Tycho van der Hoog, Blood, Bullets, and Bronze: The Relations Between North Korea and Southern Africa, 1960-2020

Across southern Africa, towering North Korean monuments cast shadows over the landscape whilst African soldiers bearing North Korean arms maintain the peace. Southern African governments offer the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) political support and sources of income beyond the reach of Western sanctions. The role of the DPRK on the world stage may be obvious to all, but the fact that the so-called ‘hermit kingdom’ is dependent for its very survival on the support of African states is usually overlooked.

This research project investigates the ties between southern African liberation movements and North Korea that were forged during the African liberation struggles of the twentieth century. Importantly, this project seeks to understand how and why African liberation movements shaped ties with the DPRK.

During the decades of decolonisation following World War II, North Korea supported southern African independence movements in their armed campaigns against colonialism and white settler rule. When independence was secured, most liberation movements transformed themselves into political parties and have ruled their nations ever since. In recent years, several African governments continue to maintain ties with the DPRK; North Korean instructors train African intelligence operatives in the dark arts of surveillance, North Korean labourers construct grandiose monuments across the region and the North Korean regime cherishes intimate ties with a diverse set of African leaders.

African-North Korean cooperation is a largely unknown part of history which nonetheless has a profound effect on contemporary international relations, as it influences the post-colonial trajectories of southern Africa and provides an indispensable source of income for North Korea.

Researcher supervising: 
Other supervisor(s): 
Prof.dr. Remco Breuker, Leiden University
Project status: