Korea

Organized Panel Session

1 - Mobilizing the Masses: The Vietnam War and Welcoming Foreign Leaders in North Korea

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8216, Lobby Level

This paper explores the intersection of North Korea’s domestic and foreign policies. Often times, these two facets of the North Korean system are separated into two distinct categories and rarely dealt with in tandem. However, the North Korean leadership used international events, such as the Vietnam War or the visit of a foreign leader, to foster popular support for the regime and mobilize its citizens. While Kim Il Sung never sent ground troops to support Ho Chi Minh’s war effort, the Vietnam War played an important in North Korea’s domestic politics. In the spring of 1965, the North Korean government organized “volunteer fighter” recruiting rallies for the Vietnam War. These “volunteers” were never sent to Vietnam but the North Korean government used these rallies to instill anti-Americanism, socialist internationalism, and paranoia in its citizens. The North Korean government also used the visits of foreign dignitaries to mobilize its people. In 1982, Aristides Pereira, the obscure leader of Cape Verde, visited North Korea and met Kim Il Sung. After landing at the airport in Pyongyang, thousands of North Koreans lined the streets and welcomed a leader that most had never heard of. This ability to mobilize its people for such events impressed foreign leaders and was used by the North Korean government to promote discipline and commitment domestically. Pyongyang selectively used international events as a mobilization device. This suggests that continuous popular support for the Kim family regime is one of the utmost concerns for the North Korean government.

Benjamin Young

George Washington University, New York

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1 - Mobilizing the Masses: The Vietnam War and Welcoming Foreign Leaders in North Korea



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