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May 23, 1972

North Asia Department No. 720035, 'Summary of (redacted)’s Debrief on North Korea following his Three-week Mission to North Korea from this Past mid-April'

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North Asia 720035


On North Korea


Showa 47 May 23


Summary of (redacted)’s debrief on North Korea following his three-week mission to North Korea from this past mid-April.


1. 60th Birthday Event


We entered Pyongyang by way of Hong Kong and Beijing. It appeared that the majority of those on the flight were the representatives of varying countries that were participating in Premier Kim Il Sung’s 60th birthday festivities.


As soon as we were on the tarmac, a troop of girls handed us flower bouquets and lead us by our arms. This is their way of welcoming us, but it was quite ticklish.


At first, we had planned on leaving with plenty of time ahead of Premier Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15. However, we were asked by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan to delay our departure. It appears that this was to ensure that all the foreign dignitaries could attend events on an equal basis the during the one-month celebration period. Military representatives and intellectuals, among others, from 30 or so countries were invited to attend the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the revolutionary army.


We visited factories, schools, and nurseries, among other facilities. At each of these, the workers or students would line up around us to welcome us and would give us a sort of tour around their facility. It was a somewhat bothersome experience. Our group (redacted) was looked after by Cheong Jun Ki, Chair of the Journalists Union (Chief Editor of the Rodong Sinmun), and a new Benz was provided for us. It appeared that Premier Kim Il Sung heard that (redacted) was provided a Benz, and one day, the Benz was suddenly replaced by a Soviet ZIM. While the ZIM is uncomfortable, it is the vehicle for the Premier, Vice-Premier, the Party cadres, and other high-level officials. Because of its special status, traffic officers and groups of students would become motionless in salute as the car passed. This status also meant that it can ignore traffic signals. For this reason, we had difficulty in following after the ZIM in our   Benz. There were 50-60 new Benz’s parked in front of our lodging, the Pyongyang International Hotel. Seeing that none of the cars had been driven more than 35 kilometers, these were probably hurriedly imported for the sake of the foreign dignitaries attending the 60th birthday celebrations.


2. Domestic Circumstances


The cities, including Pyongyang city, appeared to be built in the Soviet-style. It reminded me exactly of the Soviet backwaters. The city and its people were neat and clean, but there were some people that we saw that were dressed raggedly. If we encountered people like this while on site to cover a story, our guides would quickly grab the person’s arm and take them out of our sight. We encountered such things on the street and parks.


Also in Pyongyang, we happened to see what appeared to be a high government official pick up a child on their way home from school and drive off.


It may have been an official picking up their own child or the child of someone they know. It was evidence that the intermingling of public and private matters is also a problem that pervades North Korean society.


The idiom about how the crumbling of embankments start with an ant’s nest came to mind and I was afflicted by an inauspicious feeling. Including the example of the high-class cars running red lights, as well as after observing other things, I felt that the extent to which class distinctions were clear-cut was beyond my initial expectations. It is incomparable with liberal states.


3. China and Soviet relations


Including the time allotted for dining, we spent about four hours speaking with Premier Kim Il Sung. Even when the press corps directed uninhibited questions, the Premier answered clearly and without resorting to notes. When asked if North Korea was surprised by the US-PRC summit meeting as much as Japan and the Republic of Korea were surprised, Premier Kim          answered that, “I was not surprised. This was not the first example of an imperialist country joining hands with a socialist country. The Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact was exactly such an example. It was from my time running around the mountains during the Anti-Japanese War, but I still cannot forget the photo of the Japanese representative, the then-Foreign Minister Matsuoka, shaking hands with Stalin.”


Regarding tensions between China and the Soviets, he answered that “there will not be a war between China and the Soviets.” He was extremely inarticulate about Sino-Soviet relations. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the army, the Chinese delegation was led by Chen Xilian, member of the Central Committee Politburo and commander of the Shenyang military region, and the Soviet Union’s delegation was principled by Vice Minister of Defense Moskalenko. While the two sides must have had different circumstances, Kim Il Sung had appeared to treat China more carefully. The North Koreans, sitting opposite the Chinese and Soviet representatives seated in the place of honor, clapped far more for the Chinese than they had done for the Soviets. During his speech, the representative of the North Korean Army had also highlighted China by saying, ‘China, above all else, is an ally joined by blood.’ Overall, I had the impression that the North Koreans appeared to be leaning towards China. On the other hand, all things Soviet or Chinese appeared to be deliberately removed. For instance, the explanatory texts on the military commemorative objects exhibits did not have Chinese or Russian texts. The North Koreans are also now boasting that domestic production is sufficient for everything. Indeed, as far as I can tell, we did not see any foreign products.


4. Concerning the United Nations


Lately, North Korea seems to be regarding the United Nations and other international organizations as very important. In addition, they are pursuing high-profile diplomatic activities, such as sending large-scale diplomatic missions to various countries, as well as conducting diplomatic activities even with countries that have established relations with the Republic of Korea. During the meeting with Premier Kim Il Sung, he was also asked questions about the UN issue. When asked whether or not North Korea would accept the simultaneous invitation of North and South to the United Nations, the Premier answered that he “would accept.” He added, however, that it would be a precondition that the invitation be. Additionally, he said that North Korea’s participation at the UN is conditional upon the annulment of illegal deliberations. Additionally, when Kim Il Sung was asked what was meant by the ‘valid policy’ that he referred to in his comment “that he would consider annulling the illegal UN deliberations by taking a valid policy” (January 10 1972, Yomiuri Interview), he only responded that “it was currently under considered.” Until the very end, he evaded the press corps’ persistent questions and avoided providing a clear answer.


Kim Il Sung also expressed that the withdrawal of US forces from Korea would not serve as a precondition to opening political negotiations. He explained that this was because if negotiations were to happen, there would no longer be a reason for the US military presence, and withdrawal would then happen sooner.


5. Relations with the Republic of Korea


Regarding the issue of reunification, Kim Il Sung emphasized the importance of North-South political dialogue, the conclusion of a peace treaty, and the issue of federation.


While North Korea has until now derided President Park as ‘Park Chung Hee the puppet,’ this name calling has ceased since January of this year. When asked about this point, the Chairman of the Journalists Union, Cheong Jun Ki, and an assistant announcer from the broadcasting station laughed and answered, “you noticed a fine point.” I personally believe that North Korea has deliberately stopped attacking Park, and that this is a very meaningful observation to keep in mind when contemplating the direction of North-South relations.


6. Japan-North Korea relations


During the meeting with Kim Il Sung, the topic of the Japan-ROK treaty was raised. Kim Il Sung stated that diplomatic relations between Japan and the DPRK could be concluded if Article 3 of the Japan-ROK Treaty, which provides that the ROK is the only legal government, were to be ignored. He added that if diplomatic relations were to be established, Article 3 would anyhow lose about 80 percent of its force. In other words, diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea is possible even with the Japan-ROK treaty, and that North Korea is taking a very positive view towards Japan.


The reason that North Korea is approaching Japan is because North Korea cannot improve their technological standards without the help of liberal states and because they are currently facing difficulties in moving forward with their Six Year Plan. Economic cooperation with the Soviet Union and China is tinged by the big powers attitudes of superiority and an air of charity. In addition to this, there are often shortages of parts for equipment being sent to North Korea, and it is not uncommon for there to be three month delays in procuring these parts. Those involved are alluding to the fact that these are indeed factors that underlie North Korea’s increasing proximity to Japan. However, they also said that there have been cases where products from Japan had missing parts or that they had bought Japanese products that were touted as the best quality to only find out later that there were less expensive alternatives.


7. Personality Cult of Kim Il Sung


(One can interpret the recent marked intensity of the Kim Il Sung personality cult among the citizens as something coming naturally or something being performed)


From our perspective, the Kim Il Sung personality cult may appear strange. However, there are differences between what we imagine the personality cult to be and what it actually is in its context.


I believe that the personality cult is a something that is cold and calculated. However, it appears to be true that the people are moved to tears of gratitude when Kim Il Sung approaches even just three meters away, or that if they shake his hand their whole body goes numb. I wonder if there might be no other leader in the world that so diligently conducts onsite visits like Kim Il Sung.


When asked what about national leadership after the death of Kim Il Sung, people answered that they had never even thought about a North Korea without Premier Kim Il Sung. First Deputy Prime Minister Kim Il is apparently assigned as the successor should anything happen to Kim Il Sung. However, Deputy Prime Minister Kim Il does not stand out and is said to lack in personal charisma. It is questionable if he would suffice as a successor. With that said, during the meeting the most noteworthy were First Deputy Prime Minister, Kim Il, the Second Deputy Prime Minister, Pak Seong-cheol, and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Choe Yong-geon. Pak Jeong-ae, the deputy prime minister’s wife, was seated towards the back and did not stand out very much.


8. Miscellaneous


a. The screening of ‘Nation of the Chollima,’ which was filmed in (redacted), gave the impression that it only captured the flattering aspects of North Korea. However, it is simply the case that things that rub China and North Korea in the wrong way cannot be broadcast. While they wanted the film to be more praiseful, we could not make something custom ordered to their liking, so (redacted) compromised with an approach that appealed to the humanity of the audience. They selected the characters that appeared on film and we also know that the young girls that appeared on the screen were dressed up in the finest traditional New Year dresses. They remarked that they had found it difficult to deal with Japanese media working in North Korea because they only showed the shameful aspects of North Korea.


Immediately after the screening, we received a telephone call saying that they wanted another screening. We received praise from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and people from other North Korea-affiliated groups saying that they watched the television broadcast in absolute silence and that they all shed tears.


b. We met with the youths of the Yodogo Hijacking. As we had decided prior to the meeting, we spoke amiably from the start so as not to make them clam up. The first thing that came out of their mouth was, “It is nice to be able to meet a Japanese.” All of them appeared to want to go home to Japan. They appeared to be uniformly committed to Kim Il Sung’s ideology. The leader, Tamiya, would verbally praise Kim Il Sung’s ideology, but appeared to be somewhat dissatisfied. Kim Il Sung asked if “they would be arrested if sent back to Japan,” to which I responded that that is obvious. He laughed and answered, “then I cannot send them to Japan. I cannot hand them over to the Japanese police.”


c. The North Koreans greatly praise the cadres of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and their work. Premier Kim Il Sung would often mentioned Chairman Han Duk-su by name. In North Korea, Chairman Han Duk-su is ranked as a Deputy Prime Minister and First Deputy Minister Kim Pyong-sik holds the rank of a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister.


An unnamed Japanese individual reports on a visit to North Korea, commenting on the country's relations with China, the Soviet Union, Japan, and South Korea, the cult of personality, and the Korea question at the UN, among other issues.

Document Information


Nihon Gaimushō “Chōsen mondai” [Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Korea issue”] (administrative number 2012–1787), Diplomatic Archives Of The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Japan. Obtained by Kyungwon Choi and translated by Ryo C. Kato.


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