Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Thursday, 01 July 2010 00:00

The sinking of the Cheonan

North Korea’s recent sinking of the South Korean navy vessel ‘The Cheonan’ has generated a lot of buzz and I'm going to jump on the bandwagon. I got wind of an article by Ruediger Frank, a well-known Pyongyang watcher. He proposes the idea that someone in the chain of command ordered the attack on the Cheonan without first gaining permission from the proper authorities.  The notion that someone other than the Dear Leader (Kim Jong-il) ordered the attack has crossed my mind. With this possibility there are a few things to take into consideration.

There are three domestic powers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: The Party, the Family, and the military. The phasing out of Juche (self-reliance) rhetoric in favor of Seong-gun Jeong-chi (military-first politics) has been underway since the mid-nineties. This put the Party on the backburner as the main power broker and the military filled the void. Where ideology and economy fail, the barrel of a gun becomes the most reliable source of power. Most NoKo observers will agree that Kim was obliged to seek support in the military following the death of his father. As a result, Kim is obligated to work closely with the military in coordinating most matters of state.



What concerns me is the intensity with which some people have been indoctrinated into the ideology of the State. Like any system, there is a broad spectrum of loyalty and conviction among the people. Those people who had less against the State raised voices of rebuke when Kim agreed to dismantle the nuclear facilities last year. People were disappointed that he had shown deference to America's wishes; that he had doubled back on a hybrid ideology of self-reliant militaristic brinkmanship. It goes without saying that those in the military - their careers bolstered by an atmosphere of constant tension between North and South - are scattered similarly along the ideological spectrum; so much in some cases, that an act of insubordination wouldn't be all too surprising were the domestic situation bad enough. A vigilante attempt from below to put a regime, viewed as playing too soft, on the spot. The alternative is that they are trying to provoke a country-crushing retaliation from the South, going out in a blaze of glory in a final fight for the mother land... but I'll leave that scenario to Hollywood.



In the past I've been concerned about the lack of effort the State has put into building the image of Kim's son. In time, however, I've come to realize that it doesn't really matter what the people think of the leader as he will only be a mouthpiece of the military. I highly doubt that the rogue elements in the chain of command are keen to launch an all-out coup, but it's likely that they are dissatisfied with the state of things and want to shake it up a bit, hence the attack on the Cheonan. Kim gives them a face, and the military gives him support. It's a mutual relationship and neither is going to profit from the destruction of the regime.



Despite all the hype, what we need to keep in mind is that people have been predicting the downfall of the North for over half a century: if not from the people rising up in a blaze of democracy, then the inevitable crumbling of a failed economy or perestroika. As long as the army is fed and as long as Pyongyang is fed, the North exhibits enormous staying power. You cannot fight when you're hungry and with a lack of institutions that facilitate communication, any attempts at a revolution are dead in the water. Add to that the fact that people would probably go after each other (get to the armory-find the party cadres… aaah… that feels good) before any foreign powers could get into the action, escalation to all out war is in no one's interest.


The NoKos are betting that attack on the Cheonan will not escalate out of control. It will, however, get everyone's attention both domestically and internationally. It's not entirely unlikely that Kim knew about the attack either. Regardless of the supposed pressure from lower echelons, he'll be in the spotlight again. Nothing's going to change if you don't get things moving first. As usual, we can only guess what domestic amendments in policy the powers that be are looking to implement. Albeit the most frustrating option, our best choice is to listen up and engage the North.

Photos by K. Mathesius


Wednesday, 30 June 2010 21:21

Dancing as galloping horses

At the end of 2004, a group of young Taiwanese dancers founded their own dance group, "Ma-Chang" (馬場), to continue their passion for dance and to cooperate in-depth. “Ma-Chang” means “horse ranch” and they named it thus for two reasons. First, two of the group members were born in the year of horse according to the Chinese zodiac. Second, the image of horses running wild and free inspired the dancers.

They asked the calligrapher Zhang Mei-Ju to make a representative seal for their dance group, but Master Zhang disliked their original name. After they explained their intentions, Zhang suggested that they could change the name to “Biao” (驫 has three Chinese characters for horse - 馬 - stacked in a pyramid shape), which is an old Chinese word meaning a group of horses, and represents their vitality. The group of boys accepted it delightedly and “Biao dance theatre*” officially came into being.

After that, they started to plan their first performance - ”M_DANS”. They held a press conference and tried to explain the idea of this dance, yet the media cared more about the make up of the group. Finally, a journalist said “You are all males! I guess that’s what makes you different”. These boys suddenly realized what he said is true: there was no girl in this group!

“The only all-male dancing group in Taiwan” now is the hallmark of ‘Horse’. Artistic director Chen Wu-Kang says “We didn’t plan to be like this, it’s just a coincidence. We didn’t reject girls, we just found out that there are plenty of advantages dancing among boys only.”

“For example,” Chen said, “Men are more energetic, and more powerful in their physical expressions”. Male dancers have more endurance and are more muscular so they are more comfortable with each other when they dance together. When a man and woman dance together, it always seems like there is a love story. When there are only men, the dance seems more neutral. Then the choreographer can better concentrate on common themes of humanity, like the feeling of loss, desire or maturing.

Horse02That’s why the performances of ‘Horse’ in these years do not use a narrative, but instead explore the possibilities of the human body, the interaction between humans, and the interaction between humans and space. Thus, in the piece entitled ‘Proverb’, choreographed by the American Eliot Feld, (from the creation ’M_Dans 2010’, March 2010), the dancer Chen Wu-Kang only wore flesh-coloured underwear, with small round lights in his palms. He danced in the dark, and ethereal female voices arose from all around him. He opened and closed his palms, projecting the light on to his face or towards the audience, and also drew a giant shadow behind him to highlight the contrast between real and illusory bodies (That is, between his body and the shadows). This dance demonstrated that when the costume, scenery and lighting are simple, the audience can concentrate more wholeheartedly on the dancer’s moving body.

Of course, many dance groups also emphasize their bodies and translate themes through their bodies. Yet ‘Horse’ has its own unique playing style in its dancing, and this distinguishes the troupe from others. There is something particular about big boys: they tend to like messing around, they like to compete with each other and to step into the territories of others’ bodies. There might be conflicts, but they will be solved with humor.

One of their other specificities is the way they create their dance pieces. For the ‘M Dans’ show for example, each member choreographed several short dances individually, and then combined them into a final one. They learned to work with each other and appreciate personal characteristics through this process. Later, they would have a main theme, and then members each translated the theme in their own way, thus the audience could see how the different expressions enriched the dance. It made the dancers cooperate even better, and the group worked very smoothly.

(*In Chinese “Biao dance” is pronounced “biao wu”, which refers to a word meaning “dancing wildly and competitively”)

Adapted to English by Cathy Chuang
Horse website

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010 21:12

In Bed with Rock in Hose

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is Rock in Hose!!

The burlesque dance troupe was formed in 2009 in Taiwan. Please meet Alita d'Bone and Trixie Treatz from Canada, Kitty N. Heat and Amor Galore from the U.S., Duke Vita and Onyx from South Africa.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 17:54

What is eRenlai?

eRenlai was created in January 2006 by Benoit Vermander after the magazine Renlai Monthly published by the Taipei Ricci Institute.

Published in About us 關於我們
Wednesday, 30 June 2010 08:23



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