The announcement that Russia and North Korea have agreed to write off nearly all of the hermit kingdom’s $11 billion in Soviet-era debt — more than half of North Korea’s foreign debt obligations — reminds us that the bonds between the Sino-Soviet Bloc and its enfant terrible have depreciated into economic surrealism. Here we recount some of the notable chapters in the 65-year effort to float the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the world’s most reclusive regime.
Prelude: Sino-Soviet Benefactors; Or, Why I Have Two Sugardaddies
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was established on the northern half of the Korean peninsula in 1948, the same year that the Republic of Korea (ROK) was established in the south. The Japanese had ruled the entire country until their defeat in 1945, when, in a move opposed by virtually all Koreans, the USSR and US divided the peninsula into separately-administered trusteeships along the 38th parallel. The Soviets underwrote the northern half of the peninsula, while the Americans sponsored the southern half. Game on.
According to declassified CIA documents (whose black-and-white speckl