Tyranny of the Weak North Korea and the World,...

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Unformatted text preview: TYRANNY OF THE WEAK TYRANNY OF THE WEAK North Korea and the World, 1950–1992 Charles K. Armstrong CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS ITHACA AND LONDON Copyright © 2013 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. First published 2013 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Armstrong, Charles K., author. Tyranny of the weak : North Korea and the world, 1950–1992 / Charles K. Armstrong. pages cm. — (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8014-5082-2 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Korea (North)—Foreign relations. 2. Korea (North)—Politics and government. I. Title. II. Series: Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. DS935.65.A76 2013 951.9304'3—dc23 2013000079 Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks and acid-free papers that are recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. For further information, visit our website at . Cloth printing 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Contents Acknowledgments Introduction: North Korea in the International System vii 1 1. The Unfinished War, 1950–53 10 2. Postwar Reconstruction and a Declaration of Self-Reliance, 1953–55 52 A Singular Path: North Korea in the Socialist Community, 1956–63 94 3. 4. The Anti-Imperialist Front, 1963–72 137 5. Breaking Out: Engaging the First and Third Worlds, 1972–79 168 6. A New Generation and a New Cold War, 1980–84 208 7. The Sun Sets in the East, 1985–92 243 Epilogue: Tyranny of the Weak, Tyranny of the Strong 282 Selected Bibliography Index 295 303 Acknowledgments Many individuals and institutions helped in the research and writing of this book. Roger Haydon proved himself once again to be a fine and patient editor, shepherding the project through from beginning to end. A Smith-Richardson Junior Faculty Research Grant funded the initial research, and I would like to thank the Smith-Richardson Foundation and especially Allan Song for their generous support. A German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) grant supported my visit to the German Foreign Ministry Archives in Berlin. A subsequent trip to Berlin for research in the Federal Archives, as well as research visits to Washington, DC; Seoul; Beijing; Budapest; Vienna; Addis Ababa; St. Petersburg; and Pyongyang, were made possible by faculty research grants from Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Resident scholars in all of these cities were extremely helpful and accommodating hosts. My Columbia colleague Mahmood Mamdani gave me invaluable advice for my visit to Ethiopia. In Vienna, Professor Ruediger Frank of Vienna University coorganized a fascinating, two-day discussion with former diplomats and Korea specialists from various East European countries. Dr. Frank was also my guide during my first research trip to Berlin, and I deeply appreciate his sharing with me his contacts in Europe and his many profound insights into North Korean history, politics, and economy. The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) and the North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have added enormously to our knowledge of North Korea in recent years by bringing to light relevant documents from Russia, Eastern Europe, China, and elsewhere, as well as organizing conferences and workshops on North Korea and the Cold War. I thank especially CWIHP director Christian Ostermann and James Person of NKIDP for their pioneering work in this area, without which this book would not have been possible. I have learned a great deal from the perspectives and research materials shared with me by scholars and experts around the world, including Chen Jian, Karoly Fendler, Kim Dong-gil, Kim Seongbo, Heonik Kwon, Sergei Kurbanov, Andrei Lankov, Hans Maretzki, Helga Picht, Sonia Ryang, Bernd Schaefer, and Shen Zhihua, among others. I owe a special thanks to the late Chris Marker, who passed away shortly before this book went to press, for permission to reproduce photographs from his book Coréennes and for spending a day with me discussing viii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS North Korea, film, photography, socialism, and many other matters over some of the best vodka to be had in Paris. At various stages of this project’s development, parts of the book were presented in seminars and other forums at universities in the United States and abroad, including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, George Washington University, the Naval War College, University of Washington in Seattle, University of Toronto, St. Thomas University, Hanyang University, East China Normal University, and Renmin University. I am grateful to my hosts and audiences at all these presentations for their valuable feedback. My colleagues and students at Columbia have provided encouragement, criticism, and above all an unparalleled environment of intellectual inquiry and stimulation. Two graduate research assistants, Dajeong Chung and Piri Gordon, helped with research in Korean and German sources, respectively. Caroline Marsburger aided my research in the German Federal Archives in Berlin. As always, my greatest thanks go to my wife, Elia, and to our children, Mira and Sara, whose love, understanding, and good humor have constantly sustained and inspired me. An earlier version of chapter 2 appeared as “ ‘Fraternal Socialism’: The International Reconstruction of North Korea,” Cold War History 5, no. 2 (May 2005): 161–87 (by permission of Taylor & Francis, ), and of chapter 5 as “Juche and North Korea’s Global Aspirations,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, North Korea International Documentation Project, Working Paper No. 1 (February 2009). Korean terms have been transliterated according to the McCune-Reischauer romanization system, except for words with commonly accepted alternative spellings (e.g., Kim Il Sung, Juche). Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Korean, German, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, French, and Spanish are my own. Introduction NORTH KOREA IN THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM Certain places in the world act as fractures in the international system, points of contact between the tectonic plates of historical change that erupt periodically into conflicts that spread beyond the region to draw in the Great Powers, and which remain in constant tension even in times of relative peace. In modern Europe, the Balkans are one such place, where local and seemingly trivial disputes over territory and ethnicity triggered the First World War at the beginning of the twentieth century, and where the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia brought a more contained war to the continent at century’s end.1 During the Cold War, there were numerous places where local conflicts drew in—or were provoked by—the superpowers, whether directly or indirectly: Indochina, Cuba, Angola, the Horn of Africa, and Afghanistan, to name only a few. In most of these cases, these conflicts subsided and the areas retreated into relative obscurity and neglect. But in some cases, conflict has appeared endemic and irresolvable, outlasting the Cold War that fueled so many clashes in the second half of the twentieth century, and posing a perennial danger of regional or even global warfare. A combination of bitter and ongoing local disputes, strategic location, and rivalry among the major powers has made these places sites of systemic conflict. One such place is the Middle East; another is the Korean Peninsula. 1. As Mark Mazower points out, “the Balkans” as a metaphor for endemic ethnic and territorial conflict is a European term of fairly recent vintage, although built on earlier images of the region. Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History (New York: Modern Library, 2000), xxxi. In other words, the Balkans as “the Balkans” is a product of modern history, not of eternal enmities. 1 2 INTRODUCTION In the first two decades after the Cold War, the Middle East (specifically Iraq) and the Korean Peninsula (specifically North Korea) were the two places where the world’s remaining superpower, the United States, came most consistently to the point of military conflict. This occurred in both places, almost simultaneously, on two occasions: the Gulf War of 1990–91, followed by a near-war over North Korea’s nuclear program in 1993–94; and the Iraq War of 2003, which occurred in the midst of a second North Korean nuclear crisis that began in October 2002. Of course, in many respects the origins, nature, and (potential) resolution of these regional-cum-global conflicts are vastly different. The post– Cold War struggles in the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf in particular, are related to strategic natural resources, disputed postcolonial national boundaries, and religion, none of which have much relevance in Korea and Northeast Asia. The Middle East has been explosive, the site of continuous low-intensity warfare and terrorism when not embroiled in outright war; conflict on the Korean Peninsula, since the Korean War armistice of July 1953, has been much more contained, despite the high level of constant tension. Nevertheless, whether as “rogue states” or members of the “axis of evil,” Iraq and North Korea tended to be viewed by post–Cold War US policymakers as regimes beyond the pale of normal diplomacy, oppressive toward their own people and threatening to the stability of the international system.2 The two regimes were certainly linked in the minds of US political leaders and in the American media, if not in the states of concern themselves. As of May 2003, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein ceased to exist, toppled by a US-led invasion. But the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), despite acute poverty, isolation, and a political system that seemed a throwback to the Stalinist 1950s, remained in place.3 In 2012, more than twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the DPRK celebrated the hundredth anniversary of founding leader Kim Il Sung’s birth, under the new leadership of Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong Un. The world had changed dramatically, but North Korea, it seemed, had not. This book is about North Korea’s troubled and troubling place in the world during the Cold War era, which set the pattern by which North Korea still deals with the world in the twenty-first century. From a North Korean perspective, in fact, there was not one Cold War, but three: the global 2. North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were the only “evil regimes” singled out by name in the Bush administration’s major policy statement of September 2002, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Falls Village, CT: Winterhouse Editions, 2002), section 5. 3. As I have argued elsewhere, the survivability of the North Korea regime is partly the result of the way the DPRK was founded, which was much less along the lines of a Soviet “satellite” than is commonly assumed. See Charles K. Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003). NORTH KOREA IN THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM 3 Cold War between the United States and its allies and the Soviet bloc; the SinoSoviet rivalry from the late 1950s to the end of the 1980s, which was more localized but at times at least as bitter as the US-Soviet conflict; and the intense rivalry between North and South Korea. After the 1953 armistice ended the fighting in the Korea War, the two Koreas expressed their mutual animosity through military buildup, threats and propaganda, espionage and diplomatic competition, rather than all-out war. In that sense, inter-Korean relations were very much the global Cold War in microcosm. North Korea’s foreign relations were to a great extent a reflection of these three Cold Wars. The last of these three, the inter-Korean conflict, still has not ended. At a more general level, this book explores the role of small states, or “weak actors,” in the modern system of interstate relations, of which North Korea is one of the most striking examples in the period since World War II. Much of the vast literature in history and political science on the interactions of Great Powers assumes, as Thucydides famously remarked, that “the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.”4 Much less explored is the ability of certain small or weak states to resist and even manipulate the more powerful.5 In her study of the power of weak states in the international system, Annette Baker Fox argues that such ability depends above all on “the existence of competition among the great states.”6 Using the examples of Turkey, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Spain in World War II, Fox suggests that the success of weak states to resist the pressure of great powers even in times of crisis “lay in their capacity to convince the great-power belligerents that the costs of using coercion against them would more than offset the gains.”7 By threatening either to deprive a Great Power of something the latter values, invoking retaliation by a competing Great Power, or shifting allegiance to the other side, a weak state is able to maintain its neutrality in Great Power conflict while gaining economic, military, or other benefits from one or more of the competing powers. This describes almost perfectly North Korea’s position in the Sino-Soviet conflict of the late 1950s 4. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars, trans. Rex Warner (New York: Penguin Books, 1972), 402. 5. Among the more important studies of this subject in the political science literature are Robert L. Rothstein, Alliances and Small Powers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968); David Vital, The Survival of Small States: Studies in Small Power/Great Power Conflict (London: Oxford University Press, 1971); Michael Handel, Weak States in the International System (London: Frank Cass, 1981); Hans H. Indorf, Strategies for Small-State Survival (Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Strategic and International Studies, 1985); Sheila Harden, ed., Small Is Dangerous: Micro States in a Macro World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985); Colin Clarke and Tony Payne, eds., Politics, Security, and Development in Small States (London: Allen and Unwin, 1987); and Jeanne A.K. Hey, ed., Small States in World Politics: Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner, 2006). 6. Annette Baker Fox, The Power of Small States: Diplomacy in World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 8. 7. Ibid., 9. 4 INTRODUCTION to the late 1980s, when the DPRK was able consistently to extract economic, political, and security concessions from both China and the USSR without fully siding with either. What is particularly interesting about the North Korean case, however, is that the DPRK was able to continue extracting concessions even after the end of Cold War from the new Great Power rivals in the East Asian region, China and the United States.8 A shift of focus from Great Power conflict to the role of smaller actors in the international system might give us a very different view of recent international history. In the field of Cold War studies, the political scientist Tony Smith has called this a “pericentric” view—that is, a view from the periphery, rather than from the perspective of the superpowers or from the central Cold War conflict in Europe.9 The Cold War cannot be explained by US-Soviet rivalry alone. Certain local actors—including North and South Korea, East and West Germany, Cuba, Israel, the Mujahadin in Afghanistan, the Solidarity movement in Poland, and many others—were not merely manipulated objects, but active subjects shaping, exacerbating, prolonging, or helping to terminate the Cold War at the local and even global levels. North Korea was one of the first such cases of this phenomenon of “tail wagging the dog” or “tyranny of the weak” in the Cold War. It is now clear that the impetus for the North Korean attack on the South in June 1950 came not from Stalin or Mao but from Kim Il Sung.10 Far from the Kremlin determining every action in the Communist bloc, it is increasingly evident that Soviet control was much weaker than previously thought even with regard to East European satellites, let alone distant and highly nationalistic third-world regimes in Asia and Africa.11 Moscow’s power over its “empire” was usually neither very advantageous to the USSR—economically, it was almost always a drain— nor very effective in cultivating local support. And part of the Soviet Union’s 8. By the late 1990s, the DPRK was the largest recipient of US economic aid in East Asia—despite the fact that the two countries lacked diplomatic relations and were still technically at war with each other. China has long been North Korea’s largest aid donor overall. 9. Tony Smith, “New Bottles for New Wine: A Pericentric Framework for the Study of the Cold War,” Diplomatic History 24, no. 4 (fall 2000): 567–91. 10. The Soviet documents on the Korean War have yet to be synthesized into a major study of the subject, although there have been some important steps in that direction. In English see especially Alexandre Mansourov, “Communist War Coalition Formation and the Origins of the Korean War,” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1997, as well as the work by Kathryn Weathersby, Shen Zhihua, Kim Donggil, and others published through the Cold War International History Project and its spin-off, the North Korea International Documentation Project. The definitive studies in Chinese and Russian are, respectively, Shen Zhihua, Chaoxian Zhanzheng Jiemi [Secrets of the Korean War Revealed] (Hong Kong: Tiandi chuban youxian gongsi, 1995); and A. V. Torkunov, Zagadochnaia voina: Koreiskii konflikt 1950–1953 gg. [Secret War: The Korean Conflict, 1950–1953] (Moscow: Rosspyen, 2000). 11. Randall W. Stone, Satellites and Commissars: Strategy and Conflict in the Politics of Soviet-Bloc Trade (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Sheldon Anderson, A Cold War in the Soviet Bloc: Polish–East German Relations, 1945–1962 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001); Margot Light, ed. Troubled Friendships: Moscow’s Third World Ventures (London: British Academic Press, 1993). NORTH KOREA IN THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM 5 ineffectiveness abroad and vulnerability to local resistance was the crude and transparent nature of Soviet attempts at domination. If the Soviet Union was quasi-imperial, the United States was (for the most part) postimperial—much more subtle and effective in asserting and maintaining its global hegemony.12 For reasons this book will explore, the DPRK has successfully resisted, at great cost to the North Korean people, both types of imperial formation. North Korea’s ability to survive for six decades in a precarious international position, extracting maximum concessions from its major allies (and occasionally even its enemies) despite its objective weakness, has in its own way been a remarkable achievement. Yet very few works have attempted to explain North Korea’s foreign relations in an extended and systematic fashion. Some of the political science literature has been good on comparative foreign relations of the two Koreas or specific aspects of North Korean foreign policy.13 There has also been some solid work on North Korea’s domestic society and politics, although little by historians, and none that have taken full advantage of post-Soviet archives.14 In fact, no booklength, single-authored study of North Korean foreign relations has appeared in English since the 1970s.15 The stru...
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