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March 28, 1969

Far East Department of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'The Domestic Situation and the Foreign Policy of the Korean People's Democratic Republic'(Regarding political report and other information materials of Soviet embassy in DPRK in 1968)

This document was made possible with support from Kyungnam University

SECRET Copy Nº 41

28 March 1969


[handwritten: 15-D/6]

[faded CPSU CC stamp: 10466]




(from a Political Report and other information materials of the Soviet Embassy in the DPRK for 1968)


I. The domestic political situation


The most important factor determining the domestic situation in the DPRK in 1968 was the Korean leadership’s injection of a war atmosphere in the country in connection with the well-known Pueblo incident. The opportunity has come for a dangerous development of events on the Korean Peninsula inasmuch as the US in turn has concentrated armed forces in the area of the Sea of Japan and South Korea has conducted several mobilization events. The Soviet Union has carried out a series of political actions to put pressure on the US government and also to influence the KWP and DPRK leadership.


The US was forced to enter into direct contact with the DPRK and seek a way to settle the Pueblo incident by political means. By the end of 1968 the incident had been settled and the American side signed a document with apologies and assurances.


The long delay in the resolution of the Pueblo question was used by the Americans and South Koreans to build up military potential in the southern part of Korea.


At the present time more than 1,400,000 men are under arms on the Korean Peninsula (220,000 sq. km., approximately the area of Britain) on both sides, on the side of the DPRK and South Korea. Reserve formations have been created in the event of a military conflict in the south and North of Korea besides these regular troops: more than two million men in South Korea and up to 1.5 million men in the DPRK (worker’s and peasants guard units organized mainly on the production principle).


Nº 357-dv


[Stamp at the bottom of the first page: “The material is informative. The CPSU CC Department has been familiarized [with it]], Katerinich. Chief of the 1st Sector [[3 illegible signatures]. 15D/6. 19 May 1969”]


[handwritten: “archive, 19 [[May] 1969, [[illegible signature”]]


The concentration of such numerous contingents of troops opposing one another on [so] small [a] territory in itself already presents a potential hotbed of conflict.


In 1968 the DPRK economic plan was under fulfilled, chiefly in connection with the creation of a war atmosphere in the country. A considerable part of the material and personnel resources were directed at the construction of underground shelters, artillery positions, bomb shelters, and strengthening the army. According to unofficial data, in 1968 the actual expenses for military purposes exceeded 40% of the state budget.


According to tentative calculations (economic statistics are not published in the DPRK) the growth of gross industrial production in 1968 was 7% against the 24% envisioned by the plan.


The difficulties caused by drought in a number of regions of the country has also had an effect on the operation of industry. The shortage of water in reservoirs has led to a reduction of the production of electrical power, as a result of which in the first half of 1968 production capacity in the chemical, foundry, and other energy-intensive industries was [3]0-[6]0 % used. The operation of ferrous metallurgical enterprises was limited by a shortage of coking coal in connection with interruptions in its deliveries from China.


The KWP CC and DPRK government have taken a number of steps to eliminate the serious shortfalls in industrial production. The question of the operation of transport, one of the worst bottlenecks in the DPRK economy, was discussed at the November CC plenum. Measures were taken to accelerate the construction of the Bukchang [Pukchang] Thermal Power Plant with the aid of the USSR in order to ensure the commissioning of two or even three units with a total capacity of 200-300,000 kwt. in 1969. As before, the main attention of the Korean leadership is being devoted to labor productivity. The November plenum again called upon all workers to work as much as needed to fulfill the established production tasks, regardless of the time. Severe administrative measures are used with respect to the people who are not fulfilling the tasks which are, as a rule, set too high.


In agriculture the situation has developed somewhat more favorably. In the words of the Korean leaders, about three million tons of rice, the main food crop, has been gathered. The average rice yield is 47 centners per hectare.


The population’s standard of living remained low, as before. A rationed supply of grain, the main foods, and manufactured goods introduced ever since the 1950-1953 war is maintained in the country. Norms for the issue of grain for labor-days, up to 300-350 kilograms a year for each family member, have also been established for peasants. High prices remain for goods on free sale. The situation is poor with the population’s supply of meat and milk, which is mainly distributed to medical and children’s institutions. According to an assessment given by Kim Il Sung in a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador, “there are no hungry or naked people in the DPRK, but there are also no especially rich and overfed [people] – the population lives in average abundance”.


DPRK propaganda explains the slow pace of the growth of material prosperity of the population by the fact that Korean workers have to live modestly and not envy others, think more about helping their South Korean brethren, who are in bondage, and give every effort to the Korean revolution, which has still not been finished on a Korea-wide scale.


The Korean Worker’s Party, numbering 1,650,000, occupies a firm leading position. A rigid personnel policy is pursued in the KWP. Many people who had made some mistakes, were undisciplined, or had shown the slightest doubt of the correctness of the line or the instructions of Kim Il Sung have been removed from leadership posts.


Great changes in the higher command staff of the Korean People’s Army occurred last year. Kim Chang Bong, the Minister of National Defense, member of the KWP CC Politburo, and Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers; Choe Hwang, Chief of the General Staff and Secretary of the KWP CC; the Chief of the Intelligence Directorate of the Army, and the Commander of the Naval forces were removed from [their] posts. Big changes have occurred at other levels of the Party and state apparatus, including among ministers, chiefs of KWP CC departments, and their deputies. Seven people have been removed from the Politburo and CC Secretariat in 1966-1967.


The people newly appointed to leadership posts mainly come from the military community who took part in partisan warfare in the ‘30s together with Kim Il Sung and were in command positions in the army during the 1950-1953 war.


As a rule, the Korean comrades report nothing about the reasons for the changes in the KWP CC and DPRK government leadership and the broad purge of primary Party and state apparatus conducted at the same time. The need for vigorous measures to put down “the plots and intrigues of an insignificant bunch of hostile elements” was stressed in Kim Il Sung’s report on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the DPRK.


All the ideological and educational work of the KWP is directed at the formation of a world view in Party members and the entire population in the spirit of the ideas of Kim Il Sung about “independence and uniqueness” in policy and ideology, at the introduction of the “special” views of the KWP leadership on questions of the development of socialism, and the development of a world revolutionary process.


The system of political education is being constructed exclusively on the study of the speeches and statements of Kim Il Sung, his articles, and “instructions at the local level [na mestakh]”. All KWP ideological and educational work is being constructed on the principle of “not recognizing any other ideas except the great revolutionary ideas of the leader”. The publication of any documents of a political nature published in the USSR and the other socialist countries is not allowed. The study of the works of the classics of Marxism-Leninism, of the experience of other Communist Parties is kept to a minimum, and the “works” of Kim Il Sung are characterized as “the Marxism-Leninism of our days”. The aura is created for him of the outstanding personality of modern times, not just “the leader of the 40 million Korean people”, but also the “theoretical genius of Marxism-Leninism”, the ideologue and leader of the national liberation movement.


Daily political lessons are obligatory for Party members. The statements of Kim Il Sung are learned almost by heart. All the means of mass propaganda operate to exalt Kim Il Sung: the press, radio, film, theaters, and artistic creativity.


The exaltation of Kim Il Sung is perceived by the majority of the population, shielded from any influence from outside, as the deserved growth of the authority of the leader. The other, politically more literate part of the population, considers this necessary in the conditions of military tension and the proximity of China with its own cult.


Special attention is paid to the instilling of high discipline and personal devotion to the leader by the servicemen. The leadership of the army and security organs (whoever has headed them) are under the direct control of Kim Il Sung.


II. The Foreign Policy of the KWP and the DPRK Government


A striving not to irritate the group of Mao Zedong if possible and not to complicate relations with China and at the same time to expand relations with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries in the interests of economic cooperation and the acquisition of military, economic, and scientific and technical aid is characteristic in the KWP CC foreign policy line.


It is increasingly harder for the Korean leadership to maneuver, to preserve a normal relationship with the USSR and China in the current situation of a sharp aggravation in the Soviet-Chinese relations in connection with the provocative, hostile activity of the group of Mao Zedong. Consequently the DPRK leadership is trying to justify its position “of independence and self-sufficiency” in all things, to explain its centrist line by “the tense situation” in the country, and by the danger of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.


The problems of peace and peaceful coexistence are viewed by the KWP CC and DPRK government through the prism of their relations with South Korea and the US. They think that peaceful coexistence with the US, which occupies South Korea and is a warring side in Korea, is impossible, and moreover peaceful coexistence with the puppet regime created in South Korea is impossible.


Holding to leftist views on the problem of war and peace the Korean leaders speak of the policy of peaceful coexistence with disapproval as “an unprincipled coexistence with imperialism”. They do not accept the line of lessening international tension, disarmament, and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Kim Il Sung thinks that a lessening of tension in any region of the world, for example, in Europe, might lead to an increase of imperialism in Asia. The Korean leaders aspire to a special role for the DPRK in the battle against imperialism which, according to their statements, “defends the eastern outpost of socialism”.


The leaders of the DPRK overemphasize the military way of solving the Vietnamese problem and regard searches for ways for a political settlement with disapproval.


The KWP CC and DPRK government do not support and are silent on the measures of the Soviet government directed at a peaceful settlement of the Near East crisis. They think that a prolonged war of the Arab countries against Israel would be “serious support to Vietnam”.


Based on their “concept” of the fight against imperialism, the Korean comrades think that the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries are fighting American imperialism insufficiently actively, and also underestimate the danger of a revival of Japanese militarism. According to their reasoning the American imperialists prefer “not to aggravate relations with big countries” (meaning the USSR and China) and are striving to defeat “the little ones”, especially divided countries (the DPRK, the DRV, Cuba, and the GDR). Based on this, Kim Il Sung is promoting a “strategy” of fighting imperialism with the forces of “small revolutionary” countries which are to “tear American imperialism apart” everywhere.


Kim Il Sung sets aside a special, clearly exaggerated role in the anti-imperialist to the “revolutionary” peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In a desire to gain authority and popularity in these countries the Korean comrades often fall into contradiction with their very own statements about the decisive role of the socialist camp, and they sometimes “forget” to mention the countries of socialism altogether.


The position of the KWP on the question of the reunification of the country has not undergone [any] changes. Proposals about the reunification of Korea by holding free elections on condition of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Korea were repeated in DPRK documents addressed to the UN. At the same time the Korean leaders declare that “reunification might be accomplished only when the current puppet regime in South Korea is overthrown”.


The word “peaceful” has not been used for a long time in domestic propaganda on the question of the reunification of the country. It speaks of a “revolutionary”, “proactive [initsiativnoe]” reunification. It contains calls “to defeat American imperialism”, “to overthrown the venal, puppet regime of Park Chung Hee with the joint efforts of the people of South and North Korea”.


Although the Korean comrades say that right now there are no realistic possibilities to develop revolutionary actions in South Korea and reunite the country, individual aspects in the activity of the KWP point to the fact that they do not exclude the possibility of reuniting the country by force of arms if an appropriate situation arises and, in particular, in the event that an armed revolt of the South Korean population breaks out.


In the international Communist movement the “independent line” of the KWP comes down to overemphasizing the idea of the “independence” of the Party in this movement, which is stressed by the DPRK leadership with special significance. The slogan of fighting on two fronts - against contemporary revisionism and left opportunism - is broadly used to justify its “special” position and maneuvering on questions of principle of the development of the modern world.


In propaganda terms the Korean leadership favors the strengthening of the unity and solidarity of the socialist camp and the international Communist movement, the coordination of the actions of the socialist countries in support of Vietnam, and the strengthening of a united anti-imperialist front of struggle. In fact, however, the KWP CC still remains apart from the efforts of a majority of fraternal Parties to consolidate the international Communist movement.


The attitude of the KWP CC toward the convening of the International Conference of Communist and Worker’s Parties has not changed. Kim Il Sung declares that the KWP favors the convening of the Conference “in principle” but thinks that conditions are not yet ripe for convening the Conference since a number of Parties of the socialist countries who are in power and also various “revolutionary” Parties of the capitalist countries will not participate in it.


The KWP leadership has recently stepped up activity to organize a group of “Parties of small countries”, whose goal in the conditions of the differences between the CPSU and CPC, so the Korean leaders believe, is to exert their influence on the CPSU and CPC and thus achieve unity. In the opinion of the Korean leaders the DPRK, Cuba, and the DRV, who stand “at the front lines of the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle”, should become the nucleus of such an organization.


The leaders of the KWP have approved the measures of five allied countries to aid the Czechoslovak people and consider the introduction of Soviet troops onto Czechoslovak territory to be justified. However, their position on the Czechoslovak question has some peculiarities. They have proclaimed all the decisions of the January and succeeding KPCz CC plenums without exception to be completely revisionist. In an editorial of the KWP CC organ, “The Historical Lesson of the Events in Czechoslovakia” it was stressed that all Parties ought to draw certain lessons from these events and especially those which “are stained by revisionism”.


Korean-Chinese relations have recently been reduced to a minimum and mainly limited to trade. However, Mao’s group has not gone as far as discontinuing intergovernmental relations. The meaning of this divisive policy is revealed in the 25 February 1968 main points of the CPC CC commission on foreign affairs where it notes that “nationalism” and “separatist tendencies are growing and becoming increasingly stronger” in individual socialist countries. While relying on these “separatist” tendencies the leaders of the PRC are also counting on the DPRK. The Korean leadership, in turn, does not intend to aggravate relations with China. This was recently displayed in particular by the fact that in Pyongyang they are silent about the Chinese armed provocations on the Soviet border, and the population continues to remain uninformed about the domestic situation of the PRC and the divisive foreign policy of Peking.


It ought to be expected that the KWP CC and the DPRK government will take a wait-and-see position with respect to China, demonstrate their “independence” and noninvolvement with either side in the differences in the international Communist movement, and continue a policy of not complicating relations with either the Soviet Union or China.


The consistent measures of the CPSU CC and Soviet government directed at the normalization of intergovernmental relations and inter-Party ties, and the pursuit of patient and persistent explanatory work with the KWP leadership and DPRK government with the goal of helping the Korean comrades take correct Marxist-Leninist positions have exerted a positive influence on the development of Soviet-Korean relations.


The conversations between Cdes. L. I. Brezhnev, A. N. Kosygin, N. V. Podgornyy and other Soviet leaders with Korean representatives in Moscow and also the trips of Cdes. D. S. Polyansky, B. N. Ponomarev, and V. N. Novikov to Pyongyang, where they held conversations with Kim Il Sung and other members of the KWP CC Politburo, have promoted an improvement of the overall atmosphere in Soviet-Korean relations to a considerable degree.


The KWP CC and DPRK government are developing contacts further. An invitation was sent in the name of the Chairman of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly to Cde. N. V. Podgornyy to visit the DPRK, and agreement was reached about the realization of this important visit in May and June 1969. Kim Il Sung accepted in principle [an invitation] from the CPSU CC to visit the Soviet Union at a convenient time. A wish was expressed in the name of the DPRK government for Cde. A.  A. Gromyko or a deputy minister of foreign affairs to visit Pyongyang this year.


In 1968 the Korean comrades began to renew ties between some public organizations. A delegation of the Union of Socialist Working Youth of Korea visited the Soviet Union to take part in the ceremonies on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Komsomol. A delegation of the Committee of Soviet Women and a delegation of Soviet youth were invited to the DPRK to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the republic. The 51st anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution was solemnly noted in the DPRK.


Trade was actively developed in 1968, and the volume of the technical assistance of the Soviet Union in the construction of important industrial facilities rose. Soviet-Korean trade and economic relations are getting on a firm basis and taking on a long-term character. The trade turnover between the USSR and DPRK increased by 16% in 1968 and the Soviet Union’s share of DPRK foreign trade turnover was 45%.


The USSR supplies equipment and gives technical assistance in the construction of 27 new industrial enterprises; 250 Soviet specialists worked in the DPRK during 1968. The Soviet-Korean Intergovernmental Consultative Commission on Economic, Scientific, and Technical Questions is working successfully. The agreement on the logging of wood in Khabarovsk Kray using Korean workers has great importance for the DPRK.


The Korean leaders are increasingly convinced of the vital importance of firm trade and economic ties with the Soviet Union for the DPRK. Every time difficulties arose with the acquisition of goods from China in short supply (coking coal, petroleum products, salt, etc.) the DPRK government turned to the Soviet government, stressing that it saw no other way out than asking the Soviet Union for help.


The exchange through cultural, scientific, and sports channels has expanded somewhat. Contacts between the unions of writers and the academies of sciences of both countries resumed in 1968, and the work of the Korean-Soviet Friendship Society revived.


The development of Soviet-Korean cooperation in the political arena, however, is becoming increasingly complicated by the “special” position of the Korean leaders in the socialist camp and the international Communist movement.




The document discusses the DPRK's difficult economic situation and several changes in the political system, such as a new ideology "Juche" and shifts in the high command in parties. It also examines international politics of DPRK with China, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

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RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 71-81. Contributed by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.


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Kyungnam University and Institute for Korean Studies, Ohio State University