The 1986 film rendition of folk-hero Hong Gildong fulfills many purposes, providing not only an entertaining re-telling of a classic Korean tale, but also a reinforcement of the North Korea’s political narratives and broader identity, Hannah Lee writes.
Hong Gildong: a classic North Korean adventure film or just sophisticated propaganda?
In the state but not of it: The newly stateless people of Assam
Islamic Warriors: Pakistani soldiers in Arab armies
Every year thousands of Pakistanis leave their homeland to take up arms in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, enlisting in the armed forces of their wealthier Islamic neighbours. Driven by historical, economic and religious forces, Pakistan is now the world’s most prolific exporter of military personnel. So what drives them to do so, and how does the phenomenon benefit Pakistan’s foreign policy?
Pakistan has been deploying its own military to the region for decades. Pakistani pilots flew Saudi jets in combat and 15,000 soldiers were stationed in the kingdom during the turbulent 1970s and 80s. Personnel were also sent to train the militaries of numerous emerging Arab states which lacked the necessary experience and knowledge, and a force was sent to Kuwait during the Gulf War.
Pakistan’s strong Islamic identity and need for nearby strategic and economic partners has driven these commitments, and the resulting shared history and institutional links has forged close bonds between states and militaries alike.
However, the strongest flow of Pakistani power to the region is now unofficial and largely unnoticed, with many Pakistanis travelling to the peninsula of their own volition and donning the uniform of Arab countries.
One intriguing case is the recruitment of young men from Pakistan’s Balochistan Province into the Royal Army of Oman. The origins of the arrangement can be traced back to 1784 when Oman, then a significant colonial power, gained possession of the Gwadar region in what is now Balochistan’s Southwestern corner. Many Baloch people migrated to Oman and have played an important part in Omani history since that time. In 1958, Pakistan purchased Gwadar from Oman for US$3 million. The deal included permission for Oman to continue recruiting soldiers from Balochistan. The practice continues to this day with thousands applying for each intake, eager for opportunities which are hard to find in their underdeveloped region.
A more recent phenomenon is the influx of former Pakistani soldiers into the armed forces of Bahrain. The tiny gulf state suffers from internal conflict caused by a rift between its Shia majority and Sunni ruling elite, and has struggled to restore order. Lacking qualified personnel, its government has relied on Pakistan since 2011. Pakistani military foundations publicly advertise positions and up to 2,500 Pakistanis have joined Bahrain’s special forces, national guard and riot police, where they now comprise 30 per cent of the security services. Conditions are dangerous and many have been killed, but with pay exceeding US$1,140 a month it remains an attractive prospect when compared to Pakistan’s average of $162.
Several other countries on the Arabian Peninsula employ Pakistani soldiers. The majority of Qatar’s army comprises foreign soldiers, many of whom are Pakistani. Pakistanis are also recruited into the armed forces of the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where entire battalions consist of Pakistani manpower.
Why are Pakistani soldiers in such high demand in these countries?
The Arab countries desperately need effective soldiers. The combined population of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is just 53 million, compared to the 79 million of Iran which some consider a major threat. Many of them have vast areas to defend as well as regional ambitions, and they simply can’t recruit enough soldiers. On top of this, their armies have notoriously poor records in combat which is ascribed to a lack of experience and cultural difficulties.
On the other hand, Pakistan has a large population and extensive military experience. Its army benefits from lessons learned during conventional wars with India, and modern soldiers have fought a brutal counterinsurgency campaign against extremists and achieved considerable success. The knowledge and skills this has produced is a valuable commodity and sorely needed in the region. This is demonstrated by the appointment of Pakistan’s previous army chief, Raheel Sharif, as commander of the beleaguered Saudi-led forces currently battling rebels in Yemen.
Low wages in Pakistan allow the oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula to easily attract recruits. Religious considerations also factor in. As a Sunni-majority country, Pakistan provides soldiers who easily assimilate and provoke none of the outrage that US soldiers do. They are also neutral in potentially volatile tribal politics.
It is unusual for a country to allow so many of its citizens to join foreign armies. But for one in an awkward position such as Pakistan, it is a convenient arrangement. Pakistan needs good relations with stable Arab countries. However, it must also avoid provoking its influential neighbor Iran by giving its rivals too much support. Pakistan must walk a tightrope to maintain relations with both. By exporting soldiers in an unofficial capacity, the government manages this by having a tangible impact on security in the Arabian Peninsula while also avoiding the political ramifications that excessively deploying its own forces would entail.
4 minute readRead more
Paper cats and uncivilised swimmers
Performing arts and political acts
Record number of female candidates in the 2016 Samoan general election
Language and Politics in Indonesia: Creating and sustaining diglossia
‘Diglossia’ is a linguistic term that refers to a situation in which two closely related dialects or languages are used by a single language community.
Bahasa Indonesia, based on ‘revolutionary Malay’, is the national, official language of the Republic of Indonesia. However, there is no standard informal language; the private sphere is filled with various regional languages and dialects. Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian, however, is beginning to acquire the status of the unofficial informal language. The evolution of the relationship between language and politics in Indonesia has created, and continues to sustain, a situation of diglossia.
The Republic of Indonesia is a large nation with great linguistic diversity; it is estimated that one-tenth of the languages in the world are spoken in Indonesia. Such diversity has presented challenges for uniting the nation and developing a national language. As a multilingual polity, Indonesia chose to adopt one of its smaller languages (Malay, renamed Bahasa Indonesia – Indonesian language) as its national language. The Malay language had been the principal lingua franca in the region for perhaps a thousand years; however, it had relatively few native speakers (less than five per cent of the population at the time of independence).
Independence in 1945 saw the establishment of a formal, standardized Indonesian language as a push towards greater uniformity. Article 36 of the Constitution of 1945 declares, “The State language is the Indonesian language.” The birth of the Republic required a means of communication that could “not only express Indonesian nationalism, but Indonesian aspiration, Indonesian traditions and ‘international realities" within the limits of a single vocabulary.”
The diglossic nature of Indonesian has led to a widening rift in society. Mass education and mass communication, along with the omnipresence of government institutions, have created a multitude of domains in which Indonesian is the only appropriate means of communication. Bahasa Indonesia functions as the national, supra-ethnic, official language at the expense of regional languages and dialects that are used for unofficial intra-ethnic communication.
Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, is not the only major urban population center in Indonesia, but the colloquial Jakartan languages are having an increasing influence on varieties throughout the country. There are two colloquial languages used in Jakarta – bahasa Betawi and bahasa Jakarta. Bahasa Betawi refers to the vernacular of the ‘Anak Betawi’, the original inhabitants of Jakarta, and has developed from the Malay lingua franca. Bahasa Jakarta is the colloquial, informal language used among the Indonesians who have flocked to the city since independence, and is increasingly becoming standardized. Anderson discusses the influence of Jakartan on mainstream mass media by taking the example of newspapers. Newspapers are often divided into two parts: the portion in bahasa Indonesia, which covers all news items, all features, all advertisements and all editorials (about 95 per cent of the newsprint); and secondly, the portion in Jakartan, which covers the pojok (corner-columns) that consist of “biting, anonymous comment on the latest news of the general political or economic situation.” There is immediate contrast between these two sections; the former is “official, ideological, patronizing, and authoritarian” while the latter is “malicious, democratic, humorous, and above all intimate.” Jakartan is the language of everyday communication for the people of Jakarta, a means of self-expression, and Indonesian becomes a language of “political politeness.”
Language and politics are intrinsically linked. The evolution of the relationship between these two entities has served to create and sustain a situation of diglossia in Indonesia. The meanings attached to ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ have evolved throughout Indonesia’s history; its primary role was that of a unifier, however, due to its impersonal and neuter tone it has become the formal language of the public sphere. The private sphere is filled with regional languages, such as Bahasa Jakarta, as an intimate form of expression. For Indonesians, Bahasa Indonesia retains its use as a national unifier. Bahasa Jakarta is, however, increasingly spreading throughout the archipelago.
 Ferguson, C.A. “Diglossia.” Word 15: 325 – 40.
 Sneddon, J. 2003. “Diglossia in Indonesian.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde 159: 520.
 Steinhauer, H. 1994. “The Indonesian language situation and linguistics; Prospects and possibilities.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde 150: 755.
 Paauw, Scott. 2009. “One land, one nation, one language: An analysis of Indonesia’s national language policy.” In H. Lehnert-LeHouillier and A. B. Fine (Eds.), University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences 5: 2.
 Anderson, Benedict. 1966. “The Languages of Indonesian Politics.” Indonesia 1: 89.
 Steinhauer, H. 1994. “The Indonesian language situation and linguistics; Prospects and possibilities.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde 150: 773.
 Sneddon, J. 2003. “Diglossia in Indonesian.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde 159: 526.
5 minute readRead more