North Korea under Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise

North Korea under Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise

North Korea under Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise

North Korea under Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise

Synopsis

After the collapse of the Soviet world, North Korea alone has continued on the rigid communist way, in spite of its economic consequences leading the state beyond ruin to famine. What are the reasons behind this peculiar choice of direction? Why did the leaders in Pyongyang pursue a policy abandoned not only by the Soviet Union, but also by China and Vietnam? The author of this book spent three years as head of the embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang. Until a few years ago, it was the only Western embassy in North Korea. His unique experiences are related with descriptions of day-to-day life and with analyses of economic, political and ideological conditions. A picture is drawn of a society and a political order that defy both human nature and common sense.

Excerpt

During the last few centuries, the Kingdom of Korea could have been regarded as virtually a vassal of the Emperor of China. It had contact only with Beijing and was so isolated from other parts of the world that it came to be known as the Hermit Kingdom. Koreans were not even prepared to become involved with shipwrecked foreigners, nearly always preferring to keep them in confinement until they could be sent across the border to China. When evaluating North Korean attitudes and North Korea's foreign policy, it is helpful if one understands that the regime in Pyongyang has still not been able to break with this tradition, but has, to a considerable degree, endeavoured to maintain its isolation from the surrounding world.

In the 1850s, the US Navy had forced Japan to open its borders to trade, and in 1866 it made an unsuccessful attempt to do the same with Korea. However, the Koreans managed to sink the warship General Sherman and kill the crew. Instead, it was Japan that successfully completed the task in 1876, and for a few decades Korea was opened up to the world. But, at the same time, Japan was gradually colonizing Korea, a process that was completed in 1910 when the peninsula was once again closed to foreign influence. It was not until Japan's defeat in the Second World War that Korea regained its independence from Japan. While South Korea, after liberation in 1945, was progressively integrated into world society, North Korea's isolation continued, albeit as a rather odd member of the communist world.

The victorious allies had agreed that Korea should be divided along the thirty-eighth parallel, with the northern part being liberated by the Soviet Union and the southern part by the USA. The advent of the Cold War, and the increasingly strained relations between the superpowers, meant that the free elections intended for the whole of Korea never took place. Instead, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea) were established in 1948. The frontline of the Cold War cut right across Korea, much as it did in Germany. However, in Korea this division led to the outbreak of war in 1950, during which the northern side rapidly captured all of the peninsula with the exception of the south-eastern corner. The Soviet Union was opposed to Taiwan representing China in the United Nations (UN) and therefore refused to take part

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