North Korea–Vietnam relations

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

North Korea

North Korean embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam established formal diplomatic relations on January 31, 1950. In July 1957, President Ho Chi Minh visited North Korea; North Korean leader Kim Il-sung visited North Vietnam in November–December 1958 and November 1964. In February 1961, the two governments concluded an agreement on scientific and technical cooperation.

During the Vietnam War, North Korea provided substantial economic and military aid to North Vietnam (1966: 12.3 million rubles; 1967: 20 million; 1968: 12.5 million; 1969: 12.5 million). In 1968, approximately 2,000 Vietnamese students and trainees received education for free in Korea.[1] As a result of a decision of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1966, in early 1967 North Korea sent a fighter squadron to North Vietnam to back up the North Vietnamese 921st and 923rd fighter squadrons defending Hanoi. They stayed through 1968; 200 pilots were reported to have served. In addition, at least two anti-aircraft artillery regiments were sent as well. North Korea also sent weapons, ammunition and two million sets of uniforms to their comrades in North Vietnam.[2] Kim Il-sung is reported to have told his pilots to "fight in the war as if the Vietnamese sky were their own".[3][4][5]

From 1968, however, relations between Pyongyang and Hanoi started to deteriorate for various reasons. Anxious to keep the United States bogged down in Vietnam, North Korea disagreed with North Vietnam's decision to enter peace negotiations with the U.S., and reacted negatively to the Paris Peace Accords.[1] During the Cambodian Civil War, North Korea approved the Mainland Chinese plan to create a "united front of the five revolutionary Asian countries" (China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), whereas North Vietnam rejected it on the grounds that such a front would exclude Russia and challenge Vietnamese dominance in Indochina.[6] Around this time, the Vietnam War came to an end. The government of North Vietnam, unlike that of North Korea, succeeded in reunifying the whole country by 1975. During the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, the Korean leadership condemned the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, refused to recognize the People's Republic of Kampuchea, and allowed the exiled Norodom Sihanouk to stay in Korea.[7] According to the historian, Balazs Szalontai, Vietnam came to resent what it saw as Korea's self-centred behaviour, and the two governments became rivals rather than friends.[8]

In the 1990s and 2000s, Korean-Vietnamese relations declined even more due to investment and trade disputes.[9][10] The former Vietnamese ambassador to South Korea is a graduate of North Korea's Kim Il-sung University.[11] The son of a former staff member in the Vietnamese embassy in Pyongyang, who also attended Kim Il-sung University between 1998 and 2002, gave an interview in 2004 with South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo about the experiences he had while living there.[12] While its giant neighbor China is an obvious example of economic reform to follow, experts say Vietnam is seen as a far better model by Korea.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Szalontai, Balázs (2012). "In the Shadow of Vietnam: A New Look at North Korea's Militant Strategy, 1962–1970" (PDF). Journal of Cold War Studies. 14 (4): 122–166. doi:10.1162/JCWS_a_00278.
  2. ^ Pribbenow, Merle (2003). "The 'Ology War: technology and ideology in the Vietnamese defense of Hanoi, 1967". Journal of Military History. 67 (1): 183. doi:10.1353/jmh.2003.0066.
  3. ^ Gluck, Caroline (2001-07-27). "N Korea admits Vietnam war role". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  4. ^ "North Korea fought in Vietnam War". BBC News. 2000-03-31. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  5. ^ "North Korea honours Vietnam war dead". BBC News. 2001-07-12. Retrieved 2006-10-19.
  6. ^ Szalontai, Balázs (2014) "Political and Economic Relations between the Communist States". In: Stephen Anthony Smith (ed.), Oxford Handbook in the History of Communism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 316. ISBN 9780199602056 doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199602056.001.0001
  7. ^ Kim, Kook-Chin (1987) "An Overview of North Korean–Southeast Asian Relations". In: Park Jae Kyu, Byung Chul Koh, and Tae-Hwan Kwak (eds.), The Foreign Relations of North Korea. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0813305691.
  8. ^ Szalontai, Balazs (1 November 2017). "How the North Korean-Vietnamese friendship turned sour". NK News.
  9. ^ Pham Thi Thu Thuy (2013-08-02). "The colorful history of North Korea-Vietnam relations". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  10. ^ Le, Quang Thiem (February 2005). "Korean Studies in Vietnam". Korea Foundation Newsletter. 14 (1). Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  11. ^ Choe, Won-gi (2005-01-27). "'우리는 김일성대학 동문 사이'". JoongAng Ilbo. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  12. ^ "김일성大 베트남 유학생이 본 북한". The Chosun Ilbo. 2004-10-05.
  13. ^ "North Korea looks to Vietnam for inspiration". Retrieved 27 March 2014.