July 09, 2020

Two Koreas battle for hearts and minds in Africa
Developments in North Korea’s Africa policy

Africa has taken center stage in recent months as Seoul and Pyongyang jockey for influence within the Third World. Much attention has been given to South Korea’s recent charm offensive, led by President Park Geun-hye’s May tour of Africa. The trip culminated in a key victory by Park to undermine North Korea’s influence in the region — an announcement by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that his country would sever military and security ties with Pyongyang, ending a long-standing Cold War partnership.

Uganda’s decision was followed by Namibia, another longtime ally of Pyongyang, agreeing to comply with UN sanctions by ousting two North Korean firms that were constructing an arms and munition factory in nation’s capital, Windhoek. The further chipping away at North Korea’s dwindling list of allies has been lauded as an indication that international pressures are further isolating Kim Jong Un’s regime. Despite the losses, North Korea’s ability to appeal to leaders across Africa, in particular authoritarian regimes with a similar pariah status from Western institutions, remains strong and a region of potential growth for North Korea’s foreign relations.