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Tangible and intangible legacies of 70 years of Polish-North Korean relations (1948-2018)

Nicolas Levi
Tangible and Intangible Legacies of 70 years
of Polish-North Korean relations
PaPers in Oriental and african studies
Prace OrientalistYcZne i afrYKanistYcZne
PaPers in Oriental and african studies
Nicolas Levi
Tangible and Intangible Legacies
of 70 years of Polish-North Korean
relations (1948–2018)
Warsaw 2021
Prace OrientalistYcZne i afrYKanistYcZne 10
Wydawnictwo Instytutu Kultur Śródziemnomorskich i Orientalnych
Polskiej Akademii Nauk
ul. Nowy Świat 72, Pałac Staszica, 00-330 Warszawa
tel.: +48 22 657 27 91,;
dr Kamil Weber
dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Redaktor serii:
Krzysztof Gutowski
Redaktor naukowy:
dr Lech Buczek
Redakcja i korekta językowa:
Brien Barnett
Redakcja techniczna:
Brien Barnett
Projekt okładki, opracowanie graczne, skład iłamanie:
GRAF – Janusz R. Janiszewski
Druk ioprawa:
© Copyright by Instytut Kultur Śródziemnomorskich i Orientalnych
Polskiej Akademii Nauk i Nicolas Levi, Warsaw 2021
ISBN: 978-83-960831-3-5
e-ISBN: 978-83-960831-6-6
Table of Contents
Introduction and research questions ................................................................... 9
Methodology and theoretical backgrounds ....................................................... 13
Romanisation and linguistical issues ................................................................. 15
Chapter 1
1948–1950 in North Korea-Poland relations .................................................... 17
Chapter 2
e Korean War period and its aftermath (1950–1959) .................................. 19
2.1. e Position of Poland during the Korean War ....................................... 19
2.2. Polish support after the Korean War ......................................................... 23
2.3. Educational and cultural support .............................................................. 29
2.4. North Korean orphans in Poland .............................................................. 32
2.5. Kim Il Sung’s visit to Poland in 1956 and its consequences ................... 41
Chapter 3
Relative Disturbance in Polish-North Korean relations (1959–1980) ............ 43
3.1. Economic cooperation ................................................................................. 43
3.2. Political cooperation ..................................................................................... 50
3.3. Cultural and sport cooperation ................................................................... 52
3.4. Educational cooperation ............................................................................. 55
Chapter 4
Relations between Poland and North Korea between 1980 and 1989 ........... 59
4.1. Economic cooperation ................................................................................. 59
4.2. Political cooperation ..................................................................................... 61
4.3. Cultural and educational cooperation ....................................................... 64
Chapter 5
Relations between Poland and North Korea after 1989 .................................. 67
5.1. Economic cooperation ................................................................................ 67
5.2. Political cooperation ................................................................................... 71
5.3. Parliamentary cooperation ......................................................................... 76
5.4. Cultural, educational, and sport cooperation ........................................... 77
Chapter 6
Disputes between Poland and North Korea ...................................................... 81
6.1. Mixed marriages between North Korean and Polish citizens ................ 81
6.2. Defection of North Korean citizens in Poland ........................................ 83
6.3. North Korean workers in Poland .............................................................. 86
6.4. e Korean experience of Andrzej Fidyk ................................................. 92
6.5. Disputes involving the North Korean embassy in Warsaw .................... 93
Chapter 7
e humanitarian and cultural cooperation between Poland
and North Korea in the 2000s .......................................................................... 97
7.1. Humanitarian cooperation ........................................................................ 97
7.2. Cultural cooperation .................................................................................. 99
7.3. Polish movies in North Korea ................................................................... 102
Chapter 8
A review of Polish literature related to North Korea ...................................... 105
8.1. North Korean studies in Poland between 1950 and 1980 .................... 105
8.2. North Korean studies in Poland after 1980 ........................................... 107
Conclusion and ndings ................................................................................... 111
List of Acronyms ................................................................................................. 115
Additional documents ....................................................................................... 117
1. Chronology of North Korean ambassadors to Poland .......................... 117
2. Chronology of Polish ambassadors to North Korea .............................. 118
3. Biograms of North Korean ambassadors to Poland .............................. 118
4. Biograms of Polish ambassadors to North Korea .................................. 120
5. List of agreements signed between Poland and North Korea .............. 124
6. Biograms of Polish researchers focused on North Korean studies ...... 128
7. Selected printed North Korean publications translated into Polish ..... 129
8. Translation of the text of the North Korean-Polish Friendship
Song ............................................................................................................ 156
9. Linguistical issues ...................................................................................... 157
Bibliography ........................................................................................................ 159
Illustrations ......................................................................................................... 181
Introduction and research questions
How were two countries – the Republic of Poland (hereafter ‘Poland’)1
and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (hereafter ‘North
Korea’) – which were so dierent, able to collaborate? Where are Poles
remembered in North Korea, and where are North Korean citizens remembered
on the territory of Poland? is monograph aims to present key issues concerning
the cooperation between Poland and North Korea in the period 1948–2018. e
book is not in any case an attempt to collect all issues related to relations between
both countries, but rather a consideration of the most important matters that
directly concerned bilateral relations between these two states, including Polish
memories in North Korea, and North Korean memories in Poland. erefore,
the monograph has a nature that is not only historical but also geographical.
e author of this monograph argues that the relations between Poland and
North Korea prove that North Korea was not as closed a country as foreign analysts
and specialists usually describe it. For this reason, the author demonstrated,
based on ocial statistics and North Korean documentation that both countries
maintained relations not only on an ocial level but also at the micro-scale,
which involved the civil society of both countries. Evidence includes the place of
North Korea in the foreign trade of Poland with Asian countries, the number
of North Korean students in Poland, and, for instance, the number of movies
imported from North Korea to Poland. All these issues will be described in detail
within these pages and are based on a comparative approach within the framework
of the relations of Poland with other Asian nations.
is monograph also enlightens the fact that although Poland did make eorts
to successfully foster mutual relations, sometimes regardless of the Polish interest,
the behaviour of the North Korean authorities reduced the benets Poland could
gain from maintaining relations with this country. North Korea focused on its
interests and not on those of fraternal nations. is led to a negative image of
the North Korean authorities among the Polish leadership and automatically to
¹ e Polish People’s Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) was the ocial name of Poland
between 1952 and 1989. e country was renamed the Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita
Polska) in 1989.
negative views concerning the North Korean population among Poles. is point
is especially related to the post-communist period in Poland, where the inow
of information about North Korea merely increased.
is monograph supports the hypothesis and theoretical conclusion that the
North Korean national interest was prioritised in the establishment of relations
with Poland and that therefore there is asymmetry in the quality of relations
between the two countries.
To full this aim, the author of the present monograph divides the period
of relations between Poland and North Korea into ve parts. e rst, covering
the period from 1948 to 1950, is a short outline of bilateral relations until the
outbreak of the Korean War. e second tackles the relations between Poland
and North Korea during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and the post-
-Korean War period till 1959 when Poland provided multilateral support for the
post-war recovery of North Korea. is monograph mainly deals with the period
1960–1980, emphasizing the rupture of relations between both countries due to
an ideological disagreement. e fourth part is related to the transition period
between 1980 and 1989 due to the collapse of communism all around the world.
e fth and last part covers the period from 1989 to 2018.
Several Polish authors have devoted their time to analysing the relations between
these two countries. Here, I would like to mention Marceli Burdelski, Marek
Hańderek, and Sylwia Szyc. Nevertheless, if I am correct, I must underline that
none of them was using research materials in the original Korean, which imparts
a biased view of the relations between both countries.
Nevertheless, one book cannot be omitted here. e publication entitled
Spotkania Polsko-Koreańskie, which can be translated as Polish-Korean Meetings,
published in 2008, is a rst attempt at collecting memories regarding the
relations between these two countries.
is publication, prepared in cooperation
with North Korean authorities, gathered 15 authors who provide their views
regarding North Korea.3 All of them were involved to a small or large extent in
relations between Poland and North Korea. For instance, Elżbieta Jakubiak, who
worked for three years (1954–1957) with North Korean orphans at the State
² Marszałek-Kawa 2008: 10–140.
³ e table of contents of this book was written using the North Korean dialect of the Korean
language. For instance, Poland is written as 뽈스, which means ‘Poland’ according to North
Korean standards instead of 폴란 like in South Korean documents. Furthermore the title of
the book can be discussed, as it seems to indicate that the book includes discussion of relations
with South Korea, which it clearly does not after reading the whole monograph. Marszałek-Kawa
2008: 5–6. Adam Marszałek, the owner of this publishing house is regularly seen at the North
Korean embassy in Warsaw but also invites its diplomats to conferences organised in Toruń,
where the publishing house is headquartered. Marszałek contributed highly to the propagation
of Asian studies in Poland.
Education Centre in Płakowice.
I would also like to underline the participation of
Juliusz Kanty and Czesław Denga, who authored two articles in this book.
participated in the Polish mission that supervised the Armistice Treaty between
the Koreas. Another good example of valuable testimony was prepared by Jerzy
Górzański, who visited North Korea as a member of a delegation of the Polish
Writers’ Union, in 1969.6 is monograph brings excellent information about
the state of relations between the two countries, unfortunately, due to the close
control of the North Korean authorities toward the preparation of the book, its
objectivity can be debated.
is present monograph aims also at lling this crucial gap, thus providing
North Korean documents focused on relations with Poland based also on North
and South Korean documents.
For this sole reason, the author collected from among all the resources
exclusively focused on relations between Poland and North Korea, including
in Polish, 12 research books, 33 research articles, 12 documents uploaded from
the Polish Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Aairs, 84 newspaper articles,
16 agreements and protocols signed between Poland and North Korea, and
a hundred North Korean printed propaganda books and newsletters translated
in Polish. Regarding documents in Korean, the author analysed one book, the
only one according to the author, in North Korean related to Poland, eight
documents published in North Korean, one document prepared by a North
Korean citizen and published in Polish, and four North Korean documents
published in English. is list excluded not only Polish translations of North
Korean propaganda documents but also all books, research articles, and other
documents mentioning some aspects of the relations between Poland and North
Korea, which would include more than 200 positions, explicitly mentioned in
the bibliography, available at the end of this monograph.
I would like also to underline that the results obtained in the course of my
research are probably incomplete, due to the selectivity of issues I covered, and
therefore, we do obtain only an incomplete picture. erefore, it cannot be
considered an exhaustive guide to Polish-North Korean relations.
Marszałek-Kawa 2008: 33–42.
Marszałek-Kawa 2008: 147–154.
Marszałek-Kawa 2008: 129–132.
Methodology and theoretical backgrounds
his book uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods and
source criticism to analyse the mentioned topic. is is done to develop
important observations and draw conclusions. Qualitative data come
from various sources such as the literature related to North Korea and available
in Polish, but also the North Korean literature related to Poland. e author
also used the archives of various foreign ministries such as these of Poland and
France. Quantitative data are based mainly on statistical data provided by the
Polish Ministry of Economy collected from the North Korea side, as this country
has not published statistics since 1965. North Korean documents dedicated to
its relations with Poland are scarce, but are mentioned in this paper. erefore,
oral descriptions of individuals engaged in the described events are highly
As the relations between Poland and North Korea are related to international
relations, the author used it as the theoretical background. In international
relations, the existing literature seeks to explain how to interpret the behaviour
of nations and states in the case of alliances or wars. Within recent decades, new
approaches dedicated to the theory of international relations appeared. One of
them is the rational theory of international relations. Rational choice theory is
rooted in the assumption of instrumental rationality. Rationalism is a behaviour
that can be optimally adapted to the situation considering the availability of the
information. A rational actor is one who, when confronted with ‘two alternatives
which give rise to outcomes, will choose the one which yields the more preferred
Kahneman and Tversky, two Israeli-American researchers, developed
prospect theory to gather these patterns into a theory of choice. Two phases are
e rst one is the reference point, the options available, and potential
outcomes. In the present case, the editing phase will be the post-Korean War
period when North Korea used as many opportunities provided by the Polish
People’s Republic as it could. It is also important to underline that the outcomes
Raia, Luce 1989: 50.
depend on preferences, which are determined by each entity or states. e
American political scientist Kenneth Waltz focuses on three sorts of factors related
to security strategies: motivation of a state, its capabilities and the information it
collects, and the capacities and intentions of others. Rationalist theory deduces
the circumstances under which states will seek to cooperate or compete. It is
a strategic choice theory for a state (in the present case North Korea) facing an
international environment that presents constraints and opportunities.
problem of asymmetric information was also explored by George Akerlof, who
argued that, in the case of uncertainty, actors attach probability estimates to the
occurrence of events and then attempt to maximise their utility based on these
probabilities.9 During the considered historical period, in the case of relations
between the two countries, the behaviour of Polish authorities was to a large
extent guided by the USSR authorities, thus the North Korean authorities may
have considered that Poland would keep a particular commitment to North
Korean issues considering the Soviet authority’s commitment to North Korea.
e second phase is the evaluation, which is described within a utility model
(applied in microeconomics) that can be associated with the behaviour of North
Korea. It assumes that the state will make rational decisions to maximise its gains
within its relations with Poland. e potential gain for North Korea will be an
inow of goods and know-how through dierent channels. In other words,
institutional actors will use the expected utility as the basis for their economic
and political decisions.
is monograph applies this theoretical framework to the case of Polish-North
Korean relations. e article’s research focus is to examine and chronicle the
relations between Poland and North Korea to show what relations between these
ideologically and culturally distant countries looked like, whether the countries
belonging to the socialist community could really rely on each other, and why
such relations – good in the beginning – changed.
As far as the rationalist explanations used in this book, a hierarchy of
preferences shall be established. During the studied period, the primary goal
of the North Korean leadership was its welfare. e regime tried to obtain as
much monetary support, as well as food and equipment, as it could. During the
period 1948–1980, North Korea was not directly threatened by foreign states.
As of now, with growing American interest in North Korean issues, the priority
of the North Korean state organisations is their survival instead of welfare
issues. As relations between countries are not static, we can also assume that the
preferences of the North Korean authorities consist of a mix of survival and welfare
Glaser 2010: 10.
See Akerlof 1970.
Romanisation and linguistical issues
One of the key linguistical issues to be discussed is the romanisation of
Korean words. Somewhat confusingly to a certain extent, there exist
several dierent systems for the romanisation of Korean words. A variant
of the older McCune-Reischauer system is still used in North Korea, while in
South Korea, the Revised Romanisation system has been in ocial use since
2000. Interestingly, most North Korean proper nouns retain the old McCune-
-Reischauer system in both Koreas (for example, the romanisation of the common
last name remains ‘Kim’ rather than the South’s Revised Romanised Korean
name ‘Gim’; ‘Pyongyang’ has also still not shifted to the revised ‘Pyeongyang’).
Given the predominance of this convention, the author of the present monograph
has mostly retained the Norths version of the McCune-Reischauer romanisation
system throughout this monograph. erefore, except in the bibliography, names
are not hyphenated.
e Polish language romanised Korean words through various mistakes. Until
2006, the Polish name of the city was ‘Phenian’, a derivation of the Russian
exonym Пхеньян(‘Phenian’, pronounced as [fenian]). Names derived from
this Russian form were adopted both in Poland and in other countries of the
former Eastern Bloc. is exonym did not correspond to the original name or
its pronunciation, and it was also often erroneously pronounced. In recent years,
many countries of Eastern Europe have withdrawn from using the name derived
from the Russian name into forms referring to the Korean pronunciation, for
example, Czech and Slovak use ‘Pchjongjang’, Serbian considers Пјонгјанг’,
Croatian and Bosnian utilise ‘Pyongyang’, and Estonian, ‘Phjongjang’.
Regarding Poland, on November 21, 2006, the Commission for the
Standardisation of Geographical Names Outside the Republic of Poland,
statutorily responsible for determining the correct Polish names of geographic
objects located outside the country, decided to accept the name ‘Pjongjang’,
proposed by Polish orientalists and referring to the pronunciation of Korean
names as Polish exonyms.
e word ‘Poland’ in Korean can be written using dierent orthographs.
Initially, Poland was called 파란 (Paran) in both Koreas. ‘Paran’ comes initially
from the Chinese language. After the Korean War, North Korean linguists called
this country 뽈스까 ((Ppolseukka) which is the closest to the Polish original
word Polska. Meanwhile 폴란드 (Polandeu) is the South Korean version. As of
2020, North Korean ocial institutions continue to use the word 뽈스까, when
referring to Poland.
Chapter 1
1948–1950 in North Korea-Poland relations
On September 9, 1948, the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) became the
second country in the socialist bloc, after the USSR, and the third
country (after China [PRC]) to establish a dialogue with North Korea,
shortly after it gained independence and elections.10
e USSR was the rst country to recognise North Korea, doing so on
September 12, 1948. Pak Han Jen, the North Korean Minister of Foreign Aairs,
informed Zygmunt Modzelewski, the Polish Minister of Foreign Aairs, about
the creation of North Korea and proposed the establishment of diplomatic and
economic relations between the two countries on October 8, 1948. On October 15,
1948, Stefan Wierbłowski, the General Secretary of the Polish MFA, replied that
Poland acknowledged the ghting spirit of Koreans with Japanese Imperialism.
On October 16, 1948, the Polish government ocially recognised North Korea.
Poland was followed in October-November 1948 by Mongolia, Czechoslovakia,
Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, China, Albania, and East Germany in 1950.
ere is also the probability that Poland wanted to recognise North Korea earlier;
however, due to ideological reasons, the rst countries that were to recognise
North Korea were the USSR and the PRC.
North Korea was then the country that represented the Korean Peninsula in
the communist world for the next 41 years. For historical reasons, during the
Cold War, Poland maintained limited but good relations with North Korea.
On June 7, 1950, both governments decided upon the respective appointment
of ambassadors.
Starting on July 9, 1950, Stanisław Dodin became the rst Polish representative
(chargé d’aaires ad interim) to North Korea but was based in Beijing. Before he
left Poland, he had some cultural training with Chinese and Korean people based
in Poland. Later, he was replaced by Juliusz Burgin, who was appointed solely as
the rst Polish ambassador to North Korea on December 24, 1950, more than one
¹ Buczek 2012: 59.
¹¹ Levi 2012: 69.
¹² Levi 2009: 345.
year after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and,
therefore, increasing the rank of diplomatic relations. Furthermore, like Dodin,
Burgin was based in Beijing, as the Polish authorities did not want and, due to
other nancial priorities, could not invest in an embassy in Pyongyang, which
was still not considered a crucial partner.13 On the North Korean side, Choe Il,
a former employee of the North Korean embassy to China, was nominated by
Pyongyang as the rst North Korean ambassador to Poland. He arrived in Warsaw
on May 3, 1951, with six other diplomats and accompanied by three children.14
Comparatively, Poland established diplomatic relations with Mongolia in
April 1950, followed by the appointment of ambassadors in 1953; an embassy in
North Vietnam was opened four years after diplomatic relations were established
with that country in 1950.15
Until September 14, 1954, Polish interests in North Korea were represented
by the Polish embassy in China. e large involvement of Poland in the Far East,
including in the post-Korean War period resulted in creating a special department
dedicated to Asian Aairs in the Polish MFA in 1954, which dealt with this part
of the world.16 Later in August of the same year, Jerzy Siedlecki was appointed
the rst Polish ambassador based in North Korea. Afterwards, due to diculties
in recruitment of people from Poland, the wives of diplomats were employed as
secretaries and, to a certain extent, this tradition has been maintained until the
present day. Many Koreans were also employed at the Polish embassy, especially
in the military section.17 e Polish embassy in Pyongyang consisted of several
small wood houses.18
¹³ Juliusz Burgin provided his letter of accreditation in Nampho, the city where was based the
current North Korean MFA.
¹ Since then, the embassy of North Korea edited newsletters or conveyed newsletters with limited
circulation edited by the MFA in Pyongyang, aimed at presenting a vision of North Korea
regarding its role in international aairs. Levi 2012: 69.
¹ Kowalski 1988: 547.
¹ Labudy, Michowicz 2002: 602.
¹ Kowalski 1988: 551. e military section of the Polish embassy in North Korea was not attached
to the Polish MFA, but to the Polish Ministry of National Defence. e ocial name of the
military attaché was attaché wojskowy, morski i lotniczy, which may be translated as ‘military,
naval and air attaché’. Paduchowski 2018: 159–160.
¹ Dubrowski 1961: 24.
Chapter 2
e Korean War period and its aftermath
he Korean War was a conict that involved not only both Koreas but also
many nations, which participated in various operations. Polish media also
described this bloody conict but following views prescribed by Moscow.
For a country closed to North Korea, Polish literature on the Korean War is
abundant.19 e role of Poland in this conict has been analysed many times by
historians and political theorists.20 However, these publications were skewed in
favour of the PRL’s historiography, claiming that the Korean War was provoked
by South Korea and ‘American Imperialists’.21
e struggles of North Korea started to surface in 1950 when the Korean War
broke out.22 Interestingly, at the same time, a Polish delegation of journalists
from Trybuna Ludu, the ocial media outlet of the Polish United Workers’
Party, was in North Korea.23 Initially, such as in July 1950, there was a large
list of articles in the Polish press that were written with the framing in mind of
how the US had prepared the aggression toward the peoples of Asia.24 However,
from September 14, 1950, Polish reports recognised the futility of North Korea’s
defence, and on September 23, 1950, the ocial reports read that the ‘imperialists’
had overwhelming superiority over the communist troops.25 e Polish rhetoric
¹ See Koreańska Armia Wyzwoleńcza sforsowała pozycje na rzece Naktong 1950.
² See Burdelski 2015.
²¹ Góralski 1979: 30; Kojlo, Dikij 1975: 55; Kunstler 1986: 139; Kim 1996.
²² Wróbel 2003: 8.
²³ 위대 일성동지께 조국해방전쟁시 민들과의 국제적련대성을
강화하도록 명하 이끄신 멸의 업적 2018.
² Neścioruk 2014: 126.
² Wojna w Korei 1950: 1.
changed over the months, claiming that North Korea must be protected from
the imperialist invasion. Movies such as Korea Oskarża (Korea accuses) from 1951
were lmed thanks to Bronisław Wiernik, the rst Polish journalist to visit the
Far East. e Polish writer Andrzej Braun also considered that Polish young
people wanted to participate in the Korean War. 26
Media and regular people defended the North Korean cause. In both Poland and
other socialist states, mass meetings were held in solidarity with the North, with
slogans such as ‘Hands o Korea’ (Ręce przecz od Korei!). Documents emanating
from the Polish communist party started to show the stronger involvement of
Polish diplomacy in the Korean case. Unemployed Poles were even threatened
with being sent to the Korean front.27
Economic and nancial aid for North Korea was initiated by Poland and other
socialist states beginning in 1951. In March 1951, the rst convoy of food and
clothing was sent to North Korea. Between May 6 and 24, 1951, a delegation
of the Polish Committee of the Defenders of Peace (Polski Komitet Obrońców
Pokoju), led by Marian Czerwiński, transmitted additional Polish humanitarian
aid, such as machinery, resources, and other products. On June 2, 1951, Poland
signed a treaty with North Korea on the import of products as a form of credit.
e Presidium of the Polish communist party decided, however, to revise a large
part of the treaty due to the Korean War. Poland provided 91 laden wagons to
North Korea in 1951.28 On the rst ship, the Przyjaźn Narodów (Friendship of
Nations), there were 500 thousand sq. m. of fabrics, and 2,100 tonnes of steel.
In 1952, 71% of the Polish support was nanced by social funds and 29% by
state funds. e total equalled approximately PLZ 10 million. In March and
April 1952, Poland sent vaccines and medicine to North Korea worth PLZ
4 million.
Despite the war, a North Korean economic delegation visited Poland,
headed by Tian Si U, the North Korean Minister of Trade, who visited Poland in
May–June 1952. His visit led to the signing of a trade agreement for the sending
of food and materials to North Korea on a credit basis, at zero percent interest,
on June 2, 1952. He left Poland on June 4, 1952.30
From early spring 1952, some countries and North Korea were exchanging
views on organising control commissions in case the war ended.31 By autumn
1952, during the 7th UN assembly, the Polish delegation presented a resolution
project entitled On avoiding the threat of new world war and consolidating peace
and friendly cooperation between nations. e project encompassed the directions
² Braun 1956: 7.
² Drabik 2018: 147.
² Levi 2012: 70.
² Levi 2012: 70.
³ Kronika Dyplomatyczna 1952: 2.
³¹ Svamberk 2013: 4.
of peace in Korea, division of the peninsula, and determining the armistice
agreement. When the American general William Harrison and North Korean
General Nam Il signed a ceasere agreement putting an end to the three-year
war on the Korean peninsula at the demarcation line in Panmunjom on June 27,
1953, it was clear that the conict could not be resolved by military means
only and that the formation of organs ensuring the respect of the armistice was
necessary. erefore, two institutions were created to support the ceasere: e
Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) and the temporary Neutral
Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC).
e NNSC was appointed to make sure no military actions would be
undertaken in Korea, to investigate possible violations of the armistice and ensure
their implementation. e inauguration of the NNSC took place in Panmunjom
on August 1, 1953. According to the arrangement signed in the rst weeks of
1952, Poland and Czechoslovakia (the two countries were selected by the leaders
of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, or CPVA, and of the South Korean
People’s Army, or KPA32) were supposed to station in the North and Sweden
and Switzerland (chosen by the US) in the South.33 e headquarters of this
organisation is Panmunjom. e main function of the NNSC was to control,
observe, and inspect military installations in the demilitarised zone (DMZ).
Four countries were also chosen by India to be members of the NNRC:
Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Poland was ocially nominated
as a member of the NNRC on June 8, 1953. On June 11, 1953, Poland sent its
representatives to Panmunjom. In the spring of 1952, Poland and Czechoslovakia
prepared special actions that were supposed to be deployed in North Korea. e
NNRC mission was to control the issue of prisoners of war. e rst head of the
Polish delegation was Stanisław Gajewski, who headed a delegation composed
of 32 Poles.
Due to the rst planned meeting of the NNSC on August 1, 1953, in June
1953, a Reconnaissance Group of 30 Polish military ocials (under the governance
of Brigadier General Mieczysław Wągrowski and the deputy head, Jan Śliwiński)
accompanied a delegation to the Korean Peninsula.34 Based on Order 0077/
ORG, signed on 10 December 1953, of the Polish Ministry of Defence, a mission
called Military Unit 2000 was created and dedicated initially to North Korea. is
unit participated also later in peace missions to Cambodia, Nigeria, Vietnam,
and the Middle-East. e rst team sent to the Korean Peninsula was checked
by the Polish Secret Police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, commonly known as UB).35
³² Potocka, Gawlikowski 2001: 125.
³³ Svamberk 2013: 2.
³ Potocka, Gawlikowski 2001: 125.
³ Wąs 2015.
is rst mission was composed of 330 ocers and soldiers who were supposed
to leave Poland for Korea, but only 301 arrived and started to full their obligations
on August 1, 1954.36 In comparison, the Czechoslovak Reconnaissance Group
had departed for North Korea already in July 1953.
e rst Polish team
consisted of soldiers of the Polish Army, translators, and employees of the MFA
and Ministry of Internal Aairs. After a few months of training (foreign languages,
legal and political aspects of North Korea),38 the rst team of 301 people was
sent, including women, who usually served as nurses and typists.39 Due to the
economic crisis and lack of infrastructure as a result of the Korean War, the
Polish mission brought over all requested goods and supplies, such as electronic
devices, clothes, and basic items like pens, paper, beds and also Polish-made cars
called Warszawa. Another diculty for Poles was the presence of exotic diseases
and the lack of health infrastructure in case of diculties. Many soldiers suered
from infections such as diarrhoea and dysentery.
Later, personnel changes took place regularly, every 9–11 months, and
concerned less than a hundred people.40 In 50 years of the Polish mission to
North Korea, more than 1,100 ocers and MFA workers rotated through. In
this time, they took various actions to secure the implementation of the armistice
agreement signed in Panmunjom, such as inspecting the CPVA, who were present
in North Korea until October 1958, through mobile teams travelling all over
North Korea. Poles also investigated violations of the armistice agreement. On
a monthly basis, there were some general lunches held by each country.41
It is dicult to consider the NNSC as being neutral, considering the interference
of the North Korean MFA, which tried to monitor the Polish and Czechoslovak
ocers. Poles were also spied on, especially by their North Korean drivers, who
were forced to indicate to their superiors who and where they were driving, what
Poles bought, who they talked to, etc. Poles were conscious that they were under
continuous monitoring by North Korean authorities.42
With time, the team’s range of activities changed and limited the number of
soldiers in the Polish contingent. is was also due to public protests in both
Korea against Poles, which started at the end of 1953 when North and South
Korean authorities jointly criticised the role of Poland and Czechoslovakia
concerning their management of the NNRS and their presence on the southern
³ Benken 2014: 440; Jendraszczak 2001: 131.
³ Svamberk 2013: 7.
³ Reinberger 2005: 3.
³ Birchmeier, Burdelski, Jendraszczak 2012: 28.
 Burdelski 2001: 131.
¹ Interview by the author with Kazimierz Wróblewski, a major in the Polish army, who worked
at the NNSC between 1993 and 1994. e interview was held on the 19 March 2010.
² Benken 2014: 448–449.
side of the DMZ. Moreover, the complicated situation may have also been due
to incidents involving the killing of some Polish soldiers on November 7, 1955.
Meanwhile three Polish ocials, Zygielski, Rudnik, and Zielinski, were killed
in North Korea.43 e following incident also deteriorated relations between
North Korea and Poland. In the early 1960s, a former Polish driver was regularly
providing information to US soldiers, but any contact with the southern side was
forbidden. Caught by the Czechoslovaks, he was quickly removed and sent back
to Poland.44
e highest period of work was related to 1953–1956 when around 125,000
issues were discussed by the NNSC.45 Nevertheless, due to the dicult living
conditions and constant monitoring by the North Korean authorities, the size
of the Polish mission was regularly reduced over the years. e rst decrease in
the number of Polish soldiers took place with the dissolution of the NNRC
in February 1954. Consequently, by 1969, the Polish mission consisted of only
10 people but was still led by a brigadier general.46
When the parties announced the ceasere, the Polish government voted on
July 28, 1953, for a resolution that guaranteed economic aid to North Korea
and in 1955 signed a treaty enacting non-refundable relief aimed at rebuilding
the country. Cotton fabrics, linen, tarpaulins, sugar, meat, bearings, machinery,
and mechanical parts amounting to PLZ 350 million in total were sent. To thank
Poland for its support, some Koreans wanted to name a main street in Pyongyang
‘Bierut’, after the rst leader of communist Poland.47
is economic support was discussed during the visit of the North Korean
Minister of Trade Cheon Si U, who was in Poland between May 17 and June 3,
1952. e following year, Minister of Trade Ri Ju Cheon came to Poland, between
November 10 and 13, 1953. Meanwhile, Poland continued to support North
Korea by sending automotive spare parts and cars to North Korea.48
e political and organisation cooperation was not only based on diplomatic
visits, such as the visit between June 21 and 22, 1955, of Deputy Prime Minister
³ Wąs 2015.
 Wąs 2015.
 Jendraszczak 2001: 129.
 Kowalski 1988: 551.
 Brandys 1954: 9.
 Levi 2012: 71.
Pak I Wan, who participated in the celebration of Foundation Day in Poland,
but also because North Korean institutions were organised according to structures
in Central Europe.
Despite the lack of funds due to the disastrous economic consequences of
World War 2, there was also a global initiative among European communist
countries to send medical teams to support the North Korean authorities in
the development of the country’s medical sectors49. Poles worked in dierent
cities, such as Huichon, and its suburb Hungnam in a building that was part
of the city’s former fertiliser plants.
One month later, they moved to the
city of Hamhung, where, considering the needs of the population, they set up
an orthopaedic hospital that is still in operation today and is considered the best
institution of its kind in North Korea.51
When the Polish hospital was inaugurated in May 1953, it consisted of eight
barracks serving as a trauma centre, replacing the North Korean Military Hospital.
e hospital was ocially inaugurated in a document entitled ‘Agreement between
the Government of the People’s Republic of Poland and the Government of the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the establishment of the Polish Red
Cross hospital in North Korea’ signed on May 8, 1953.52 e North Korean
name was 파란 병원 (Paran Pyeongwon), Polish Hospital. is hospital was
considered the best gift from Poland to the Korean nation.
e local Polish team
was composed of engineers, technicians, and specialists in hospital construction
but also of young people with limited experience. Poles were assisted by younger
Korean specialists.54 Polish doctors were rewarded with a salary in Chinese Yuan
and North Korean Won.55 According to the previously mentioned agreement,
Polish authorities were supposed to fund the salaries and living expenses of
a maximum of 55 doctors. Doctors also gave lectures to future North Korean
medical employees. e lectures were prepared in Polish and then translated into
Russian, due to the lack of Polish translators, then translated into Korean.56 Tens of
thousands of North Korean citizens were treated by Polish doctors. In August 1952,
there were some rumours of biological weapons left by the Americans. Already
in the 1950s, several articles in the Polish press were dedicated to the mission
 Frenkel-Czarniecka 2014: 108.
 Hungnam became a ward of Hamhung in 2005.
¹ e head of the second team of Polish medical doctors servicing the hospital told the PNA:
‘During my 8-month stay, having 150 at disposition and 12 specialist clinics, doctors made
700 surgeries, provided ambulatory aid to more than 110,000 people. RTG lab made 12,000
X-rays and about 3,500 pictures. ere were about 400 prescriptions per day.
² Levi 2012: 74.
³ Braun 1956: 7.
 Braun 1956: 55.
 Frenkel-Czarniecka 2014: 112.
 Knypl 2014b: 23–28; Knypl 2014a: 25–28.
fullled by Polish doctors based on the Korean Peninsula.57 e humanitarian
organisation Caritas Polska continues to fund the hospital in Hamhung but the
medical ‘tools’ from the 1960s are still used to treat current patients.58 Similar
hospitals were erected by other communist countries from Eastern Europe and
were named based on the donor; therefore, there are hospitals built by Bulgaria,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and the Soviets in North Korea.59 Polish
specialists sent to North Korea obtained prestigious positions when they came
back to Poland. For instance, Professor Władysław Barcikowski became a deputy
minister of health in Poland. Professor Jan Oszacki became the president of the
Jagiellonian University of Krakow.60
e last team of Polish specialists, which consisted of 20 people, left North
Korea in 1986. ey returned to Poland on the same ight with General Wojciech
Jaruzelski, who visited North Korea in September 1986.
Except for doctors, Poland also sent numerous teams of specialists including
miners and urban engineers, who over time trained North Korean citizens,
also in Poland.
Polish experts also helped rebuild locomotive and carriage factories
in Pyongyang and other cities of North Korea. For instance, Poles participated in
modernising three coal mines, including one in Anju,
the largest coal-producing
area in North Korea. Poles also contributed to the development of coal mines in
Sinchon by conducting geological analysis and assessing coal reserves.63
Polish urbanists also came up with the plan of rebuilding Chongjin and
created projects for two residential compounds in this city. Polish technicians,
including Piotr Zaremba, the rst mayor of Szczecin after World War 2, who
arrived in Wonsan, helped to revive destroyed railway companies. In Wonsan,
the following companies and Polish cities were involved in this project: a rolling-
stock company from Poland, machinery tools produced by Rafmet, lathes from
the city of Pruszków, and compressors from the company Chrzanowska Fabryka
 Cegielski 1956: 193–195; Daniłoś, Horzela, Oszacki 1956: 195–197; Józef Daniłoś was the
deputy director on political education issues at the Polish Hospital in Hungnam between
1953 and 1954. Tadeusz Horzela was the deputy director on medical and education issues for
the same period. Kuczyńska-Sicińska 1958: 528–530. Jadwiga Kuczyńska-Sicińska worked as
a doctor at the PCK between 1954 and 1955.
 Janina Ochojska, the leader of Polish Humanitarian Aid, claims that Caritas Polska would
continue nancial support of the hospital in Hamhung. Fundacja Polska Akcja Humanitarna–
Raport za rok 2005 2005: 23.
 Rolicka 1994: 102.
 Rolicka 1994: 102.
¹ Braun 1956: 283.
² e Polish geologist Adam Dudek mentions the Anju coal mine in his book Poszukiwacze 1987:
³ e original writing used by the author for Anju is Aodzi. Ogarek-Czoj 1965: 91.
Lokomotyw (Locomotives Factory of Chrzanów). e rst group of specialists in
transportation arrived in Pyongyang on December 7, 1953. In addition, the rst
silicate plants in Korea were established under a contract signed between the
Foreign Trade panels: Korean Daesong and Polish Polimex-Cekop.64 Concrete
came from ZREMB Makrum in Bydgoszcz. e Polish urbanist Stefan Słoński was
a co-author of the Urbanisation Plan of the city of Wonsan. e key realisation of
this project was the adaptation of the Korean ondol oor-heat system to residential
buildings.65 Poles underlined in their reports the lack of raw materials provided
by the North Korean side.66 e North Korean authorities, in turn, complained
about an accident caused by drunk Polish workers in 1955.67
Furthermore, the Warszawa, which was the rst newly designed Polish car built
after the Second World War, was quite often seen in the streets of Pyongyang.68
Józef Cyrankiewicz, then prime minister of Poland, visited North Korea in
April 1957. He observed the site constructed by Poles, such as the rolling stock
repair plants in Pyongyang and Wonsan. No Poles were working there except the
management board of both plants. Adam Bielunas led the plant in Pyongyang
and Paweł Brzozecki the factory in Wonsan.69
Regarding economic issues, supplies provided between 1954 and 1959 were
used to implement the Korean ‘5-year planication plan’. e aid usually consisted
of free deliveries of materials, resources, machinery, and appliances provided by
selected allies of the USSR, mainly European countries and Mongolia. Initially,
each of these countries was theoretically supposed to be specialised and focused
on a specic sector, nevertheless, the Korean economic needs were so signicant
that these countries were involved in various branches of the Korean economy.
For instance, Czechoslovakia provided electronic machines, measuring devices,
chemicals, paper and medicine, a car factory in Tokchon, machinery for cement
mixing plants, and a few hydrological power plants in Huichon and Unsan.
Hungary delivered machine tools, machinery, electrical appliances, pipes, metal
wires, and oil products. Hungarians also built a factory producing chemicals,
paper and medicine. East Germany built rolling mills and an engine factory.70
Wires, cement, glass, and medicine came from Bulgaria. Mongolia is the only
country that specialised in one specic area of the humanitarian aid brought to
North Korea. e Mongolian authorities provided 10,000 horses, sheepskin,
 Konecka 1989: 40.
 Ogarek-Czoj 1965: 92.
 Levi 2012: 80.
 Levi 2012: 198.
 Dubrowski 1961: 10.
 In both cities, Poles had their own dormitories and cinema rooms. Wiec w kolonii polskiej
w Phenianie 1957: 1.
 Szalontai 2005: 46.
and meat. is specialisation was because this country likewise needed foreign
support at all levels and in every sector of its economy.
Poland became the fourth humanitarian supplier to North Korea in the period
following the Korean War. e Polish support was based on a treaty signed on
January 14, 1955, entitled Umowa o udzieleniu pomocy KRL-D (‘Agreement of
support for the DPRK’). In this document, it was stipulated that North Korea
was supposed to receive nancial support worth PLZ 365 million in the period
On April 30, an agreement on postal services and communication
was signed by the countries.72 On December 16, 1955, an agreement entitled
Protokół o płatnościach niehandlowych między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczpospolitej
Handlowej a Rządem Koreańskiej Republiki Ludowo-Demokratycznej (‘Protocol on
non-commercial payments between the Government of the Polish Trade Republic
and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’), which
regulated expenses by both diplomatic missions and delegations. Globally speaking,
North Korea is a country that received the biggest nancial support from other
socialist countries during the period of the communist alliance (1945–1991).73
Table 1. Financial support to North Korea (1954–1956)
Currency and unit: SUR mln
Providers Financial support As a percentage
of the total aid
USSR 292.5 38%
PRC 258.4 34%
East Germany 122.7 15%
Poland 81.5 10%
Romania 5.6 1%
Hungary 5.6 1%
Bulgaria 4.5 1%
Source: Levi 2009, [in] Żelichowski 2009: 351.
On March 28, 1956, an economic agreement was signed by both countries
under the name Umowa między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczpospolitej Ludowej i Rządem
Koreańskiej Republiki Ludowo-Demokratycznej o obrocie towarowym i płatnościach
na rok 1956 (‘Agreement between the Government of the Polish People’s Republic
¹ Levi 2012: 80.
² See Umowa między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej a Rządem Koreańskiej Republiki
Ludowo-Demokratycznej w sprawie transportu poczty i komunikacji 1955.
³ Harden 2016: 232.
and the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea on Trade in
Goods and Payments for 1956’), indicating goods that are supposed to be traded
between the two countries. Poland was supposed to export machinery and fabrics.
North Korea was supposed to export raw materials such as magnesite. Based on
statistical data, the two following facts are clear: in 1956, North Korea was the
third economic partner of Poland after China and Turkey; and, in 1956, the
trade with North Korea represented 0.8% of the global foreign trade of Poland.
In 1948–1956, North Korea represented no more than 1% of the foreign trade of
Poland and rather close to 0.3%. Until 1961, every year an economic agreement
was signed, underlying which goods would be traded between the countries.
To improve relations between the countries, in June 1961, an agreement for
the mutual exchange of products was signed. A similar agreement was signed
already in the 1950s with other socialist countries (with the PRC in 1950 and
with Ceylon in 1955).
Table 2. Bilateral trade between Poland and North Korea (1948–1959)
Currency and unit: PLZ mln
Year Polish Export
to North Korea
North Korean Export
to Poland
Trade Balance
1948 –
1949 –
1950 0 0 0
1951 0 0 0
1952 0 0 0
1953 0 0 0
1954 0 0 0
1955 0 0 0
1956 31 4.5 26.5
1957 52.5 10.6 41.9
1958 5.6 3.3 2.3
1959 7.1 9.8 –2.7
Source: Compiled data from Statistics Poland.
Poland and other communist countries provided not only economic support
but also some education support to North Korean youth. ese young Korean
citizens had nowhere to study after the Korean War. e main educational sites
were destroyed. e Kim Il Sung University lacked lecturers. at’s why those who
were sent to Europe and other communist countries were supposed to participate
in the intellectual reconstruction of North Korea and to the replacement of non-
-North Korean specialists based in North Korea. erefore, Poland received an
inux of young exchange students from the North, studying mainly at technical
universities and agricultural colleges, but usually being aliated at least to
a certain extent to the WPK.74
Paulo Carvahlo mentions that in the early 1950s, there were already more than
500 North Korean students in Poland.75 In 1952, of the 301 foreign students
in Poland, only 20 were from North Korea. Patryk Laskot, a researcher at the
Institute of National Remembrance, notes in his research papers that this increase
is probably due to how Polish authorities began to count not only those who
were students but also those enrolled in courses or internships in the country. In
1954, 89 North Korean citizens came to Poland for their internship, mostly in the
production sector.76 at is why many of the North Korean citizens who arrived
in Poland in the 1950s were already in their 30s. For instance, on August 12,
1953, 123 North Korean citizens arrived to take a crash course in Polish at the
University of Łódź. When they arrived in this city, they received some clothes
oered by the Central Trading House and received suits adapted to their size.
Later, they had a health check-up. Among them were 25 cases of malaria, nine
cases of tuberculosis, two cases of otitis media, two of ringworms, two of heart
disease, and one case of haemorrhagic tumours. So, in all, every third North
Korean was seriously ill. Four citizens of the country were immediately sent to
North Korean students in Poland had not only health problems but also
administrative diculties. When 20 North Korean citizens arrived in Warsaw on
January 4, 1952, they had to wait 20 days before a Polish teacher was committed to
Meanwhile, they were kept at their student dormitory, Akademik, located
 I Sok Ju 2016: 350.
 Pleskot 2009: 15. Among the Korean community in Warsaw there was also a Soviet citizen,
a woman, with Korean roots (Koryosaram) who had arrived and settled in Warsaw in 1951.
See: Kochanowski 2009: 212.
 Levi 2012: 70.
 Pleskot 2009: 22.
 Pleskot 2009: 15.
on Plac Narutowicza.79 Some 119 other North Korean citizens settled into the
Student Dormitory House close to Bystrzycka Street in Warsaw on August 19.
On August 20, 1955, they started their Polish course. After passing all the exams
they attended Polish universities as regular students.
is large number of
North Korean citizens in Poland can be found in an administrative document
enumerating the number of foreigners with a permanent residency card in Poland
as of October 1955: among the 649 people registered, 96 were from North Korea,
the second-most-represented nationality in Warsaw after Spain (101 people). Of
Soviet citizens, only 69 people were registered.82
e North Koreans usually sought technical majors
in cities such as Gdańsk
(University of Gdańsk), Gliwice (Silesian University of Technology), Poznań
(Adam Mickiewicz University), Warsaw (especially at the University of Technology
in Warsaw, at the University of Warsaw, and the Warsaw University of Life
Sciences). Many of them also studied at the University of Science and Technology
in Kraków, which prepared them for future work in the mining industry.
According to ocial Polish statistics, there are estimates that in 1955/1956, out
of 575 foreign students, 367 came from North Korea.84 Although many North
Korean students knew Polish quite well by then, they lived separately while still
maintaining contact with Polish students, but to a small extent.85
As an answer to the diculties coped with by the North Korean students in
Poland, in August 1953, scholar support was to be implemented with respect to
North Korea. According to an ocial document entitled Notatka informacyjna Zoi
Zemankowej, zastępcy kierownika Wydziału Nauki KC PZPR, o pomocy naukowców
dla Korei Północnej (‘Information Note by Zoa Zemankowa, Deputy Head of the
Science Department of the PUWP Central Committee, on the Help of Scientists
for North Korea’)86, Polish education centres were supposed to actively support
the reconstruction of North Korea. e document indicated the voluntary status
of Polish scientists who contacted the Polish Academy of Sciences to concretely
support educational institutions in North Korea.
 e exact address is Akademicka 5.
 Pleskot 2009: 20.
¹ De Carvalho 1990: 23–25. Among the 301 foreign students in Poland in 1952, 20 were from
North Korea. See: Pleskot 2009: 15.
² North Korean orphans based in Świder, a city close to Warsaw, were probably included among
these 96 North Korean citizens. Kochanowski 2009: 218.
³ Ri Chun Su (North Korean Cultural Attaché to Poland) in discussion with the author, April
 Meanwhile, there were 53 students from China, 41 from Bulgaria. e gure related to students
from the USSR is not mentioned, but may be considered to be fewer than 15. De Carvalho
1990: 23–25.
 Based on the authors’ personal correspondence with Janusz Kochanowski, a former Commissioner
for Civil Rights Protection of the Republic of Poland, addressed on June 20, 2007.
 Pleskot, Rutkowski 2009: 111–113.
From a cultural perspective, a rst treaty entitled Agreement on Cultural
Cooperation Between the Government of the Polish People’s Republic and
the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Cultural
Cooperation Between Both Countries was signed on May 11, 1956, and came
into force on January 31, 1957, and functioned until 1971, being automatically
prolonged every ve years.
According to it, both sides were annually supposed to
send delegations to the other country to update it on its status. Protocols regarding
education cooperation, religion, radio, lm, and health were also mentioned in
this global agreement. Learning Polish in North Korea was also supposed to be
promoted. During the World Festival of Youth, which took place in Warsaw
from July 31 to August 15, 1955, a North Korean delegation of 158 came,
including 39 athletes, 98 dancers, and 21 journalists, which represented 3% of all
delegations. In comparison, there were 706 Chinese and 310 Indian delegates.88
A few months later, the orchestra of the Polish Army visited North Korea while
at the Dramatic eatre of Pyongyang, an exhibition devoted to Polish Author
Adam Mickiewicz was held. In 1960, an exhibition of North Korean pictures
entitled ‘Chollima’ and an exhibition of North Korean children’s cartoons were
presented in Poland.89
Starting in 1957, a Polish-North Korea committee focused on scientic
and technical cooperation was to hold meetings every year.90 e rst meetings
were held in December 1958. Between then and 1971, the committee held just
10 meetings, signed 122 resolutions favouring Korea and 60 favouring the
Polish side, for instance, allowing Polish scientists to go to North Korea. On the
same basis, North Korean engineers and technicians had internships in Poland,
for example, in the mining industry, and scientists from Poland learned about
breeding and plant cultivation. Botanists such as Leon Stuchlik went to Korea
for scientic expeditions. Polish education centres proposed support through the
transfer of electro-machinery. e Electrotechnical Institute, which undertook to
help to rebuild Pyongyang University of Technology, provided the Pyongyang
authorities with an impressive amount of technical documentation necessary for
the construction of laboratories. e Polish Water Institute submitted a project
to make hydrological eld tests in North Korea, and the Vibration Research
Department was to prepare acoustic documentation for one cinema in Pyongyang.
 See Umowa o współpracy kulturalnej między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej a Rządem
Koreańskiej Republiki Ludowo-Demokratycznej podpisana w Phenianie dnia 11 maja 1956 r. 1956.
 See Raport Polityczny Ambasady Polskiej Rzeczpospolitej Ludowej w Koreańskiej Republice Ludowo-
Demokratycznej za okres od 1 maja do30 czerwca 1955 r. 1955. A dierent source provides a
gure of 184 North Korean citizens present at this festival. Krzywicki 2009: 35.
 Kutte 1973: 261.
 See Porozumienie o współpracy naukowo-technicznej zawarte między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej
Ludowej a Rządem Koreańskiej Republiki Ludowo-Demokratycznej 1957.
A commission of the Polish Academy of Sciences was supposed to be created to
determine needs for North Korea.
Polish culture also emerged in Pyongyang, not only through exhibitions,
like in 1957 when Polish art was shown in Pyongyang,91 musical shows, with
the visit of the State Folk Ensemble of Song and Dance ‘Mazowsze’ in January
but also on North Koreans’ dinner plates. In memory of the ocer
Marian Reinberger, we learned that during weekends ocials used to go to the
Polish restaurant in Pyongyang called Warszawa (Warsaw).
Polish cooks worked
there, serving typical dishes of Polish cuisine. It is worth mentioning that this
Polish restaurant was only one of three foreign restaurants in Pyongyang. e
rst one was a restaurant with hot dishes prepared by a Japanese citizen with
Korean roots, the second was a Hungarian restaurant, and the third was the
Polish one. Warszawa was located on Changwang Street, about 100 meters from
the Koryo Hotel. It closed in the 1970s. Interestingly, there was also a North
Korean restaurant in Warsaw under the name Phenian (Pyongyang in Polish), at
Senatorska 27, in the centre of Warsaw. Half of the working team was Polish and
half came from North Korea. In the late 1970s, the name of this restaurant changed
to Insam.94
e Korean War, which occurred between 1950 and 1953, limited exchange
between both countries to marginal economic cooperation and mostly to Poland’s
support of North Korea related to reconstruction.
e USSR, the PRC, European communist countries, and Mongolia agreed
on a global project focusing on taking care of Korean children who had lost their
parents during the Korean War. Already during the war as a sign of solidarity
with the North Korean authorities, the Polish authorities had proposed some
social and nancial initiatives to North Korean ocials in which Poland would
care for some North Korean orphans. is large initiative was not only conducted
for humanitarian reasons but for propaganda purposes as well, used to mark
¹ Kutte 1973: 261.
² Dubrowski 1961: 7.
³ Reinberger 2005: 3. Some Polish dishes such as dumplings (pierogi) were also served at the
Taedongang Diplomatic Club.
 A North Korean restaurant was established in Krakow in the 1990s. is facility was co-
managed by the sister of the former prosecutor of North Korea, Ri Kil Song, and some former
North Korean students who had become responsible for hiring North Korean workers who
were supposed to work in construction projects in Poland. Kittel 2006.
the orphans as one of the consequences of the U.S. intervention in the Korean
erefore, Poland brought about 200 North Korean orphans and placed
them in orphanages all around Poland, starting from November 1950.95 After
a journey of 14 days, the orphans found a home in Gołotczyzna, close to the
city of Ciechanów. However due to a lack of educational institutions nearby
Gołotczyzna, starting from November 23, 1951, all of the children were moved to
various parts of the city of Otwock, such as Świder (an orphanage on Komunardów
Street) and Sopliców.96 In particular, the construction of the building in Świder
was partially funded by the North Korean embassy in Warsaw.97 Pak Jon Suk is
the name of the rst North Korean orphan registered at this orphanage.
their departure in 1959, the orphans planted pines and birch trees; their journey
is also commemorated with a stela.99
e orphanage of Świder was visited by Kim Il Sung in July 1956. In the
assembly hall of this former orphanage, there was a commemorative tablet that
read: ‘We were living happily in this house between 1951 and 1959. We will
remember forever the motherly support of the nation of Poland’.
Other orphans lived in Otwock, at Bernardyńska Street 13 and Zaciszna
Street 54 (regarding the latter, it was a famous building in the city called
Willa Anulka, which was destroyed in the mid-1990s). Children went to
primary school Nos. 1, 2, and 5 in Otwock but the majority were educated at
a primary school located on Wojskiego Street. is school was around two
kilometres from the orphanage at Bernardyńska Street.e building at Bernardyńska
Street was destroyed in 2016, and as of 2017, there was a retirement centre there
that kept a stela commemorating the presence of North Korean orphans in
Sopliców, a part of Otwock.
On January 1, 1955, some 1,270 new Korean orphans were placed in Płakowice,
near Lwówek Śląski. When North Korean orphans arrived there, they were in touch
with other orphans from Greece, Poland, and the USSR. is large institution
constituted a school, some dormitories and boarding homes, and two pitches.
Korean children were educated by Polish teachers and teachers from North Korea,
including Korean people responsible for their security. ese young orphans
were taught various classical subjects such as mathematics and biology but also
learnt the Polish language. After a few months, many of them were able to speak
 Some young North Koreans arrived on November 23, 1950. Cze Czan Ir 1957: 4.
 Kałuszko 2004. In the 1970s, Otwock was a partner city to Sunchon and a Polish-Korean
friendship rural cooperative was located there. Konecka 1989: 49.
 is building was quickly called the Korean House (Dom Koreański).
 Kałuszko 2004.
 e orphanage in Świder has served since 2012 as the Architecture and Construction Department
of the administration of Otwock.
prociently in Polish. Some other orphans were placed in Zgorzelec, close to
the German border.100 Older kids started higher education in technical schools
in Warsaw; many of them also went to schools with dormitories, such as City
and Suburbs Construction High School of Wrocław (Wrocławskie Technikum
Budowy Miast i Osiedli), at Górnicza Szkoła Zawodów101 or Poznań University.
erefore, until 1959, a relatively large North Korean population, mainly
composed of 30-year-olds, lived in Poland. e rst year of study was focused on
learning the Polish language in cities such as Gdańsk, Gliwice, Poznań, Kraków,
Łódź, or Warsaw. After that, they were able to complete a degree in Poland. e
whole journey of these students was nancially covered by the Polish authorities,
including accommodation, food, return tickets to North Korea, and other
Some Polish historians consider that the issue of North Korean orphans was
kept secret,102 but that seems to be inaccurate, mostly because the inhabitants
of the previously mentioned cities were in touch with these young Koreans,
for example, going together to primary schools. Secondly, this issue was also
mentioned in the contemporary Polish press.103 For example, Kim Wan Un and
Ri Jin Ben,104 two students at Poznan University, visited the city of Mogilno for
a few days starting on July 22, 1959.105 Another example is the case of Li San-
hy, who won nationwide shooting competitions of mining schools in 1955.106
North Korean orphans in Central Europe were also regularly mentioned in
the North Korean press.107
Despite an agreement signed between Poland and North Korea stipulating
that all of these children would return to North Korea after that had nished
either high school or other studies, their quiet life in Poland was interrupted by
the visit on September 4–7, 1959, of Jon In Saen, the North Korean deputy
minister of education. is North Korean ocial came to Poland to discuss the
return of North Korean orphans to their home country, providing limited
explanations to the Polish authorities. In total, 606 orphans suddenly left Poland
and returned to North Korea between 1957 and 1958. Once back in North Korea,
some of them continued to live in orphanages but were sent to ones with other
orphans from abroad. e orphans grouped themselves based on the country
¹ Kubrak 2016: 388.
¹¹ Centrum Edukacji w Zabrzu – Kalendarium 2017: 2.
¹² Kubrak 2016: 388.
¹³ Nasze dzieci – sieroty, oary pożogi wojennej-wychowują się w Waszym kraju, a naród otoczył je
prawdziwą opieką rodzicielską. Spotkanie z delegacją KRL-D 1956: 2.
¹ Ri Jin Ben is the original version in written Polish by this student.
¹ Kaczyński 2019.
¹ Centrum Edukacji w Zabrzu – Kalendarium,
(accessed: 20.08.2019), p. 3.
¹ 진형제의마음으로 1956: 1.
where they had been educated. is created factions, such as one composed of
those coming from China, others from Romania, and a Polish one, etc.108 e
largest group was the Chinese one. Not all North Korean citizens who had been
educated in Poland were forced to return to their native country. Students in
their last year of study remained in Poland until 1959. By that year, 120 North
Korean students had obtained a diploma from a Polish university.109
e previously mentioned Kim Wan Un and Ri Jin Ben were able to remain
in Poland until the completion of their education in 1961 at the University of
Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań. Kim Wan Un became a research worker at the
Institute of History at the Academy of Social Sciences in Pyongyang. He married
and became the father of two sons. He died on November 12, 1968, at the age
of 30. In his childhood, he lived in the Kumkang area near Wonsan, where he
was born on February 11, 1938. Ri Jin Ben, born on May 2, 1932, in Hyesan,
initially worked as an engineer at Kangson and then became its vice-director.
Friends called him a Korean Pole.110
Initially, some of the Polish orphans wrote letters to their European tutors,
but nally, it became more or less too dicult for them to communi