The North Korea International Documentation Project has recently obtained and translated more than sixty documents from Romanian and Hungarian archives on the struggle between North Korea and South Korea to gain diplomatic recognition from countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. The documents are being made available to students, researchers, and interested readers through a collection entitled The Two Koreas and the Third World on the Wilson Center Digital Archive as part of a broader project on the history of inter-Korean relations supported by the ROK Ministry of Unification.
The inter-Korean struggle took on global dimensions in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the failure of the inter-Korean dialogue (see the collections on the Inter-Korean Dialogue, 1971-1972 and the Demise of Detente in Korea, 1973-1975 for further information). Both Koreas sought allies and supporters across the globe and particularly among countries active in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). In exchange for diplomatic recognition, North Korea and South Korea often provided economic aid, technical assistance, and military support to countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Some of the key findings revealed in the documents include:
- Pakistan sought to purchase arms and other weapons from North Korea, while the DPRK attempted to use a summit meeting between Kim Il Sung and Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq to obtain support for North Korea vis-a-vis South Korea in the Non-Aligned Movement;
- North Korea not only liaisoned closely with Eygpt on developments in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, but the DPRK also trained Egyptian pilots during the October 1973 War or the Yom Kippur War;
- South Korea and North Korea competed for diplomatic recognition and support from Iran;
- Military delegations from countries such as Uganda and Libya visited North Korea, requesting that the DPRK train and arm soldiers;
- North Korea's training programs in and support for Ethiopia allegedly frustrated the Soviet Union, whose own assistance to Ethiopia was being overshadowed by that of the DPRK;
- South Korea provided doctors to Gabon for free, while North Korea, attempting to counter ROK maneuvers, offered to build a statue of Gabonese President Omar Bongo;
- The Central African Empire veered back and forth between North Korea and South Korea, attempting to extract as much economic aid and technical assistance as possible from both countries.
- DPRK Vice-President Gang Ryang-uk visited Nigeria, Iran, India, and Bangladesh, while Vice-President Pak Seong-cheol paid visits to Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria;
To explore the documents, click here to be redirected to the collection The Two Koreas and the Third World on the Wilson Center Digital Archive.
The translation of these documents and others has been generously supported by the ROK Ministry of Unification.