North Korea History

North Korea History

According to indexdotcom, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea was led, since its proclamation, by the leader of the Communist Party (since 1949 Korean Workers’ Party) Kim Il-sŏng, who in 1972, with the adoption of a new Constitution, had also assumed the office of President of the Republic. Kim Il-sŏng, holder of almost absolute power and supporter of the possibility of economic, scientific and cultural self-sufficiency of the country, had directed the party and the state towards a sort of national road to socialism, autonomous both from the Soviet model and from the Chinese one. This policy, based on the idea of chuch’e, that is, a reference to the ability of the Korean people to ‘rely on their own strength’, constituted an adaptation of the fundamental principles of Marxism to the national culture and to the Confucian tradition.

At the beginning of the nineties the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea intensified contacts with Sŏul to achieve a peaceful reunification of the country, after in the previous decade relations between the two states had experienced moments of considerable tension, mainly due to the protests of P’yŏngyang for the permanence in the Republic of Korea of large US forces and for the annual maneuvers, called Team spirit, conducted by these together with the South Korean army. The changes underway in the international situation also contributed to favoring the search for an agreement, in particular for the increasing political isolation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea following the crisis of the Soviet Union and the diplomatic rapprochement between China and Korea. of the South.

The P’yŏngyang regime achieved two important results in 1991: in September, when an agreement between the two states led to their simultaneous admission to the UN, and in December, when a reconciliation agreement was signed after repeated meetings between their respective prime ministers., non-aggression and cooperation with the Republic of Korea (among other things the two governments declared that they were committed to reaching a peace treaty that would regulate their relations, still centered on the armistice of 1953). The simultaneous agreement in principle for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the cancellation of the Team Spirit maneuvers and the improvement of P’yŏngyang’s relations with Japan and the United States seemed to confirm, in the following months, the consolidation of the détente process.

However, new difficulties emerged during 1993 following the resumption of joint military maneuvers between the Republic of Korea and the USA and the obstacles posed by the North Korean authorities to the carrying out of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (started in 1992) to its own nuclear power plants. This situation lasted until mid- 1994, when the mediation of former US President J. Carter led to the announcement of an imminent meeting between the two Korean heads of state. Kim Il-sŏng’s death (July 1994) prevented this meeting from taking place and opened up a long phase of uncertainty at the top of the regime, as evidenced by the fact that his son Kim Jong-il, who has long been indicated as his probable successor, while increasing his role in the political life of the country he did not officially assume the positions of president of the Republic and general secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party (he would take over the leadership of the latter only three years later, in October 1997). At the same time, serious economic problems were faced by the North Korean leadership, caused by the end of Soviet credits, by the drastic decrease in food exports by China and also by the failure to implement the agreements with the United States of October 1994., which had established a series of economic aid in exchange for a moratorium on P’yŏngyang’s nuclear program. Furthermore, the limited opening to capital from abroad, made possible in 1992 by some constitutional amendments (which had marked, among other things, the disappearance of any explicit reference to Marxist-Leninist ideology), was not capable of improve the situation, which was actually made dramatic by the floods that took place between 1995 and 1996 they hit the country, devastating the countryside and destroying the rice fields. Faced with the large number of victims (especially children) caused by the resulting famine, a series of international agreements established the sending of food and basic necessities to the North Korean population; the simultaneous resumption of relations with the Republic of Korea and with the United States also led, during 1997, to the start of construction of the two light-water nuclear power plants, intended for civilian use, which had been foreseen in the agreements of the October 1994.

At the same time, while the sending of humanitarian aid continued, diplomatic contacts were resumed between the representatives of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, the United States and China: after some preliminary meetings, they were held in Geneva (December 1997, March and October 1998, January 1999), among the delegations of these countries, the first four official sessions of the peace talks, which were, however, still interlocutory. The direct negotiations held in Beijing (April 1998) between the representatives of the governments of Sŏul and P’yŏngyang were also resolved.

North Korea History