November 29, 2023

1989 in North Korea: What We Were(n’t) Told

"Everyone knew North Korea was becoming increasingly isolated. But, as with everything in the DPRK, when people were in public, they pretended to have no idea about what was going on."

1989 was a historic year for the entire world. Across Eastern Europe, people who had lived under oppressive communist governments for forty years took to the streets, mostly peacefully, and communism fell. Even in China, North Korea’s neighbour, thousands of students and workers marched in Tiananmen Square in Beijing for more freedom and an end to political corruption.

Two years later, the first communist country in history, the Soviet Union, collapsed. And suddenly, North Korea, in a span of three years, went from being part of an international communist family, with comrades everywhere, to being one of only a handful of officially “Marxist-Leninist” states.