Germany–North Korea relations

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


North Korea
North Korean embassy in Berlin, Germany.

Germany–North Korea relations (Korean: 독일-조선민주주의인민공화국 관계) are the bilateral relations between Germany and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea. During the Cold War, East Germany maintained diplomatic relations only with the DPRK, while West Germany maintained diplomatic relations only with South Korea. East Germany ceased to exist upon German reunification, which meant that diplomatic relations no longer existed between Germany and DPRK. The two countries appointed protecting powers to represent their interests in the other country, Sweden being the protecting power for Germany, and China being the protecting power for DPRK.[1]

Germany and DPRK established diplomatic relations with each other in 2001.[1] The German embassy in Pyongyang remains in the old East German embassy compound, which is now shared with the Swedish and British embassies.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, there have been no visits of government delegations at ministerial level to Germany or DPRK. However, there have been several official visits to the DPRK by members of the German Bundestag.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, only 3% of Germans view DPRK's influence positively, with 90% expressing a negative view, one of the most negative perceptions of the DPRK in the world.[2]


East Germany–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of East Germany and North Korea

East Germany

North Korea
Erich Honecker and Kim Il Sung in Berlin (1984)

The first bilateral relations between the once united Korea under the Joseon-Dynasty and Germany were held through negotiations for a German-Korean trade relationship. The so-called German-Treaty of 1883 was signed and the first official connections on governmental level between the two countries was for economic reasons.

After the second world war, Korea was split into two parts: North- and South Korea. The communist north under Kim Il-sung established during the Cold War diplomatic relationship with former East Germany (GDR), right after the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on September 9, 1948.[3]

Former East Germany under the Soviets sought connections for trade, educational exchange and manifestations as a Communist power with the Asian country. After the former USSR and the PRC, the GDR was the third biggest provider of money to Korea, to fight capitalism, in the communist way of thinking it was clear to help loyal friends in any ways which can be imagined.

From 1955 to 1962, the East German government ran a large-scale programme to reconstruct the port cities of Hamhung and Hungnam which had been severely damaged by US air raids during the Korean War (1950-53). Called the Deutsche Arbeitsgruppe (DAG), the team consisted of city planners, architects, technical personnel and craftsmen, who built residential and industrial areas, hospitals, schools, hotels, a concert hall, and an outdoor swimming pool. The work was funded by the East German government and donations from East German citizens. The first Head of City Planning for the Hamhŭng project [de] was the Bauhaus trained architect Konrad Püschel.[4][5]

After the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, the DPRK was loyal for Mao, but East Germany grew closer with the Soviet Union. Because of that the once blooming close interrelation came to a stagnation. For example, a lot of North Korean exchange students, which studied at Universities in East Germany had to go back in 1962 to their home country. Some North Korean students were engaged or married with some German students or other young woman and already had children with them, even if these relationships were prohibited. After the separation of the more or less forbidden lovers, the children stayed with their mothers in Germany and grew up in the GDR, whilst their fathers had to go back to the DPRK. The majority of these Germans never saw their father, husband or lover again. The German-Korean director Cho Sung-hyung made a film about the German-Korean families in 2015.[6][7]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the German Embassy had to be closed until after German reunification; “at the same time, the former North Korean Embassy in East Berlin was turned into an Office for the Protection of the Interests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with the People’s Republic of China acting as protecting power. The Federal Republic of Germany and the DPRK established diplomatic relations on 1 March 2001”.[8]

German embassy in Pyongyang[edit]

Ten years later when the German Embassy in Pyongyang was reestablished, Germany tried to bring the DPRK to the six-party talks to discuss about the problem with the nuclear weapons program of the DPRK. Due to the recent nuclear tests in January, February and September 2016, Germany imposed sanctions, and followed the UN and European Union. This has an effect on the bilateral relations between both countries, which means no more shipping of luxury goods, as well as an arms embargo. Also complete prohibition of foreign trade and other sanctions which could influence the expansion of further nuclear tests.[9]

But before the harsh international answer to the forbidden test of missiles and nuclear weapons in the DPRK, Germany was seeking a peaceful exchange with providing education on terms of scholarships for Korean students or bringing the German language to Korea. Therefore, Germany provides a position for a German lecturer with help from the German Academic Exchange Service at the Kim Il-sung University. Already in the eighties, two lecturers were at the university to teach German, and close relations existed with the section of the Korean Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Since then a lot of North Koreans could visit Germany and profit from the cultural exchange.

One reason was because of the Sunshine Policy of the former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, a new and better diplomatic relationship with the DPRK and few EU members were possible so that Germany as a cultural nation could set projects with for example the Goethe-Institute.[10] Because of UN-sanctions [11] Germany can recently not host North Korean researchers for example engineers or scientists.[12][12]

DPRK embassy in Berlin[edit]

North Korea embassy in Berlin (1987)

After the readmission of the diplomatic bilateral relations between the DPRK and Germany, like Germany did in Pyongyang, DPRK also moved back to their old embassy building in Berlin which they used at the time when Germany was still divided. The former ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Hong Chang-il, was replaced by the current ambassador Hong Ri-si in 2011.[13]

The once entirely occupied building for the North Korean representatives is only partly used for the embassy. The official building moved to the Glinkastrasse 5-7 in Berlin, so the other parts of this building nowadays are used among other things as a hostel for tourists. Germany threatened to shut down the hostel, in order to curb Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capability in May 2017.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Bilateral Relations, Korea (Democratic People's Republic of)". Federal Foreign Office (Germany). April 2015.
  2. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  3. ^ "Auswärtiges Amt". Auswärtiges Amt.
  4. ^ Dong-Sam Sin (2016) Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhung und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955 - 1962. A dissertation for HafenCity Universität Hamburg
  5. ^ Frank, Rüdiger (December 1996). Die DDR und Nordkorea. Der Wiederaufbau der Stadt Hamhŭng von 1954–1962. Aachen: Shaker.
  6. ^ Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg. "Nordkoreaner in der DDR: Als die Politik die Liebe zerriss - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Kultur". SPIEGEL ONLINE.
  7. ^ "VERLIEBT VERLOBT VERLOREN". Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Korea (Democratic People's Republic of)". Federal Foreign Office. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2016-09-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Moeskes, Christoph(Ed.), (2013). Nordkorea. Einblicke in ein rätselhaftes Land. Ch.Links.
  11. ^ "Korea (Democratic People". Auswärtiges Amt.
  12. ^ a b "Korea (Democratic People". Auswärtiges Amt. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Embassy of Korea (Democratic Republic) in Berlin, Germany".
  14. ^ North Korea's Berlin hostel targeted by German sanctions. BBC.