History is a very interesting thing. Friends become foes in a jiffy and then, they break their heads to mend ways. And it will look more interesting if there are multiple viewpoints of this happening. Just have a look at the Cultural Revolution. This is something internal to China. But, Korea gets jittery. This escalates to the level of an economic sanctions but China is later mollified. The case stands thus. Korea is not happy and is scared of Cultural Revolution. But, it hasn’t got the guts to oppose China. At least, they expected China to go ballistic so that they can cry victim and extract goodies. Everyone, everywhere is criticizing the Koreans and not the Chinese. And it is worthy to note, only Soviet Russia said the problem is because of China and not Korea. They are more interested in fishing in these troubled waters for their benefit and nothing more. Does this reflect upon the real power projections and interests involved?
The DPRK Attitude Toward the so-called ‘Cultural Revolution’ in China – 07 March 1967
“With the exception of Kim Il Sung, Korean workers avoid conversations on this subject [of the Cultural Revolution] or limit themselves to general phrases which mean nothing.
As events develop in China the KWP leadership has exhibited ever-growing concern and caution. In a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador in November 1966 Kim Il Sung said, “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has seriously alarmed us.” Explaining the reasons for such alarm, Kim Il Sung pointed to the fact that KWP members “still are not so experienced [zakaleny] as to correctly understand everything”
“The leaders of the KWP speak of the so-called ‘Great Cultural Revolution’ as a ‘great madness [obaldenie]’, having nothing in common with either culture or a revolution.”
“The Korean comrades speak of the ‘thousands of victims during the so-called ‘revolution’, the ‘suicides’, the ‘political chaos’, and the ‘chaos in the economy,’ about Mao Zedong as ‘an old fool who has gone out of his mind.‘ In lectures they cite instances of political and economic pressure on the DPRK from the Chinese government.”
“Speaking at a festive meeting (dedicated to the 19th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army) O Jin-u, Deputy Minister of Defense, said, ‘The hope of any rift in our Party and our revolutionary ranks is stupid naïveté.’ This statement might be regarded as a response to the Chinese for their attempts to conduct a campaign of slander against the DPRK.”
“Questions (about the Cultural Revolution) were raised in a report by Kim Il Sung at a KWP Party conference (October 1966). Although there was no direct criticism of the Chinese leadership in his speech, it was later explained to KWP members in lectures and conversations to whom the accusations of left opportunism were addressed. In a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador in October 1966, Kim Il Sung said that, “They could not fail to touch on theoretical issues at the KWP conference inasmuch as right now a big uproar had developed in China around the ‘Great Cultural Revolution,’ which might exert a great influence on our Party (see our ref. Nº 286 of 21 October 1966).
The DPRK MFA requested that all accredited embassies in Pyongyang remove photographic showcases beginning 1 February. The Korean comrades did not conceal that this measure was directed against the Chinese government. All embassies except China’s carried out this instruction. The photographic showcase propagandizing the so-called “Cultural Revolution” still hangs at the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang. Repeated statements of the DPRK MFA directed at the Chinese Embassy remain unanswered. The Korean authorities have resorted to “administrative measures,” forbidding residents of the city from walking past the showcase. Also, a photographic showcase was recently reopened by the Albanian Embassy in Pyongyang. The Korean authorities regarded these actions by the Chinese and Albanians as “provocative and criminal.”
Speaking before representatives of the accredited embassies of the socialist countries in Pyongyang, Pak [Cheon-seok], the Chief of the Protocol Department of the DPRK MFA, said that “our people are indignant at the ‘arrogant’ behavior of the Chinese. The Chinese and the Albanians are behaving like hysterical people,” “they are not able to avoid responsibility for the criminal actions damaging the interests of the DRPK.”
Chinese students and part of the specialists have left Pyongyang.
The newly appointed DPRK Ambassador to China has not yet left for Beijing. The Korean leaders speak indignantly of attacks by the Red Guards on officials of the Korean Embassy in Beijing.
In conversations the Korean leaders sharply condemn the actions of the Mao Zedong and his group, and correctly assess the harm events in China are causing to the international Communist movement and the socialist camp. At the same time, the Korean leadership does not dare openly criticize the Chinese, trying to avoid anything that might be used by the Chinese for anti-Korean purposes.
Telegram from Pyongyong to Bucharest 20 May 1967
It is noteworthy that the Korean side was the one which took initiative to make public, internally and externally, the precarious character of its relations with China.
At these meetings, briefings about the situation in China and the state of Sino-Korean relations were made, assigning all the blame to China, which was accused of interfering in North Korea’s internal affairs and of trying to strangle it economically.
In its relations with other socialist countries, the Korean authorities also wanted to make it known that their relations with China are worsening, making Beijing responsible for some of DPRK’s internal economic problems: cooking oil and grain shortages, petroleum products, coke coal.
It is worth noting that the Chinese, although well aware of how North Korea exploits its relations with China, adopted an indifferent, immovable and expectative attitude, a position which implied no consequences or replies to the various actions undertaken by the North Koreans with a view to aggravating their relations with China. Therefore, the Chinese did not publish any materials on DPRK-PRC relations, they did not respond to the declarations made at press conferences or in newspapers, which should be noted as an exception to the rule. Through this [approach] the Chinese wanted to find out to what extent the North Koreans are willing to aggravate their relations with China.
It seems that the attitude of the Chinese confused the North Koreans, who expected harsh retorts from the PRC, based on the characteristic style of Chinese propaganda. The North Koreans were hoping to create an opportunity to pose as the victims of Chinese attacks, which would undoubtedly have increased their chances and leverage in their relations with other socialist countries. However, the attitude of the Chinese made the North Koreans more cautious [in their dealings with the PRC].
a. The level of diplomatic representation for the two countries is that of charges d’affaires. The Chinese ambassador left Pyongyang on October 26, 1966, without having returned to his position.
Unofficial sources stated that the ambassador has been imprisoned (previously, he was the first secretary of the Shenyang province party committee). This rumor also appeared in relation to his predecessor.
b. Sino-Korean cultural relations have been inexistent for almost two years, and beforehand, they were limited to sports teams exchanges. At the contests between these sports teams, no tickets were sold and the sports halls were filled with people selected [by the authorities].
d. On consular affairs, individual traffic and on-the-border commerce reached a halt, while repatriations and family visits were stopped. Chinese language schools in the DPRK were closed down for an unlimited duration.
f. The North Korean press does not publish any news related to the PRC.
There are no visible signs that the current state of Sino-Korean relations will change in one way or another. Because the North Koreans have no achieved the desired outcomes from aggravating the Chinese, meaning that the Chinese did not respond to Pyongyang’s actions, which reveals the scorn and the self-confidence of the Chinese, it can be assumed that the North Koreans will limit themselves to those actions that they have undertaken until now. The Korean leadership does not want to irk the PRC too much because this would jeopardize the military support that the Chinese could offer in case of an armed conflict with the South Koreans and the Americans and because it fears this would reactivate the Yan’an faction, in exile in Beijing, composed of Kim Il Sung’s old party activist comrades which the North Korean leader wanted to eliminate.
At the time, these leaders were accused of undermining the party. The reactivation of this faction would create serious problems for the current North Korean leadership especially with regard to the cult of personality in North Korea, by disclosing the fictitious nature of some of Kim Il Sung’s achievements.
Report of Hungarian Embassy, China to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry 20 November 1967
As an attachment, hereby I submit a news that was published in the international news column of the October 27 issue of the Red Guard newspaper named Dongfanghong.
During the Cultural Revolution, it already happened on several occasions that the [Red Guards] launched [verbal] attacks on the Korean leaders, but the utterances made in this article were the sharpest so far. The diplomats of the Korean embassy made extremely indignant declarations about the anti-Korean attack launched by the Chinese. We are of the opinion that the publication of this article played a role in that the Korean party sent a higher-level delegation to Moscow.
In recent times the Korean revisionists have shown an anti-Chinese tendency that is becoming more and more insane. The Korean revisionists are terrified by the Cultural Revolution. They say that nearly all intellectuals were killed in the Cultural Revolution. What scroundels they are, damn it! Anxious to pursue a policy of cooperating with the Soviet Union and opposing China, the Korean revisionists wholly deny the immense distinction that our heroic volunteers gained in the course of the anti-American resistance war aimed at helping Korea. Mad with rage, the gang of Kim Il Sung is slandering us by claiming that the assistance [we] gave to Korea during the anti-American war was motivated by our „national egoism” and we did that „for our own good.” It is even more hateful that the Korean revisionists are slandering us by claiming that the Korean War was „provoked” by us. This is how low the Korean revisionists have fallen! Now they are even digging up the graves of our volunteers who heroically sacrificed their lives in the Korean War! What more will we tolerate if we tolerate that? We sternly warn Kim Il Sung and his ilk that those who cooperate with the USA and the revisionists, and pursue an anti-Chinese policy, will come to a bad end. Sooner or later, the Korean people will rise up and settle up with you.
Report of Hungarian Embassy, Soviet Russia to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry 20 November 1967
According to the information received from the competent department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, several signs indicate that Sino-Korean relations keep worsening. Among these signs, we mention first of all that recently new pamphlets were published in Beijing, which contained a sharp attack on the Korean Workers’ Party and the person of Kim Il Sung, threatening the leader of the Korean Workers’ Party with that the Korean people would take vengeance upon him for his revisionist policy. The estrangement of relations was also indicated by, for instance, the circumstances under which the latest Chinese holiday was celebrated in the DPRK. At the reception of the Chinese embassy, the level of representation on the Koreans’ part was very low, the telegram of congratulations the Korean leaders sent to the Chinese was very cold, and no festive mass meetings took place in the country on the occasion of the Chinese national holiday. According to the information available for our [Soviet] comrades, the Chinese chargé d’affaires to Pyeongyang complains of that his opportunities to maintain contacts are very limited.
In the course of their contacts with the Soviet comrades, the Koreans, on their part, lay a rather great stress on the worsening of Sino-Korean relations, and they particularly emphasize that these relations have worsened in the economic field as well, for China does not supply those traditional export articles which are of primary importance for the Korean national economy, or it supplies [only] a relatively small amount of them. For example, coking coal, without which the furnaces of the DPRK would cease work, is such an article.
Nevertheless, it is the impression of our comrades that although the Chinese side indeed tends to reduce its economic contacts with Korea, the Korean side exaggerates the extent of that [pressure] while negotiating with the Soviet comrades. The obvious reason of this is that they strive to bring the Soviet Union to increase [Soviet-North Korean] economic contacts to such an extent that would also include certain opportunities of over-insurance for the DPRK.
In the course of the Moscow negotiations, which lasted approximately for a month, […] the Korean side proposed a substantial extension of the list of articles exchanged between the two countries, namely, by increasing Soviet exports through the increased supply of machinery and equipment, auto and tractor tires, rolled non-ferrous metals, and other “hard” goods, whereas it intended to increase [North Korean] exports to the Soviet Union by [supplying] goods whose exports had already been halted and of which the Soviet Union had, and has, little need. Despite that, the Soviets, on their part, showed willingness to accept, on the whole, the Korean proposal, with regard to both exports and imports,