France–North Korea relations

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France–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of France and North Korea


North Korea

Relations between France and North Korea are very limited. France is one of the only two European Union members not to recognise North Korea, the other being Estonia.[1]

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, only 9% of French people view North Korea's influence positively, with 81% expressing a negative view.[2]


Relations between France and North Korea, in the sense of relations between sovereign states, are officially non-existent. France is one of the only two European Union members not to grant diplomatic recognition to North Korea, the other being Estonia.[1] (This means, de jure, that France considers the Republic of Korea to have sole sovereignty over Korea.)

France's official position is that it will consider establishing diplomatic relations with the DPRK if and when the latter abandons its nuclear weapons programme and improves its human rights record.[3]

President François Mitterrand who toured North Korea in 1981 promised recognition to North Korea before he was elected.[citation needed]

In late 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy appointed Socialist politician Jack Lang his special envoy to North Korea, following a similar assignment earlier in the year to Cuba. Lang traveled to Pyongyang on November 9 for a self-described "listening mission" aimed at exploring bilateral ties and discussing the North Korean nuclear program, among other things. Lang briefed American officials including Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and special envoy Sung Kim, as well as ambassadors of countries involved such as Russia, before the assignment was publicly announced. Some critics questioned Lang's qualifications, but Lang said he would be driven by his "intuition" that change was afoot in North Korea.[4]

On December 18, 2009, North Korea consented to the French government's offer of establishing a French Cooperation and Cultural Action Office as a first step for normalizing the relations between the two countries. On October 2011 it was reported by the French foreign ministry that France was on the verge of opening an office in North Korea to develop cultural ties and to represent French aid groups working in North Korea. The office was to be headed by French diplomat Olivier Vaysset, "given the needs that have been identified in the cultural and humanitarian domains," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.[5] The office was opened in Pyongyang on 10 October, and focuses on cultural and humanitarian issues. The French government has made clear that the opening of the office does not imply a formal diplomatic recognition of North Korea by France; such recognition remains conditional upon "an improvement on the nuclear issue, inter-Korean relations, and the humanitarian and human rights situation".[6]

Economic relations[edit]

Economic relations are also limited. In 2005, French imports from North Korea were worth 24 million, and French exports to North Korea €6 million.[7]

In 2005, there were officially 54 North Koreans living in France.[8] The only French residents in North Korea are humanitarian workers.[9] France provides humanitarian aid to the DPRK, and allows a small number of North Korean students to study in France every year.[10] It primarily provides administrative training, and training in the field of architecture.[6]

The North Korean film The Schoolgirl's Diary was released in France in 2007.

Pro-North Korean lobby in France[edit]

The most well known figure who followed North Korea is the controversial co-author of The Aquariums of Pyongyang, Pierre Rigoulot, who used to be a member of a Stalinist-Maoist political organization but, like many French Maoists, abruptly became very conservative, anti-communist and pro-Washington. Notably the international Korean Friendship Association (KFA), headed by Alejandro Cao de Benós, does not yet have a formal branch in France.

The pro-North Korea movement in France is mostly left-leaning, but it does include some fairly high-profile figures amongst its members – some of whom are even established in traditional political circles. And although these groups are insignificant in membership, there are relatively large organizations such as the France-Korea Friendship Association (AAFC), who are very active. Another obscure group is the French Juche Study group that has maintained contact with Pyongyang since leader Jean-Marie Lambret toured North Korea with the group in 2007. Furthermore, there is also the European Society for the Study of the Juche Idea, headed by University Professor Edmond Jouve, who participated in the International Juche Idea Congress in Pyongyang in April 2012. These small groups hold little weight in the French media.

North Korea-focused activity in and around the French Senate was led for many years by communist ex-senators André Aubry and Bernard Hugo who established a France-DPRK parliamentary contact group and which advocates for stronger French-DPRK ties inside the France-Korea Friendship Association.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "DPRK Diplomatic Relations", National Committee on North Korea
  2. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  3. ^ questions.assemblee-nationale
  4. ^ Charlton, Angela (3 November 2009). "France wades into bog of North Korean diplomacy". Associated Press. 
  5. ^ Associated Press, September 29, 2011
  6. ^ a b "La France et la Corée du Nord", French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, December 2012
  7. ^ "Economie française: Commerce extérieur, Quid
  8. ^ "Etrangers en France", Quid
  9. ^ Première Urgence
  10. ^ Official website of the French National Assembly