21 Newly Translated Soviet Documents on North Korea, 1968-1969

The North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP), a part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program, has just published translations of 21 documents from the archives of the former Soviet Union. The records, which come from the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), deal with a number of subjects, including North Korean decision-making during the USS Pueblo and EC-121 crises, North Korea-China relations during the Sino-Soviet split and China's Cultural Revolution, the Kim Il Sung cult, and economic conditions inside of the DPRK. A full list of the new translations available on DigitalArchive.org is provided below:

December 21, 1968 – Record of Conversation between N.G. Sudarikov and Pak Seong-cheol, a Member of the Political Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 46-50. Obtained by Sergey Radcheno and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Sudarikov informs Pak Seong-cheol that a delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by Pham Van Dong, visited China and the Soviet Union and asked for assistance in the Vietnam War.

December 21, 1968 – Record of Conversation between N.G. Sudarikov and Ri In-gyu, the Head of the Department of the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 57-59. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Ri In-gyu states that the US has finally agreed to sign a document admitting its guilt over the USS Pueblo incident.

January 6, 1969 – First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Korean-Chinese Relations in the Second Half of 1968.’ (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 1-14. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The document examines Sino-Korean relations by analyzing international relations with US and Japan, describing how Mao’s ideology affects the relationship. It also discusses trade relations and military relations.

March 17, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N.G. Sudarikov and Kim Il Sung, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 463, listy 120-129. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Kim Il Sung discusses an armed clash with Americans in the demilitarized zone and an incident in the Korean-Chinese border. He discusses Sino-Korean relations thoroughly as well.

March 28, 1969 – Far East Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'The Domestic Situation and the Foreign Policy of the Korean People's Democratic Republic.’ (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 71-81. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The document discusses the DPRK's difficult economic situation and several changes in its 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.

April 14, 1969 – Record of a Conversation with Kim Il Sung, General Secretary of the KWP CC and Chairman of the DPRK Cabinet of Ministers. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo. 462, listi 95-101. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sought the help of Kim Il Sung in influencing China, which was in a border dispute with the Soviet Union. He requested that the North Koreans "exercise political influence on Peking."

April 16, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N.G. Sudarikov and Heo Dam, the leader of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of DPRK. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 71-74. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Heo Dam reports on the DPRK's recent shoot down of an American plane, which he claims violated North Korean air space.

April 16, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N.G. Sudarikov and Pak Seong-cheol, a Member of the Political Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.” (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 119-127. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Sudarikov updates Pak Seong-cheol on the US and South Korean reaction to the shoot down of the American airplane. Pak Seong-cheol says that the DPRK should not forgive the American enemy.

April 25, 1969 – Deputy Chief of the 1st Main Directorate of the Committee for State Security, 'Concerning Korean-Chinese Relations.’ (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 96-99. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The document describes several provocations between the DPRK and China in 1968.

June 9, 1969 – Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Concerning Changes in the Views of the Korean Leadership on Questions of the Unity of the Socialist Camp and the International Communist Movement.’ (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 79-94. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The report states that the DPRK is influenced less by Beijing and has started to contact European socialist countries more. It describes how the DPRK is advocating for “absolute independence” as well.

July 23, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. M. Shubnikov and Pak Seong-cheol, a Member of the Political Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 165-166. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Pak Seong-cheol discusses Kim Il Sung’s schedule in order to schedule a meeting with the Soviet ambassador.

July 27, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. G. Sudarikov and Kim Il Sung, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 138-152. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Sudarikov briefs Kim Il Sung on the issues discussed at the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties. Sudarikov and Kim Il Sung also discuss relations between the Soviet Union and China, as well as the DPRK’s position on the demarcation line.

August 4, 1969 – Minister-Counsellor of the Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Information About a Trip to Panmunjom.’ (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61. delo 466, listy 142-146. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Shubnikov discusses the situation in Panmunjom, stating that troop movements are calmer than during the previous year. He assumes that both Koreas do not want to be accused of aggressive behavior prior to the UN discussion of the Korean issue.

August 17, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. M. Shubnikov and Kim Cheol-man, First Deputy Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 155-156. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Kim Cheol-man states that at 11:15 am, an anti-aircraft artillery of Korean People’s Army shot down an American military helicopter, which intruded into the airspace of DPRK.

August 28, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. M. Shubnikov and Janos Lewandowski, the Director of the 2nd Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 463, listy 206-214. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

After discussing economic relations between the DPRK and Poland, Lewandowski states that DPRK’s absence in the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ parties cannot be justified. He denounces Juche ideology as a purely nationalist policy which has nothing to do with the ideas of internationalism.

September 1, 1969 – Report about the Trip of a Delegation from Primorsky Kray to Northern Hamgyong Province. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 219-225. Translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The delegation from Primorsky Kray visited various places in Northern Hamgyong. The report describes their impressions, such as how primitive the factories were and how much the cult of Kim Il Sung was evident in society.

November 7, 1969 – Record of Conversation between A. D. Putivets and Sim Dong-hye, the head of the first division of the Department of the Foreign Ministry. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 177-180. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Sim Dong-hye reports that there is a revolutionary movement deep underground in the ROK. The DPRK is willing to help them by all possible means, but will await a request for assistance.

November 7, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. G. Sudarikov and Pak Seong-cheol, a Member of the Political Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 463, listy 298-304. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

After reporting on economic developments between the Soviet Union and the DPRK, Pak Seong-cheol criticizes the nature of collective security in Europe since it does not target the US any longer.

November 18, 1969 – Soviet Ambassador to North Korea, 'The Main Directions of the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the KWP CC and DPRK Government and the Situation in Korea.' (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 246-264. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The document describes the increased exaltation of Kim Il Sung. Regarding international relations, the DPRK diverges with the Soviet Union and other European countries. The document also touches on relations with the Soviet Union, China, and South Korea. Lastly, some issues which should be addressed during the visit of Pak Seong-cheol to the Soviet Union are mentioned.

December 2, 1969 – Record of Conversation between N. G. Sudarikov and Kim Il, a member of the political Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of North Korea. (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 463, listy 267-272. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

Sudarikov and Kim discuss North Korea's debt and other economic problems.

December 9, 1969 – First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Korean-Chinese Relations in 1969.' (RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 466, listy 187-197. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg.)

The document indicates that there was a significant shift towards the normalization of relations between DPRK and China in 1969, particularly since June-July when the talks on the border settlement began.

Charles Kraus is the Senior Program Associate for the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.
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