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N. Levi: Review of 65-year of North Korean studies in Poland

The aim of this text is to provide a review of North Korean studies made in Poland for the past 65 years. This text will review the main trends associated to North Korean studies. There are two generations of researchers in North Korean studies in Poland. As of now the youngest generation of Polish researchers is dealing with challenges.

The Korean Peninsula was liberated from the Japanese rule on the 15th August 1945. However the Korean Peninsula was divided in two parts. The northern part of the Korean Peninsula became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the southern part emerged as being the Republic of Korea.

Due to political connections between the DPRK and Poland (Poland was one of the first state which recognized North Korea. Warsaw recognized Pyongyang regime on the 18th October 1948), research on North Korean issues was never considered as a taboo. The first Polish institute, which has published ahead with North Korean studies during the Cold War era, is the faculty of Korean studies of the University of Warsaw. According to Christoph Janasiak from the University of Warsaw, The history of Korea as a subject of university study in Poland began in 1953. However, some Polish books related to the modern Korean Peninsula were already published in 1951. One of them is “Zeszyt znaleziony w Sunczen” (A copybook found in Sunchon), a book written by Roman Kim, a Russian author with Korean roots. It was translated by Janusz Przymanowski, a famous Polish translator who passed away in 1998. The most famous polish researcher on Korean issues was Halina Ogarek-Czoj (1931-1963). This lady studied in North Korea after the Korean War at the Kim Il-sung University. Later she got married with a North Korean politician (many Poles based in North Korea got married with North Koreans). Nevertheless in summer 1963, the North Korean regime launched a campaign against mixed marriages and Non-Korean partners were forced to leave the DPRK. Halina Ogarek-Czoj left Pyongyang with her daughter and never met again her husband in spite of several additional trips to the DPRK (she became an official translator for the Polish leadership). Sadly, she passed away in 2004.

Halina Ogarek Czoj

Halina Ogarek-Czoj is circled in green on the picture. SOURCE: Telewizja Polska

From 1951 till 1989, the DPRK sent many North Korean students to Poland. They studied not only in Warsaw but also in other main cities of Poland such as Cracow, Katowice, Lodz and Wroclaw. They were students of various fields (with a focus on technical issues). One of them completed a degree in Polish studies and is now working at the North Korean embassy in Warsaw.

Due to the political symbiosis, until the 80’s, a portion of North Korean studies was aimed as describing the North Korean Communist regime as a “friendly country” to Poland. Main authors (Marceli Burdelski, Waldemar Dziak, Sławomir Guzowski, and Stefan Kojło) used to write propaganda texts. All of them were only able to provide a statically approach of the North Korean regime due to ideological reasons. Sławomir Guzowski is still a key leader of the Polish-North Korean friendship association. The main studies of the previous quoted authors were related to the causes of the Korean War (including the rhetorical question: who started the Korean War), to North Korean orphans in Poland, to relations between both countries and to the North Korean ideology (my favorite paper on this issue is the following: KRLD Kraj “Dżucze”, Socjalistyczny Związek Studentów Polskich Zarząd Stołeczny Ośrodek Pracy Politycznej, Materiały szkoleniowe dla aktywu SZSP, Warszawa 1979). The oldest generation of Korean analysts (Waldemar Dziak, Marceli Burdelski) was working during and after the communist era. During the communist era, bilateral relations between Poland and North Korea were extremely good. Therefore these specialists (among others) were able not only to go on a regular basis to North Korea but also to be in touch with different groups of North Koreans. Both of them used also to assist on a regular basis to World Juche Congress (the Juche – is the national ideology of North Korea) and had an access to the top North Korean leadership (including Hwang Jang-yop, the former Secretary of International Affairs, who defected to South Korea in 1997 and passed away in December 2010). Since the mid-2000’s, Waldemar Dziak has no access to North Korea. Regarding Marceli Burdelski, he’s still travelling to North Korea; however his last book was published in 2004.

The change of ideology in Poland brought many changes in the analysis of North Korea. Starting from 1989 (on the same year, North Korean students left suddenly Poland) some of them defected to South Korea), the political developments turned North Korean studies more objective. A considerable portion of new books on North Korean issues started to criticize the regime or at least to provide some different views on North Korea. Some researchers (Waldemar Dziak and myself) provided an approach to North Korea based on individual behaviors of the North Korean leadership. Some of my books and articles are also related to the North Korean governing process. Andrzej Bober, a young author, published a major and general book on North Korea of 496 pages entitled Korea zjednoczona – szansa czy utopia? He finally became a Polish diplomat. A considerable portion of new books related on North Korea aim at describing the North Korean Communist regime as a “totalitarian regime”.

Currently many of the researchers of the youngest generation (Oskar Pietrewicz and myself) may face with difficulties when analyzing North Korea. The Polish Ministry of Education is granting less amount of money for researchers than in the past. Furthermore the same institution is not supporting North Korean studies. Researchers are now forced to have a double professional occupation in order to deal with daily life as wages in the education and research field are very weak. Polish State Institutions are not fully aware of the Korean market and strategically localization.

Most of the data on North Studies in Poland are available in main universities and think-tanks in Poland. It’s still complicated for Polish researchers to freely visit North Korea (especially during the Kim Jong-il’s era), however it’s easier for them to collect data on North Korean issues. In Polish libraries, it’s possible to find the following North Korean newspapers such as “The People’s Korea” and the “Pyongyang Times”, Many South Korean researchers are visitng former European communist countries. They observe our geographical region and try to assess the future development of North Korea (which is also a former communist country). Based on our countries, they try to draw some potential future scenarios of development for the Northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

As a final point, I would like to enclose a selected bibliography of books on North Korean issues written by Polish authors.

Selected bibliography:

Bayer Jerzy, Dziak Waldemar J., Korea i Chiny, Intitut des Sciences Politiques PAN, Warszawa 2006.

Bayer Jerzy, Dziak Waldemar J., Perspektywy rozwoju ekonomicznego KRLD, Intitut des Sciences Politiques PAN, Warszawa 2002.

Birchmeier Christian, Burdelski Marceli, Jendraszczak Eugeniusz, 50-lecie Komisji Nadzorczej Państw Neutralnych w Korei, Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2003

Bobber Andrzej, Korea zjednoczona – szansa czy utopia? Kwiaty Orientu, Warszawa 2013.

Brandys Marian, Dom odzyskanego dzieciństwa, Warszawa 1956.

Burdelski Marceli, Czy Korea będzie zjednoczona do końca XX wieku?, Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, Warszawa 1995

Marceli Burdelski, Czynniki warunkujące proces podziału i zjednoczenia Korei, Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2004

Dziak Waldemar J., Kim Ir Sen, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa 2001.

Dziak Waldemar J., Kim Ir Sen – dzieło i polityczne wizje, ISP PAN, Warszawa 2004.

Dziak Waldemar J., Kim Dzong Un: Kronika życia i walki, ISP PAN, Warszawa 2013.

Dziak Waldemar J., Kim Jong Il, Intitut des Sciences Politiques PAN, Wydawnictwo Trio Warszawa, 2004.

Dziak Waldemar J., Korea Północna u źródeł rodzinnej sukcesji władzy, ISP PAN Collegium Civitas, Warszawa 2009.

Dziak Waldemar J., Pjongjang: rok 1956, ISP PAN – Collegium Civitas, Warszawa 2010.

Dziak Waldemar J., Faliński Andrzej M., W kraju Orwella – Uwagi o funkcjonowaniu północnokoreańskiego państwa totalitarnego, Intitut des Sciences Politiques PAN, Warszawa 1994.

Gawlikowski Krzysztof, Potocka Elżbieta (eds), Korea: Doświadczenia i perspektywy, Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2000.

Guzowski Sławomir, Korea, makład ambasady Korei Północnej w Polsce, Warszawa 1985.

Kojło Stefan, Dikij Anato, Polska – KRLD: Gospodarka, współpraca, Państowe Wydawnictwo Ekonomiczne, Warszawa 1975.

Konecka Krystyna, Koreański koń Czhollima: Z notatnikiem przez KRLD, Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, Białystok 1989.

Kubiak Krzysztof, Makowski Andrzej, Bitwy i kampanie 4. Korea 1950-53. Działania morskie, AJ-Press, Warszawa 2000.

Levi Nicolas, Dlaczego Kim Pyong-il nie mógł, nie może i nie będzie mógł objąć samodzielnie władzę w Korei Północnej?, Centrum Studiów Azja – Pologne, 27 février 2009.

Levi Nicolas, Insanity or Part of a Plan? Prospects for Changes to North Korean Domestic and Foreign Policy, Policy Paper no. 1 (84), Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych, janvier 2014.

Levi Nicolas, Kim Pyong-il: North Korea’s Man in Poland, « DailyNK.com”, 17 maja 2009.

Levi Nicolas, Korea Północna: Poszukując Prawdy, Wyd. Kwiaty Orientu, Warszawa 2011.

Levi Nicolas, Kto rządzi w Korei Północnej, wyd. Dialog, Warszawa 2014.

Levi Nicolas, La Corée du Nord : une économie en mutation, « Diplomatie », n° 71, novembre – décembre 2014.

Levi Nicolas, Les élites nord-coréennes, « Monde Chinois », n° 34, Paris 2013.

Levi Nicolas, Perspektywy ekonomiczne dla Półwyspu Koreańskiego [dans] Azja Wschodnia, jako nowe centrum wschodniej polityki,, Policy Papers Fundacji Amicus, décembre 2013.

Levi Nicolas, Purges et remaniements sous Kim Jong-eun, Korea Analysis, n° 4 Novembre 2014

Levi Nicolas, Sécurité Interne: le cas de la Corée du Nord [dans] „National security – definition, character and determinants.  Studies on the quality of security”, WSGE, Jozefów 2012.

Levi Nicolas, System Polityczny Korei Północnej – aspekty kulturalne, wyd. Askon, Warszawa 2013.

Levi Nicolas, Terrorism scheme and North Korea: a focus on North Korean cyber attacks, [in:],  « East Asian Intelligence and Organised Crime », Verlag Dr. Koster, Berlin 2015.

Levi Nicolas, The North Korean Leadership and the Future of North Korea, [in:] « Papers of the British Association for Korean Studies »,  vol. 13, London 2011.

Levi Nicolas, Short Biography of Kim Pyong-il and his defeat in his run for the Power in North Korea. Parallax, vol. VII, n° 1, autumn 2010.

Levi Nicolas, The Succession of Kim Jong Il and the Role of North Korean Elites, Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Korean Studies – Proceedings of the 7th Korean Studies Graduate Students Convention in Europe, Casa Cărți de Ştiinţă, Cluj-Napoca 2010.

Levi Nicolas, Zarys Stosunków między Polską Republiką Ludową a Koreańską Republiką Ludowo-Demokratyczną [in:] Świat i Pologne wobec globalnych wyzwań, Ryszard Żelichowski (editor), ISP PAN – Collegium Civitas, Warszawa 2009.

Nowaczewski Artur, Dwa lata w Phenianie, Lampa i Iskra Boża, Warszawa 2013.

Ogarek-Czoj Halina, Mitologia Korei, Wyd. Artystyczne i Filmowe, Warszawa 1988.

Rzepliński Andrzej, Hosaniak Joanna (eds.), Korea Północna za zasłoną, Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka, Warszawa 2004.

Polish websites focused on North Korean studies

www.krld.pl (a pro North Korea website)

nicolaslevi.wordpress.com (my personnal website on Korean issues)

www.pukhan.pl (an analytical website on North Korean issues. The website exists since 2007)

N. Levi: Review of 65-year of North Korean studies in Poland Reviewed by on 18 listopada 2015 .

The aim of this text is to provide a review of North Korean studies made in Poland for the past 65 years. This text will review the main trends associated to North Korean studies. There are two generations of researchers in North Korean studies in Poland. As of now the youngest generation of Polish researchers





  • Very interesting article, however I would like to ask why is North Korea being described as a ”former communist country”? Has any official transition to other system happend, when and how does it show? Do we take into considerationthe possibility of private trade allowance after the great hunger era?

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