BioShine Choi is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. She is also Associate Editor for International Feminist Journal of Politics. She received her BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Wellesley College (USA); Masters in International Studies from Seoul National University (Korea); and PhD in Politics and International Studies from Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland). Her research has focused on how an illiberal state like North Korea creates the international as a space of politics. She also studies visuality and aesthetics; IR theory; intercultural relations; postcolonial feminist theory; (post)conflict; human rights; and cultural diplomacy. Recent publications include North Korea in International Politics: Problems and Alternatives (Routledge, 2015); 'Love’s Cruel Promises: Love, Unity and North Korea' (International Feminist Journal of Politics, 2015); and ‘Art of Losing (in) the International’ (Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 2017).
This project examines North Korea’s cultural diplomacy with other ‘illiberal’ states across Asia and Africa. Colonial histories and rejection of American and European imperialisms serve as sources of political legitimacy and international cooperation between these states. I focus on North Korea’s public cultural projects in the 2000s such as construction of political statues, museums and public buildings. I examine these contemporary Asia-Africa projects as rich sites of power politics and re-articulation and cooptation of the Third World as an international political bloc, anti-imperialism, and people politics in the age of globalization. Contra popular explanations that posit these cultural projects as economic ventures between foreign currency poor states, I argue that the fact that these cash poor governments invest in cultural, superficial dimensions of statecraft points to how aesthetics and appearances of things mediate power and politics, and become a medium that forges relations between states and establishes international order. To capture intercultural and aesthetic dimensions of statecraft and politics, this study explores the concept of the terrible as an aesthetic category that brings offending lines of vision to the forefront of our understanding of international order and politics. This tack is premised on an understanding that international problems of security, human rights and poverty are not simply problems that the international community must solve; they are also sites where incommensurable cultural differences and perceptions of the world become violently pronounced. This study rethinks prevailing conceptions of the terrible to better understand power, statecraft and cultural politics in/through postcolonial formations. It interrogates traditional concepts and methods for inscribing democracy contra dictatorships, sovereignty contra colonization, and politics contra culture.