May 19, 2024

The Pueblo as a North Korean monument

Captured vessel emerged as symbol of victory over the U.S. as Kim Jong Il took power

Nowadays an interesting sight greets visitors to the Fatherland Liberation War Victory Memorial in downtown Pyongyang: a U.S. naval vessel moored on the Potong river. Every Pyongyangite is well-aware of what it is: the Pueblo, a U.S. naval intelligence vessel seized by the North Koreans in 1968.

The story of the Pueblo is well-known to everybody interested in Korean contemporary history or the international politics of the Cold War era. On January 23, 1968 this small and otherwise rather unremarkable ship was on an intelligence-gathering mission on the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, where it was approached by North Korean vessels, boarded and captured. The North Korean government continues to maintain that the Pueblo violated North Korean waters, while the American side insists that events unfolded in international waters. Wherever happened, the seizure of the Pueblo was part of a drive by the North Korean side to escalate tensions in the region.

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