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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 21, 1988

REPORT ON NORTH KOREA'S INTERNATIONAL SITUATION UNDER THE NEW REALITIES IN THE WORLD

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    Report on North Korea's international standing, economic situation, and political relations with Soviet Russia in comparison to South Korea, following the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
    "Report on North Korea's International Situation under the New Realities in the World," October 21, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Sofia, Fond 1-B, Opis81, A.E. 27, p. 5. Obtained by Jordan Baev and translated by Greta Keremidchieva. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/165257
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on some current issues concerning the DPRK’s international situation

under the new realities in the world

Recently, some significant changes have occurred in DPRK international situation.

- Following the new way of political thinking, the world is changing its attitude both towards DPRK and South Korea. In his speech in Krasnoyarsk, regarding the initiatives in Asia, Asia-Pacific region and the Korean Peninsula, Mikhail Gorbachev stated that in the context of consolidation of the situation in the Korean Peninsula it is possible to find opportunities to establish economic relations with South Korea.  

- The South Korean government has already expressed their positive attitude to M. Gorbachev’s proposals in Krasnoyarsk, while DPRK has not reacted to any of the initiatives.

- South Korea is developing as one of the fastest progressing new industrial nations. The participation of a record number of countries, including USSR, China and other socialist countries in the Seoul Olympics, raised the international prestige of South Korea (the Games were boycotted by only 6 nations – DPRK, Cuba, Albania, Angola, Mozambique and PDR Yemen).

- According to our Soviet comrades, there are some positive internal political trends in South Korea. The new Constitution which restricts the President’s authorities is supported by the majority of the population. The acts of opposition help to strengthen democratic trends.

It is hard now to speak of South Korea as a US puppet. Lately, the relations between South Korea and USA and Japan have been aggravated. During unofficial talks, it was pointed out that South Korea did not share the US position on Asian security.

- North Korean global prestige decreased to some extent due to the regime in the country, difficulties in economic development, improper behavior and pursue of selfish goals in relations with other countries. Some countries believe that DPRK participated in terrorist acts, etc.

- South Korea is far ahead of DPRK not only economically, but also initiating the dialog for unification. The South Korean President Roh Tae-woo stated to the Parliament that he was ready to meet Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang or elsewhere to have talks on the relations between the North and the South, even on withdrawing US troops from South Korea. It was suggested to found an economic community where the trade between the two parts shall be regarded as duty-free domestic trade. DPRK rejected the proposal setting unacceptable and offensive conditions for the South Korean leaders.

- The leaders of the Korean Workers’ Party and the DPRK continue to consider the peculiarities of contemporary international situation mainly through the prism of the situation in the Korean Peninsula. For the time being, they do not accept the strategy of new political thinking; they react with difficulty to objective realities and to changes of the situation in the region and the world.

- The Korean Workers’ Party and DPRK regard relations between nations, exchange of delegations as a means of propaganda of their own positions on the Korean Peninsula. They assess socialist countries as the main counterbalance of the triangle Washington-Tokyo-Seoul. They continue to conduct policy of balance towards USSR and China.

Korean foreign policy still allows acts of clumsiness, excessive declarations, even challenging rudeness.

- One of the most important problems facing DPRK is the change of ratio of economic potential between DPRK and South Korea.  This fact makes the Korean leadership look for effective forms in economy, pay attention to the development of party and state contacts and relations with fraternal socialist countries.

- The recent development of trade and economic relations between South Korea and the socialist countries generated a negative and emotional reaction on behalf of DPRK. Korean comrades are very sensitive to every step taken away from DPRK position on the unification of the North and the South, which helps the attempts for “cross recognition” of DPRK and South Korea.

- In the North Korean press, the Korean side has reacted arrogantly to the decision made by Hungary and South Korea to open political representative offices in both countries and to start negotiations to establish diplomatic relations. To normalize relations with Hungary, DPRK has set ultimate conditions – Hungary shall suspend talks with South Korea and shall not open a trade office in Seoul.

- Korean leaders unambiguously stated to Soviet comrades that Gorbachev’s speech in Krasnoyarsk and Hungary’s steps to South Korea are likely to be a coordinated diplomatic act. Soviet comrades categorically rejected the assertion stating that establishing relations between socialist countries and South Korea is their sovereign right. They believe that Hungary’s decision is not surprising and could not be criticized as untimely.

The Soviet side is making efforts to convince the North Korean comrades that their policy of complete denial of realities will lead to a dead end.

Right now, DPRK is fully supported solely by F. [Fidel] Castro, who not only stopped Cuban players from participating in the Olympic Games, but also awarded them.

- Soviet comrades believe that South Korea is an attractive trade and economic partner, even more perspective than Japan, taking into account that the relations between USSR and South Korea are not burdened with open questions.

- They believe that socialist countries, including USSR, are interested in looking for forms to develop relations with this country. Currently, the USSR is in a process of considering real opportunities and effective forms of cooperation. The trade between USSR and South Korea is around 50-70 million USD per annum, realized through third countries.

- A number of informal contacts between Soviet and South Korean officials were established during the Olympics. The South Korean side unambiguously stated their willingness for active economic relations with USSR.

- According to information from the Embassy, China is trading indirectly with South Korea. Chinese officials say that China will not establish official state, political, economic and diplomatic relations with South Korea. They will not develop direct commercial relations except for their free economic zones.

(Information is based on materials from the Bulgarian embassies in USSR, DPRK, China and other countries).

21 October 1988

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