally explores the geographies of North Korean fishing, especially those geographies which have been constructed or co-produced by the efforts, or otherwise of the state.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 5. Gageodo, Dalian and Slavankya…Lively Matters in the Neighbourhood

Abstract
While North Korea may certainly be unusual in contemporary politics, an outlier when it comes to the organisation of state, economy and society the author of this book believes it is a mistake to consider it unique or sui generis. North Korea its politics, development and no doubt lively matters cannot be separated from the wider streams of history, nor from the influence and connections with neighbouring nations. This is, of course, both true historically as much as it is true in the current era. While fishing practice and development as we will see in the next chapter is certainly difficult in contemporary North Korea and specific communities under Pyongyang’s rule, communities and fishing geographies nearby to North Korea are themselves also beset by difficulties and challenges, of both environmental and political natures. It is important, therefore, for this book to engage with lively fishing matters and materials in these neighbouring or connected nations. This chapter engages in particular with three case studies, which the author of this book has completed fieldwork exercises in during the period of this book’s production. First, this chapter journeys to the island of Gageodo, the most southwestern island in South Korea and the closest South Korean community to China. Gageodo’s fishing community has always been challenged by its geographic isolation and distance from the political institutions of Korea, whether contemporary South Korea, historical Chosŏn or colonial Chosen. Its community, however, has continued to fish, in spite of this isolation, the co-option of their efforts historically by tradition Kaekchu middlemen, and the pressure of tourist development (Gageodo is now very famous for sport fishing) in current times. Similarly pressured are the fishing communities nearby Dalian on the Liaodong Peninsula in China, just to the northwest of North Korea. Dalian city is subject to spectacular levels of speculative urbanism and attendant levels of pollution and environmental degradation. Whole areas of the city and its surrounding rural hinterland have been captured by the forces of new capital and speculation and reconstructed in such a way as to exclude less profitable and more old-fashioned enterprises as fishing. However, fishing communities continue to exist, as well as fish, reconfiguring their fishing geographies and infrastructures to take into account the new economic and social realities of twenty-first-century China. Finally, the chapter considers the case of Slavyanka, in Primorsky Krai, Russian Federation to the northeast of North Korea. Situated in political geography in some ways as challenging as that of China and North Korea, Slavyanka a fishing community since the 1860s was threatened by the developmental interests of regional politics in Russia, yet through an extensive repertoire of resistive and energetic actions managed to maintain its geography and fishing infrastructure. Through these three case studies, a complex meshing of lively political, environmental and economic matters generate and co-produce fishing geographies and landscapes which will certainly be useful in the next chapters’ consideration of a particular North Korean fishing community.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 6. Sindo, Environment and the Politics of Fishing in North Korea

Abstract
Sindo island is in the mouth of the Amnok (Yalu in Chinese) River at the border between North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Reclaimed from the estuary of the river in 1971, a cooperative of fisher people from older fishing communities and enterprises along the western coast of North Korea was created to serve as a model community and model example of development at this time. Kim Il Sung himself made repeated visits between 1971 and 1976, during a period when North Korean politics sought to reconfigure landscape and developmental possibility through a series of what are called ‘Great Nature Remaking Projects’. North Korea’s fishing industry was to be reconfigured so as to focus on resources further out to sea, fishing practice and knowledge was to be further developed and a series of cooperatives were to be the institutional basis for the sector. By the 1990s, fishing cooperatives such as Sindo had been forgotten in the collapse of North Korean capability and bureaucracy and in the 2000s, the fishing industry has been co-opted by the Korean Peoples’ Army and a network of fishery stations dedicated to industrial fishing and resource production built. This meant that Sindo became even more peripheral to the political and institutional mind. This chapter explores this history, context and strategies the fisherpeople of Sindo might use to maintain their livelihoods and connections to the vibrant and lively fishing matters that once sustained and gave impetus to them. In Sindo and in other places within North Korea are fishing matters as vibrant and energetic as local political sensibility and aspiration are lively?
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Open Access

Chapter 7. Lively Conclusions

Abstract
Having encountered the vibrant matters of fishing communities close to North Korea, and fishing in North Korea at and around Sindo, framed by the histories and geographies of fishing landscapes throughout East Asia and beyond this final chapter draws this book to a lively conclusion. Fish and fishing for North Korea have become vitally important again in current years, important in both abundance and absence. North Korea has this in common with much of the world’s fishing terrain, precarious resources familiar in global histories of fishing such as those of the collapse of Newfoundland and the Grand Banks cod fishery, the disappearance of the Herring from Southwest England and the depletion of much of Africa’s fishing stock in recent years. As climate change, ocean temperature and acidification and a number of other elements of global environmental crisis develop, fish and fishing will become still precarious. Fish themselves may be energetic and vibrant materials but that will not stop them becoming another element of the impending and ongoing global extinction event of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. That does not, however, mean that fish and fishing terrains will lose their agency or the impact upon human life and developmental practice. On the contrary fish and maritime resources in their absence could become even more vibrant, their diminution in the web of life of the sea and land making them more powerful and valuable as they become more scarce. Scarcity and absence, of course, are common in the life and practice of North Korea, and this chapter and book concludes with a discussion of North Korean Ghost Ships and the most macabre of impacts of such scarcity. Fishing communities North Korea must be concerned, along with their development institutions, with the navigation of landscapes and terrains of lack, scarcity and difficulty, and the Ghost Ships and their unfortunate crews suggest not only the real limits of those difficulties, but allow historical connections with other uncomfortable and difficult materials and bodies in East Asian fishing history.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Backmatter

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