Poland and North Korea in the 1980’s –
from Partnership to Stagnancy
Poland recognized the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 9,
1948. It was a natural consequence of belonging of both states to the Communist
Bloc led by the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Poland did not accept the existence
of the Republic of Korea and for decades agreed with North Korean claims saying
that Koreans in the South were occupied by the US Army and ruled by “American
puppets”. This point of view has been revised in the 1980’ and nally on November
1, 1989 Poland established diplomatic relations with South Korea.
In my paper I am going to describe Polish-North Korean relations in the 1980’s.
Up till today, scholars have not paid enough attention to this issue1. First of all I
am going to draw a short historical background of the subject. In previous decades
Communist Poland supported North Korea on many elds. After the outbreak of the
Korean War, propaganda in Poland consequently presented North Korean version
of events. Accusations towards the Americans and South Koreans of invading the
North and using biological weapon were common in the media. What is more,
sometimes Americans were even compared to Nazi-German war criminals. An
anti-American attitude could be noticed not only in the state-run media but also in
literature – novels and poems, sometimes written by outstanding Polish authors like
Wisława Szymborska and Tadeusz Różewicz2. During the war, alike several other
Communist countries, Poland gave material aid to DPRK and agreed to give shelter
to 1200 North Korean orphans who came to Poland in two stages: in November
1951 and in July 19533.
1 See short analytics of chosen 3 documents related to the 1980’: S. Szyc, Stosunki polsko-
północnokoreańskie w latach 80-tych XX wieku w świetle wybranych dokumentów, „Komunizm:
system-ludzie-dokumentacja”, vol. 3, 2014, pp. 221–237.
2 Choi Sung Eun, Koreańska wojna domowa w polskich socrealistycznych utworach
literackich, [in] „Korea w oczach Polaków”, ed. J. Włodarski, K. Zeidler, M. Burdelski, Gdańsk
2013, pp. 545–551.
3 There is several articles in Polish related to problem of North Korean orphans in Poland.
See for example: S. Szyc, Północnokoreańskie dzieci oraz młodzież w Państwowym Ośrodku
Wychowawczym w Płakowicach na Dolnym Śląsku w latach 1953–1959 [in] Rodzina: powołanie,
zadania, zagrożenia, ed. Ks. J. Zimny, Stalowa Wola 2014, pp. 1045–1054; Ł. Sołtysik, Dzieci i
młodzież północnokoreańska w Polsce w latach 1953–1954 w świetle wybranych dokumentów,
„Rocznik Jeleniogórski” 2009, vol. 41, pp. 195–210.
In the rst years after signing of the armistice Polish-North Korean relations
were still close and warm. Poland together with Czechoslovakia was chosen by
North Korea and Peoples Republic of China to become a member of the Neutral
Nations Supervisory Commission and Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission.
Nevertheless, both countries were not neutral and represented interests of North
Korea and China. Moreover, the Polish delegation used NNSC as a cover institution
for activities of its intelligence and collected data concerning the US military in
South Korea and in the Far East4. The Neutral Nations Inspection Teams, which
as supervisory bodies had access to 5 crucial South Korean ports until June 1956,
were especially useful for this kind of activity5. It is worth mentioning that from
1951 until 1955 Polish military intelligence was fully subordinated to the Soviet
Union and headed by high rank Soviet ofcers6.
Poland also took part, together with other Communist states, in post-war
reconstruction of North Korea. Poland fully equipped hospital in Huichon, obliged
itself to build steam engine and carriage workshop in Pyongyang and a rolling-stock
workshop in Wonsan. What is more, Poland decided to implement mechanization
of three coal mines and, last but not least, Polish urbanists developed the plan of the
city and two housing projects7.
Visit of Kim Il Sung from 2–6 July 1956 conrmed good mutual relations. It
was a part of his 50-day journey to Communist countries in order to receive more
help needed to implement Five-Year Plan aimed to grow the economy. In April
1957, Polish delegation led by Prime-minister Józef Cyrankiewicz revisited North
Korea. One and half year later, in October 1959, delegation led by head of the State
Council Aleksander Zawadzki went to DPRK. Despite the positive atmosphere of
the visit, rst symptoms of distrust towards Poland were visible. In his report Polish
ambassador to North Korea Józef Dryglas stressed that absence of Kim Il Sung
during each public meeting with the delegation was meaningful8.
Indeed, since late 50’s Polish-North Korean relationships became colder. It
was connected with events inside the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin’s death and
4 See an example of the data collected by the intelligence ofcers under cover of the
NNSC: AIPN, 2602/2904, [Notatka dla tow. Kotowskiego], 10 XII 1953 r.
5 After withdrawal of the Inspection Teams from South Korea and then from North Korea,
the role of the NNSC dramatically decreased. Since that time it only observed situation in the
Demilitarized Zone and received reports about violations of the armistice, but had no tools
to respond effectively. Poles were forced to leave North Korea in 1995 and since that time
representatives of the NNSC have no access to DPRK. See more on the NNSC: Ch. Birchmaier,
M. Burdelski, E. Jendraszczak, 50-lecie Komisji Nadzorczej Państw Neutralnych w Korei,
6 S. Cenckiewicz, Długie ramię Moskwy. Wywiad wojskowy Polski Ludowej 1943–1991¸
Poznan 2011, pp. 86-87.
7 AMSZ, zesp. 12, w. 41, t. 994, Stosunki polsko-koreańskie, p. 8–11.
8 AMSZ, zesp. 12, w. 41, teczka 994, Notatka informacyjna z pobytu w KRLD tow.
Aleksandra Zawadzkiego i delegacji rządowej PRL, Phenian, 30 X 1959 r., k. 41–43.
its repercussions for the Communist Bloc. On one hand, when Nikita Khrushchev
pointed out Stalin’s crimes and critique of the cult of individual it resulted in
political thaw in several Communist countries, including Poland. On the other hand,
a few prominent Communist politicians as Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung perceived
Khrushchev’s attitude as a potential threat to their positions. In the aftermath these
events, the Sino-Soviet split began and soon the Communist camp was divided.
North Korea supported China, while Poland stayed loyal to the Soviet Union9.
In the Era of the Sino-Soviet split and the birth of the Juche ideology, in the
1960’s and 1970’s, relations between Poland and DPRK were stagnant. According
to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs the period 1963–1966 was the worst period
time in mutual relations10. Until the late 1970’s the Polish embassy in Pyongyang
regularly informed about constant stagnancy11. At the same time Polish members
of the NNSC reported signs of lack of trust from the North Koreans who perceived
the Poles as representatives of Soviet interests12.
Polish documents from that period show that leaders of the state did not
pay attention to the DPRK and sometimes even ignored its initiatives. In 1972
North Korea invited First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United
Worker’s Party Edward Gierek to visit DPRK. In the following years DPRK asked
several times about his plans and in October 1977 its ambassador on a behalf of Kim
Il Sung repeated the invitation13. The much awaited visit of the Polish leader was a
very important issue for North Koreans and they underlined their expectations even
after visits of 1977 when two prominent gures: the Minister of National Defense
general Wojciech Jaruzelski and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Emil Wojtaszek
travelled to North Korea14. In spite of North Korean efforts, Gierek did not come,
and until 1986 Poland did not send any delegation with the First Secretary of the
There were also other issues that somehow disappointed North Koreans. They
complained that the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United
Worker’s Party has never received the ambassador of the DPRK. Such information
was provided in report of the Polish ambassador Jerzy Pękala, who in February
9 See more on Polish-North Korean relations until 1961: S. Szyc, The relations between
Poland and North Korea in 1948–1961, “Progress. Journal of Young Researchers”, vol. 2,
2017, pp. 123–136.
10 AMSZ, D. II, 27/90, w. 4, Notatka nt. stosunków polsko-koreańskich, Warszawa, 15 X
11 AMSZ, D. II 11/79, w. 4, Ambasada PRL w Phenianie. Raport okresowy za m – c
czerwiec 1976 r.
12 AMSZ, D. II, 8/77, w. 5, Sprawozdanie z działalności Szefa Misji Polskiej do KNPN w
Korei za okres od 21. 09. 1971 do 31. 10. 1972 r., Warszawa, 30 XI 1972.
13 AMSZ, D. II, 29/87, w. 2, Wydział Zagraniczny KC PZPR. Notatka, Warszawa, 19 X
14 AMSZ, D. II, 38/86, w. 4, Jerzy Pękala. Sprawozdanie z pobytu na placówce dyploma-
tycznej w Koreańskiej Republice Ludowo-Demokratycznej od dnia 2 VII 1978 do 14 XI 1981,
1981 summed up his three and a half year service in Pyongyang. He added that at
the same time North Korean politicians stressed that Kim Il Sung has met each of
the Polish ambassadors to North Korea15.
From a position of a Soviet-dependent state Polish diplomats pointed out in
many documents numerous North Korean moves that made DPRK a trustworthy
partner not only for Poland but also for other Communist states subordinated to
Moscow. Crucial arguments were listed in document written by the deputy Minister
of Foreign Affairs Ernest Kucza just before Kim Il Sung’s second trip to Poland.
Kucza mentioned a specic North Korean way of strengthening socialism like the
cult of personality and the Juche ideology, a foreign policy focused mainly on the
state’s own particular goals, a neutral attitude towards the Chinese attack on Vietnam
in 1979 and in general a negative stance on Vietnam16. It is worth noting that under
Soviet pressure Poland, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic
postponed visits of North Korean Minister of Defense planned for autumn 1978.
The main reason was the Soviet disappointment in close DPRK-Chinese relations17.
The turning point
A new North Korean policy towards European Communist countries created
opportunities to intensify contacts and cooperation. From the Polish point of
view also the North Korean reaction to the introduction of Martial Law in Poland
(December 13, 1981) was a signicant factor. One week after implementation of
the Martial Law, Kim Il Sung met with the Polish ambassador to North Korea, Leon
Tomaszewski and expressed his standpoint. Kim claimed that the implementation of
a state of emergency in a socialist country affected the working class and the nation,
and meant that the ruling party had conducted a wrong economic and educational
policy. After he had said that, he added that because of the counterrevolution,
supported by the US propaganda, the implementation of the Martial Law was
necessary. The following day, North Korea decided to give symbolic support
through donation of 3 metric tons of wheat18.
In spring 1984 Kim Il Sung made his second trip to European Communist
countries. Ofcially North Korea declared that its purpose was to intensify contacts
with those states, strengthen “brotherhood” and unite with them in “ght against
war and imperialism”. European diplomats saw different reasons. First of all, Kim’s
peregrination took place several months after the Rangoon bombing, so it was
seen as a way of escaping international isolation. Secondly, North Korea needed
16 AMSZ, D. II, 29/87, w. 2, Pilna notatka, 3 V 1984.
17 AMSZ, D. II, 25/92, w. 4, Pilna notatka, 12 IX 1978; Ibid., Szyfrogram nr 8280,
Warszawa, 25 IX 1978 r.
18 AMSZ, D. II, 43/86, w. 2, Szyfrogram ambasadora Leona Tomaszewskiego, Phenian 2
economic aid because of its economic weakness and an impressive development of
South Korea. What is more, probably DPRK wanted to build up its position in order
to balance China’s inuence when it seemed that the “Middle State” may become
an important player in the discussion concerning the unication and future of the
Kim Il Sung’s travel to Europe improved North Korean relations with the
Soviet Union and other Communist states. One year after his visit, Polish diplomats
in the Soviet Union were informed by specialists from the Far East Department of
the USSR Foreign Ministry that Soviet-North Korean bilateral relations reached a
When it comes to Poland the visit, which took place in 27–29th of May 1984,
also was a turning point21. Right after the departure of the delegation, the deputy
Minister of Foreign Affairs evaluated all the meetings with North Koreans and
notied that they fullled basic expectations. He underlined that Poland provided
detailed information about the internal situation in the country and described the
main interests of its foreign policy. Regarding international affairs, the Polish side
stressed the value of collaboration with other Communist states, especially the
signicance of close relations with the Soviet Union. The Korean delegation limited
its concern to three issues. They discussed DPRK’s achievements concerning the
reinforcement of socialism, their view on the international aspects of the Korean
issue and the cooperation with Poland, particularly in the eld of economy.
In the matter of economy Koreans repeated their proposal made during
previous negotiations of an intensication of Polish involvement in North Korean
coal mine industry. Furthermore, they presented a new request which was an idea of
establishing a factory of MI-2 helicopters by Polish engineers. DPRK hoped for a
factory that could produce 100 helicopters a year. When it comes to Poland requests,
the main one was to import more North Korean mineral resources as magnesite,
lead and zinc. At the same time Poles emphasized that in order to increase trade
exchange it is essential to fulll contracts on time and deliver high quality products.
In past North Korea failed to meet obligations to Poland many times.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski and Kim Il Sung decided that details of further
economic cooperation should be discussed by special committee22 during a
scheduled meeting in Pyongyang. Poland also agreed to a not scheduled visit of
19 AMSZ, D. II, 29/87, w. 2, Pilna notatka, 3 V 1984.
20 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Notatka z rozmowy tow. Burskiego, Szustera i Kramarza
z wicedyrektorem I Dalekowschodniego Departamentu MID Morozowem nt. sytuacji na
Półwyspie Koreańskim, Moskwa, 3 IV 1985.
21 See more details about the visit: S. Szyc, “Wieczna braterska przyjaźń”. Ocjalna
wizyta Kim Il Sunga w Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej w maju 1984 roku, „Komunizm:
system-ludzie-dokumentacja”, vol. 2, 2013, pp. 109–121.
22 The Committee was set up on October 4, 1972 and had sessions alternately in Pyongyang
Korean experts in factories of helicopters and factories producing coal mining
A Polish delegation for economic talks visited Pyongyang from 8–13 July,
1984. Together with their North Korean partners they conferred about future plan
and the Polish side conrmed that it was ready to: build a factory of helicopters,
help in exploration of coal basin in Anju and provide machinery necessary for the
construction of a rail freight wagon’s factory. However, there were still preliminary
talks and no contracts were signed.
It is worth noting that unexpectedly on the last day of their trip the Polish
delegation was received by Kim Il Sung. He informed his interlocutors that he
treated their visit as a positive result of his journey to Poland and that he appreciated
that fact that the Poles came as the rst delegation after his trip to Europe. He
declared that he perceived this fact as a sign of friendship. Moreover, Kim asked to
give his regards to general Jaruzelski and called him “brother and closest friend”24.
Friendship and intensive cooperation
Despite ambitious plans in the following years economic cooperation was the
weakest aspect of bilateral contacts. Year by year Polish ambassadors stressed this
fact in their reports. The helicopters factory became a symbolic example of non-
realized ideas Even after signing the contract North Korea was not able to cover
costs of its establishment. On the other hand, in spite of several problems, trade
exchange increased signicantly. Poland became DPRK’s third trade partner among
10 Communist states after USSR and China. At the same time North Korea rose
as Poland’s second biggest partner in Asia, after China25. What is more, the trade
agreement signed for years 1986–1990 assumed that trade between both countries
would grow 97% when compared with 1981–198526.
Denitely political contacts were the real core of the mutual relations. Visible
sign of its development was increasing number of exchanged delegations and
its level. Beside a few exceptions, in previous decades North Korea and Poland
23 AMSZ, D. II, 30/87, w. 5, Pilna notatka z wizyty delegacji partyjno-państwowej KRLD,
pod przewodnictwem Sekretarza Generalnego KC Partii Pracy Korei, prezydenta Kim Ir Sena,
27–29 maja 1984 r., Warszawa, 29 V 1984 r.; AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Notatka nt. stosunków
polsko-koreańskich, Warszawa, 11 IV 1985 r.
24 AMSZ, D. II, 30/87, w. 5, Informacja w sprawie ważniejszych ustaleń podjętych na
VIII posiedzeniu Komisji Konsultatywnej do Spraw Gospodarczych i Naukowo-Technicznych
między Rządem PRL a Rządem KRLD, Phenian, 8–13 lipiec 1984 r.; Ibidem, Notatka
informacyjna dla Towarzysza gen. armii Wojciecha Jaruzelskiego Prezesa Rady Ministrów,
Warszawa, 18 VII 1984 r.
25 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Propozycje do plany pracy ambasady PRL w Phenianie na
1987 rok, Phenian, 22 X 1986 r.
26 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Informacja o stosunkach gospodarczych Polski z Koreańską
Republiką Ludowo-Demokratyczną (stan z dnia 15 sierpnia 1986), Warszawa, 18 VIII 1986 r.
exchanged mainly low-level delegations. After second Kim Il Sung trip to Poland
also a frequency of high-level meetings increased. For instance, from 23–29 April,
1985, a member of the Politburo of the Worker’s Party of Korea, Deputy Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Kim Yong-nam paid an ofcial visit to Warsaw. He
gave Kim Il Sung’s letter to general Jaruzelski and renewed an invitation to him to
visit DPRK. Kim also met with the head of the State Council Henryk Jabłoński and
invited him to North Korea. One of the main purposes of his visit was to introduce
a North Korean proposal of signing a Friendship and Cooperation Agreement. Kim
presented a draft of the agreement and expressed North Korean wish to sign a nal
version during Jaruzelski’s visit to North Korea. Furthermore, Kim participated in
consultations with Polish diplomats led by Foreign Minister, Stefan Olszowski.
The meeting resulted in enacting a two-year cooperation agreement between both
ministries and a decision on the establishment of Polish-North Korean Friendship
associations no later than to the end of 198527.
Wojciech Jaruzelski decided that his trip to North Korea would take place in
early autumn 1986. Due to his plans, Polish specialists were obliged to prepare a
nal draft of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement with their North Korean
partners. Before they accomplished this task, they had carefully studied similar
agreements between North Korea and other countries. In December 1985 Ministry
of Foreign Affairs provided an analysis examining cases of agreements signed by
North Korea with USSR, China, Romania, Libya, Ethiopia, GDR, Bulgaria and
In the middle of 1986 the North Korean ambassador to Poland presented an
additional DPRK’s proposal concerning Jaruzelski’s visit. The suggestion was to
enact a long-term agreement for economic and scientic cooperation terminating
in 2000. Poland rejected that idea because of not fullling its economic obligations
by the DPRK and announced that short-term agreements would be more suitable29.
A Polish delegation led by Wojciech Jaruzelski visited North Korea from
24–28 September 1986. Among dozens of members there was also an informal
second person in a ruling regime the Minister of Interior general Czesław Kiszczak.
He was accompanied by trusted collaborators: chief of the Security Service gen.
Władysław Ciastoń, head of the Citizen’s Militia gen. Józef Beim, director of
counterintelligence service col. Janusz Sereda and chief of Kiszczak’s cabinet
colonel Czesław Żmuda. Representatives of the Ministry of Interior were invited
to North Korea by DPRK’s Minister of Public Security general Pek Hak Rim and
27 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Stefan Olszowski. Pilna notatka o wizycie członka Biura
Politycznego KC PPK, wicepremiera i ministra Spraw Zagranicznych KRLD, Kim Jon Nama
w Polsce, 23–29 kwietnia 1985, Warszawa, IV 1985.
28 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Notatka dot. charakterystyki Układów o Przyjaźni i Współpracy
zawartych przez Koreańską Republikę Ludowo-Demokratyczną, Warszawa, 4 XII 1985 r.
29 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Notatka o rozmowie z Ambasadorem KRL-D – Towarzyszem
O Man Sok, Warszawa, 20 VI 1986.
part of their schedule was different from Jaruzelski’s program30. The North Korean
Minister of Public Security had sent 3 invitations to Kiszczak which proves that he
treated him as a very important person31. I will provide more information about the
cooperation between both ministries in the further part of this paper.
Except for ritual exchanges of courtesies, general Jaruzelski presented to
Kim Il Sung goals of his trip to China that was scheduled for right after his visit
to North Korea. He stressed that Poland wished to develop cooperation with PRC
because conicts inside the Eastern Bloc had negatively affected the Communist
camp and had strengthened its enemies. Jaruzelski also expressed his wish of
improving Sino-Soviet relations32. On the last day of the visit, Jaruzelski and
Kim Il Sung signed an agreement which nally was named the Declaration of
Friendship and Cooperation. What is more, representatives of Ministries of
Foreign Affairs enacted the treaty on the provision of legal assistance in civil,
family and criminal cases33.
The visit was another step forward on the way to closer and more intensive
relations. From 1986–1987 Poland sent about 280 delegates to DPRK. Sometimes
these were political missions but there were also visits of artists, scholars and
social activists. Such a number of delegation meant a radical change in comparison
with the past years, even with early 1980’s. For example, in January 1981 the
Counselor of North Korean Embassy in Poland presented the Polish Ministry
of Foreign Affairs a list of 6 Polish delegations which DPRK was planning to
receive in 1981.
When it comes to above mentioned 280 delegations from 1986–1987, it
is worth to point out at least several of them. Among them was a delegation of
the Polish Military with the Deputy Minister of National Defence and Chief of
General Staff gen. Józef Użycki as well as delegation led by the Deputy Marshal
of the lower chamber of the Parliament, Mieczysław Rakowski. Also the Minister
of Foreign Affairs Marian Orzechowski came to Pyongyang. What is more, North
Korea was visited by: representatives of the Polish-North Korean Friendship
Association, professors from the Polish Academy of Sciences, a delegation of –
subordinated to authorities – All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions with its chief,
Alfred Miodowicz. Additionally, during 2 years „Orbis” travel agency arranged
30 AIPN, 1585/1969, Protokół z pobytu delegacji Ministerstwa Spraw Wewnętrznych PRL
w Koreańskiej Republice Ludowo-Demokratycznej, Warszawa, 10 X 1986 r., p. 7.
31 AIPN, 1585/1969, Notatka dot. wizyty Min. Spr. Wewn. PRL tow. gen. bron. Cz. Kiszczaka
w KRLD w 1986 r., Warszawa, VI 1986, pp. 52–53.
32 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Tezy do rozmów w „cztery oczy” z tow. Kim Ir Senem,
Warszawa, 6 IX 1986 r.
33 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Program organizacyjny partyjno-państwowej wizyty przyjaźni
w Koreańskiej Republice Ludowo-Demokratycznej I Sekretarza KC PZPR Przewodniczącego
Rady Państwa PRL Generała Armii Towarzysza Wojciecha Jaruzelskiego 24-28 września 1986
16 trips do DPRK. And furthermore, both countries agreed to receive chosen
ofcials with their families on holiday. As a result of that deal, ve members of the
Politburo of the Polish United Worker’s Party together with their families spent
their leisure time in Pyongyang.
At the same time North Korea sent numerous delegations to Poland and among
them many consisting of high-rank ofcials. Visits of Vice-President and member
of the Politburo Ri Jong-ok as well as that of the Korean People’s Army’s Chief of
the General Staff, O Kuk-ryol may be some illustrative examples. Naturally, there
were also low-rank trips like those with North Korean journalists or youths and
The second half of the 1980’s was a time of close cooperation between security
apparatus of both countries. Since July 1983, regular exchange of delegations
began. During rst meetings Polish side shared its experience of struggles against
democratic opposition. Koreans must have been impressed because they were
especially interested in the equipment used by the Civil Militia in Poland. Upon
their request Poles gave them several devices used by the Civil Militia as a „gift”.
In May 1985 representatives of Polish Ministry of the Interior and North Korean
Ministry of Public Security signed an agreement for a 4-year education of several
North Korans in the Polish Main School of Fire Service.
The above mentioned visit of the Polish Minister of the Interior, Czesław
Kiszczak during Wojciech Jaruzelski’s ofcial trip in September 1986 was a very
signicant event that helped to bolster bilateral ties between security institutions
of Poland and North Korea. In July 1987 the Ministry led by Kiszczak signed an
agreement for cooperation with the Ministry of State Security and in February 1989
with the Ministry of Public Security of North Korea. The rst agreement focused on
sharing political, military and economic information about common enemies and
cooperation on the counterintelligence eld as well as struggle against international
terrorism. The second one established experience-sharing in regard to ghting with
criminal activities, money counterfeiting and drug-addictions35.
In spite of very good political relations and close cooperation on security
eld in the second half of the 1980’s, there were permanent problems in the matter
of economy. After some time it occurred again that North Korea was not able to
fulll part of its commitments on time. When in May 1988 Kim Yong-nam traveled
to Poland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marian Orzechowski expressed his
disappointment about delivering only 4 thousand out of the expected 32 thousand
34 AMSZ, D. II, 38/86, w. 4, Notatka informacyjna w sprawie wymiany osobowej polsko-
koreańskiej w 1981 r., Warszawa, 23 I 1981; AMSZ, D. II, 24/92, w. 8, Ocena realizacji ustaleń
z wizyt na najwyższym szczeblu, 22 I 1988 r.
35 P. Gasztold, Korean Peninsula in the Documents of the Polish Communist Security
Services, [in] “Korea and Eastern Europe. Exploring the Past” ed. A. Fedotoff, S. Y. Kim, Soa
2017, p. 141.
tons of magnesite according to a contract for 1988. From Orzechowski’s point of
view Polish-North Korean economic relations decreased anew36.
Olympic Games and the XIII World Youth Festival
One of the most important issues discussed by Poles and North Korans many
times in the 1980’s was the case of 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. In 1981
the International Olympics Committee chose Seoul as a host city of the Summer
Olympic in 1988. Despite the opposition of Communist countries, including
Poland, IOC conrmed its decision in December 1984. In the meantime, North
Korea refused the idea of becoming a co-host of the Olympics although such a plan
was put forward for consideration by Fidel Castro. Instead of following Castro’s
proposal, DPRK preferred a strategy of persuading Communist states to boycott
In spite of North Korean efforts, Poland made a preliminary decision to
participate in the Olympic Games in Seoul very soon that is in March 1985.
However North Koreans did not give up and continued their attempts to encourage
Poland to revise its attitude. During numerous meetings, DPRK’s ambassador
tried to persuade Polish ofcials to change their mind and boycott the Olympics.
In order to reach his goal, he visited the Parliament, the Central Committee of
the United Worker’s Party, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other
In late December 1984 ambassador O Man Sok expressed a strong statement
on behalf of the North Korean regime. He announced that every country taking
part in Seoul’s Olympics or supporting Seoul as a hosting city, would be
perceived as DPRK’s enemy and such a position would be treated as an attack
on North Korea38.
Not only the ambassador but also other North Korean gures exerted pressure
on Poland. During his visit to Poland in April 1985 Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim
Yong-nam tried to persuade general Jaruzelski to share North Korean stance. He
claimed that Communist countries should not attend the Olympics because it would
be no sport but a political event useful for “American imperialism”. Besides, he
underlined that in case of the Los Angeles Olympics DPRK had showed solidarity
with other Communist states and had not participated in the Olympics. In spite
of the decision made a month before, Poland preferred to postpone announcing it
36 AMSZ, D. II, 24/92, w. 8, Pilna notatka o wizycie ocjalnej w Polsce członka BP KC
PPK, wicepremiera Rady Administracyjnej, ministra SZ KRLD Kim Jon Nam’a (5–7 maja
1988 r.), Warszawa, 12 V 1988 r.
37 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Problemy Igrzysk Olimpijskich w 1986 roku (notatka
informacyjna), Warszawa, 26 VIII 1986 r.
38 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Notatka informacyjna z rozmowy z ambasadorem KRL-D, O
Man Sok przeprowadzonej 22 bm. na jego prośbę, Warszawa, 24 XII 1984 r.
to North Korea. Instead of that Kim Yong-nam was informed that Poland would
debate about the issue with other European Communist states39.
Indeed, in following months Poland exchanged views about Seoul Olympics
with its European partners, which resulted in a conclusion that a boycott of the
Olympics would be a mistake. For instance, in August 1985 general secretary of
the Hungarian Olympic Committee Pál Schmitt stated that the boycott of the Los
Angeles Olympics had negative consequences and that Communist countries should
not do the same in regard to the upcoming Olympics. Moreover, Schmitt informed
the Poles that Hungarian ofcials were irritated by constant North Korea’s appeals40.
Probably the failure of initial North Korean strategy was one of factors that
caused a verication of its attitude. In summer 1985 Deputy Prime Minister of
DPRK sent a letter to heads of Communist states and declared that North Korea
was ready to co-host the Olympics41. Poland supported that idea. However, several
meetings of representatives of both Korean states did not give positive results. Effect
could not have been different due to North Korean maximalist demands concerning
the number of sport events that DPRK wanted to host. Other Communist states
interpreted DPRK’s attitude as considered tactics which goal was to force South
Korea to reject North Korean stance. DPRK’s elites were aware that its economy
was too weak and there was lack of time to prepare the country for co-hosting
the Olympics. Nevertheless, the regime preferred to push South Korea to refuse
cooperation than admit DPRK’s failure42.
When North Korea realized it was impossible to prevent the Olympic Games
in Seoul, a decision was made to respond in a different way. In February 1987, the
International Preparation Committee for the World Youth and Student Festival agreed
to hold the 13th World Youth Festival in Pyongyang in 1-8 July 1989. Soon after this
decision North Korea sent delegations to Communist countries in Eastern Europe to
ask for support, credits and buy technology. According to Bernd Schaefer’s ndings,
East Germany seemed to be the most important partner in that regard43. Nevertheless,
North Koreans asked for help also other countries, among them Poland.
39 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Stefan Olszowski. Pilna notatka o wizycie członka Biura
Politycznego KC PPK, wicepremiera i ministra Spraw Zagranicznych KRLD, Kim Jon Nama
w Polsce, 23–29 kwietnia 1985, Warszawa, IV 1985.
40 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Notatka informacyjna ze spotkania 8 sierpnia br. Z
wiceprzewodniczącym Węgierskiego Komitetu Kultury Fizycznej i Sportu tow. Palem
Schmittem, Warszawa, 9 VIII 1985 r.
41 AMSZ, D. II, 22/89, w. 6, Problemy Igrzysk Olimpijskich w 1986 roku (notatka
informacyjna), Warszawa, 26 VIII 1986 r.
42 AMSZ, D. II, 24/92, w. 8, Pilna notatka dot. udziału Polski w XXIV Igrzyskach
Olimpijskich 1988 r. w Seulu – w dniach 17 września – 2 października 1988 r., Warszawa, 17
II 1988 r.
43 B. Schaefer, North Korea and the East German Stasi, 1987–1989 https://www.wilsoncenter.
org/blog-post/north-korea-and-the-east-german-stasi–1987–1989 (read: 10 II 2018).
In January 1989, a delegation of Polish security apparatus together with
representatives of state security organs from North Korea, USSR, East Germany,
Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Cuba took part in a meeting in Pyongyang where
they discussed ways of maintaining security during the Festival. After the
consultation Poles received a long list of sophisticated equipment that North Korea
wanted to buy in 1989–1990 and a shorter list of equipment that they wished to
receive for free or borrow in order to use them during the Festival. The second list
presented devices produced in West Germany: 5 explosives detectors, 2 detectors
of improvised explosive devices and mines and 2 X-ray detectors44. Moreover, in
June 1989 two North Korean special agents came do Warsaw in order to supervise
the vetting of foreign students attending the Festival45. Not only security institutions
were asked for help. DPRK also wanted Poland to educate (and cover the costs of
this education) 15 young Koreans in the eld of interpreting. They wanted 10 of
them to become Russian-Korean interpreters and 5 French-Korean interpreters46.
The Festival was a large scale event with 13 thousand participants from 173
countries. Almost everything went according to DPRK’s plan which meant that the
“Great Leader”, the Juche ideology as well as one and only South Korean student
who attended the Festival, were in the center of attention. On the other hand, North
Korea successfully blocked any discussion about troubling issues like violence of
human rights and did not let Amnesty International attend the event47.
After the end of the Festival, North Korea described it as a great success.
At the same time the Polish Embassy in Pyongyang presented it differently. An
opinion sent to Warsaw was based on their own observations and on an exchange of
thoughts with foreign diplomats serving in DPRK. The author of the report written
in early August 1989 predicted that the Festival would be an accelerator of mental
changes in the North Korean society48. Today we know that the event did not start
political reforms. But what we can say for sure, that huge expenses connected with
preparations to the Festival resulted in a widespread impoverishment of ordinary
44 AIPN, 1585/1569, Pismo płk. Czesława Żmudy do Ambasadora PRL w Phenianie
Mieczysława Dedo, Warszawa, 30 V 1988 r., k. 194–195.
45 P. Gasztold, Korean Peninsula in…, p. 153.
46 AMSZ, D. II, 4/94, w. 2, Notatka informacyjna. Węzłowe problemy Światowego
Festiwalu Młodzieży i Studentów w Phenianie w 1989 r., Phenian, 17 IX 1987 r.
47 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 0-389/III, Phenian, 10 VII 1989 r.
48 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 0-1576/III, Phenian, 4 VIII 1989 r.
49 AMSZ, D. II, 4/94, w. 2, Warunki życia ludności Koreańskiej Republiki Ludowo-
Demokratycznej (z rozmów z radcami i I sekretarzami ambasad Bułgarii, Czechosłowacji,
Egiptu, Jugosławii, Palestyny, Węgier i ZSRR, Phanian, X 1989.
The problem of South Korea
Another signicant issue affecting Polish-North Korean relations in the
1980’s, was the South Korean policy towards European Communist countries. Its
shape had genesis in events that had happened in the previous decade. In the early
1970’s both Koreas started a dialogue about unication but the reasons that pushed
them to that step were completely different. On one hand, North Korean strategy of
1966–1969, based on escalation of conict with the South, failed. In the aftermath
of the so called “Second Korean War” no revolution broke out in South Korea but
an absolutely opposite situation occurred. The ruling regime of Park Chung-hee
became more popular among society and his anticommunist politics gained more
On the other hand President Park Chung-hee perceived the Nixon Doctrine
and his politics towards China as dangerous for South Korean security. Element
of detente that mostly inuenced South Korea was a decision taken in July, 1970.
According to it the USA reduced its military forces on the Korean Peninsula from
62 thousand to 20 thousand.
In such circumstances South Korea started a dialogue with the DPRK which in
following years resulted in many negotiations and plans for unication submitted
by both sides50. At the same time South Korean authorities, which believed that
political power follows economic power, started looking for new markets for South
Korean export. Communist countries in Europe seemed to be promising markets.
On December 31, 1970 South Korea revised the Trade Act of 1967 which initially
had prohibited trade with the socialist zone. After the revision of the Act, the trade
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs carefully monitored South Korean
efforts to establish links with Poland. First of them were noticed in early 1970’s.
South Koreans tried to build ties in several different ways. First of all, their diplomats
initiated contacts with Polish diplomats in countries where both states had their
embassies, such as USA and Belgium. Secondly, South Korean citizens were sent
to join international events as conferences and sport tournaments in Poland. And
last but not least, South Korea mailed to Polish libraries and research institutions
Regardless of their character, Polish authorities perceived all this moves as a
planned strategy to encourage Poland to establish relationships with South Korea.
50 G. Strnad, Korea. Polityka Południa wobec Północy w latach 1948–2008. Zmiana i
kontynuacja, Poznan 2014, pp. 188-204.
51 Bogook Kim, The Diplomatic Relationship between Hungary and South Korea: 1948–
1982, [in] “Korea and Eastern Europe. Exploring the Past”, Soa 2017, p. 23.
52 AMSZ, D. II, 29/87, w. 2, Zestawienie znanych Departamentowi II faktów dot. kontaktów
Korei Płd. Z Polską oraz incydentów z dyplomatami KRLD w Warszawie, Warszawa, 24 V
In the 1970’ Poland was denitely against that idea and tried to block or at least
limit contacts of Poles and South Koreans. The only case when Polish ofcials
agreed to such contacts were important international events.
North Korea constantly observed South Korean efforts to build links with
Poland and its citizens. Every time the North Korean embassy learned that
someone from South Korea planned to visit Poland, its diplomats met with Polish
ofcials and tried to convince them to not let South Koreans enter Poland. They
did it in any case: in regard to scientic conferences, sport tournaments, even The
International Chopin Piano Competition53. Moreover, DPRK’s embassy regularly
requested Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prevent trips of Polish citizens
to South Korea. Furthermore, there were cases when the North Korean embassy
expressed disappointment with the way Polish press wrote about South Korea. In
result, in 1980 the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended using the term
“so called” in reference to South Korean authorities and specic posts they hold,
for instance, the so called Prime Minister of South Korea54.
The Polish attitude towards South Korea changed in the middle of the 1980’s.
Poland alike other European Communist countries started to perceive South
Korea as a potential trade partner and investor. From the Polish point of view it
was especially important because of the economic crisis and implementation of
American economic sanctions in response to the Martial Law. In September 1987
Poland decided to modify its position on contacts with South Korea. Since that time
cooperation in the eld of economic, trade, science, culture and sport was allowed.
What is more, Poland implemented a more liberal visa policy in regard to contacts
with South Korea and let Polish ships enter the Pusan harbor as well as allowed
for repairing of Polish ships in South Korean shipyards. Another meaningful step
was the opening of a branch ofce of the Polish-Japanese “Agropol” company in
After that Poland considered building closer links and conducted unofcial
negotiations with South Korean politicians and businessmen. In this matter the
Polish participation in the Seoul Olympics appeared to be a useful tool. During
the Olympics Deputy Director of the Second Department of the Polish Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, Andrzej Majkowski and the head of the Polish Olympic
Committee, Aleksander Kwaśniewski held talks with representatives of the South
Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korean Trade Promotion Agency. It was
another step for better mutual understanding and discussing future plans. Several
53 AMSZ, D. II, 25/88, w. 6, Zapis rozmowy wiceministra SZ tow. J. Majewskiego z
Ambasadorem KRLD O Man Sok, Warszawa, 28 V 1985 r.
54 AMSZ, D. II, 28/85, w. 5, Notatka z rozmowy z ambasadorem KRLD tow. O Un
Gwonem, przeprowadzonej z jego inicjatywy 26 lutego 1980, Warszawa 29 II 1980 r.
55 AMSZ., D. II, 24/92, w. 8, Notatka dot. stosunków Polski z Koreą Południową,
Warszawa, 8 XI 1988 r.
months after the Olympics, the Polish Chamber of Foreign Trade set up its ofce in
Seoul and KOTRA opened its ofce in Warsaw56.
The next round of secret negotiations took place in Warsaw and concerned
establishing of diplomatic relations between both countries. In the decisive round of
talks South Korea was represented by deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hong Soon
Yung who promised a 400 million dollars credit for 5 years. After that declaration the
Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended establishing diplomatic relations
with South Korea to the Polish authorities57. When Prime Minister Zbigniew Messner
studied that opinion, he approved the recommendation and wrote that recognition of
South Korea would be useful for preserving economic interests of Poland58. Finally
both countries established diplomatic relations on November 1, 1989.
North Korea made last-minute efforts to stop Poland from recognizing the South.
To demonstrate disappointment with Polish plans, DPRK withdrew its ambassador
only two years after the beginning of his service in Poland59. After this move Polish
diplomats in Pyongyang started to consider other possible North Korean steps.
Only 10 days before the recognition of South Korea, the Polish embassy sent an
opinion based on conversations with foreign diplomats to Warsaw. They forecasted
three possible ways of North Korea’s behavior. According to this, the most radical
politicians may have advised Kim Il Sung to attack Polish diplomats in Seoul or the
South Korean in Warsaw. Fortunately, that scenario was not implemented60.
Another step made 10 days before the recognition of South Korea was a direct
request of Kim Il Sung to Wojciech Jaruzelski. Via Polish ambassador the “Great
Leader” asked Poland to change its intention or at least postpone for half a year
ofcial announcement concerning establishment of relations with South Korea61.
His efforts were also pointless.
A few weeks after the recognition of South Korea, DPRK forced all its students,
PhD students and interns to leave Poland. The North Korean Embassy received such
an order on December 5, 1989 and on December 14 a group of 103 young Koreans left
Poland by a chartered plane without the majority of their belongings. Ofcially North
Korea claimed that the reason was a threat of kidnapping them by South Korea62.
56 A. Majkowski, Geneza nawiązania stosunków dyplomatycznych między Polską a
Republiką Korei, „Azja-Pacyk” 2000, vol. 3, p. 133.
57 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Pilna notatka dot. nawiązania stosunków dyplomatycznych z
Republiką Korei, Warszawa, 12 VII 1989 r.
58 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Sekretarz Urzędu Rady Ministrów do Wiceministra Spraw
Zagranicznych Jana Majewskiego, 12 VII 1989 r.
59 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 03334/III, Phenian, 12 IX 1989 r.
60 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 0-1000/IV, Phenian, 23 X 1989 r.
61 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 0-1001/IV, Phenian, 23 X 1989 r.
62 AMSZ, D. II, 6/96, w. 3, Pilna notatka dot. decyzji władz KRLD o odwołaniu z Polski
wszystkich studentów, stażystów i doktorantów, Warszawa, 6 XII 1989 r.; Ibidem, Informacja
dot. wystąpienia Ambasady KRLD w sprawie odbioru i odesłania książek i przedmiotów
osobistych pozostawionych w Polsce przez ich studentów i stażystów, Warszawa, 7 II 1990 r.
Despite the above mentioned moves, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
considered North Korean reaction as calm, especially in comparison to the previous
reaction on the recognition of South Korea by Hungary63. It was probably a result
of several reasons. Before anything else, Poland was not the rst state of the
Eastern Block that established relationships with Republic of Korea. What is more,
Polish communists did their best to ease the situation. A telling example may be an
unprecedented meeting of the withdrawn North Korean ambassador with President
Wojciech Jaruzelski64. And last but not least, DPRK’s uncertainty and a lack of
understanding of deep political changes in the Eastern Block was also a signicant
factor. Several days after the establishment of Polish-South Korean relations the
Polish embassy in Pyongyang informed Warsaw that North Korean ofcials in
their conversations with Romanian, Albanian and Cuban diplomats expressed an
opinion that Poland stopped to be a Communist country only for short period of
time. They believed that after the 11th Congress of United Workers Party Polish
communists would regain their strength and defeat “agents of imperialism”. What
is more, they supposed that „creeping revolutions” in Hungary and GDR would
face the same fate65. After some time North Korea realized the real nature of East
European revolutions. That is why the relationships with democratic Poland worsen
and mutual distrust arose.
The decade of the 1980’s was one of the most turbulent period in bilateral
relations of Poland and North Korea. After dozens of years of stagnancy Kim
Il Sung’s visit of 1984 became a turning point. Since that time both countries
strengthened ties and intensied contacts on many elds. Nevertheless, fruitful
cooperation between both countries was stopped by the end of the Cold War and
the transition of Poland. The recognition of South Korea was a symbolic change
in Polish foreign policy towards Eastern Asia. In the aftermath, in following years
South Korea became one of the biggest investors in Poland and at the same time
there were not many elds of cooperation with DPRK.
63 North Korea not only withdrew its ambassador from Hungary but also expelled
64 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 9083, Warszawa, 28 X 1989 r.
65 AMSZ, D. II, 3/94, w. 3, Szyfrogram Nr 0-2163/IV, Phenian, 17 XI 1989 r.