Friday, April 13, 2012

The Orphan Master's Son

My favorite book of the year so far is, hands down, The Orphan Master's Son. A novel set in contemporary North Korea, The Orphan Master's Son is not for the faint of heart. Author Adam Johnson takes readers deep into mines and concentration camps, detailing the horrific ways in which lives are ended. There are unsuspecting Japanese citizens, plucked by North Korean agents right off of beaches and fishing piers, never to be seen in their homeland ever again.

But despite all of this murder, kidnapping, and starvation, all is not lost. The novel ends with a daring defection that takes place right under the nose of Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader himself. Sure, there is a terrible price to be paid for Pak Jun Do, the man (and lead character) who made the defection possible, but it is in committing this deadly treason that Jun Do finally resolves his identity and feels freedom.

Stay tuned...It is not much of a stretch to bet that, over the next couple of decades, there will be a burst of compelling stories, fact and fiction, emanating from the horrors of North Korea. It will be through such accounts that the beauty and dignity of the North Korean people will finally be fully revealed to the world.

~Steve

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Franciscan Monastery Of The Holy Land

As a nice Easter weekend outing, we took a spin through the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. Featuring the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as beautiful grounds with replicas of Holy Land shrines, the monastery is quite a spectacular and historical spot, a highlight of the "Little Rome" section of DC.

~Steve

Monday, April 09, 2012

Get It While It's Hot!

A article of mine that is forthcoming in the Journal of Contemporary China is available for preview (and purchase!) via the Internet. Click here to access "Information Technology, Political Participation, and the Evolution of Chinese Policymaking." In the meantime, here is the abstract...

Although information technology is playing a fundamental role in China's political development, relatively little is known about the contours of online participation in government policymaking. This article presents the results of a survey of individuals who, in 2008, used the Internet to submit comments on the central government's plan to reform the nation's health system. The responses demonstrate that participants were, in the aggregate, well-educated professionals who live in urban areas and were especially likely to work in the medical and health industry. Substantial numbers of participants commented as a means of expressing concerns about the overall direction of reform, as well as on specific elements of the proposal itself. Participants generally anticipated no more than a modest degree of government responsiveness, although high expectations were held for comments from government officials and individuals who worked in the medical and health industry. Overall, these attributes and attitudes are illustrative of the evolution, as opposed to transformation, of the political system that is occurring in online contexts where neither democratization nor the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party is of immediate salience to government officials and societal stakeholders.

~Steve