North Korea and France Agree to Deepen Cultural Exchanges

[UPDATE: This morning’s Le Monde carries a comprehensive and heavily realist article about the bizarreness of Jack Lang’s trip to Pyongyang and the French government’s unwillingness to speak out more forcefully against North Korean human rights issues.  However, the news story goes on to explain that France, according to Jack Lang, has now set up “mechanisms for permanent economic, cultural, and linguistic cooperation” between North Korea and France. ]

According to Chinese newspapers, North Korea and France have agreed to deepen cultural cooperation as a stepping-stone to formal diplomatic relations.  The French government appears poised, in the aftermath of Jack Lang’s visit to the DPRK, to open a cultural office in Pyongyang.

In all likelihood, this will not be a simple Alliance Française (as we have seen the dismal fate of the Goethe Institute in that regard), but serve as a kind of bridgehead for expanded economic cooperation as well.  I haven’t a clue how this may or may not fit into France’s push for de-nuclearization or UN Resolution Security Council Resolution 1874, which heightened sanctions on North Korea.

Le Figaro ignores the story in favor of covering Obama’s letter to Kim Jong-il and the recent interdiction of that big plane full of weapons in Thailand, but Liberation has a short piece on the cooperation agreement here.

KCNA has been showcasing a few of the standard “Kim Jong Il’s Works Praised by French Figure” kind of thing, but doesn’t seem yet to have put up a press release on its English page regarding the agreement.

Apparently I am out front on this story, because even the excellent blog of the French-North Korean Friendship Association has nothing yet on the agreement.

While you’re chewing up your fingernails like LeBron James imagining a fat contract in Manhattan, a bit broader perspective can be gained via my earlier posts on DPRK-France relations, which are neatly grouped here for your convenience.

One last funny angle exists on this story in relation to the Chinese media: Huanqiu Shibao appears not to be allowing comments on the France-North Korea story, as neither country is at all popular in the PRC.  Imagine the invective that could be released when these two storied thorns in the side of the Chinese people team up!  And you though the “Freedom Fries” anti-French controversy  in the U.S. was ridiculous in 2003… Helas!  Forget Lyon!  I could go for a big plate of pommes frites and Pyongyang baek kimchi right about now.


  1. This reminds me of “Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea”, a graphic novel by the French-Canadian Guy Delisle. It’s a Lost in Translation type of story of him working for a French animation studio, but it showcases a business and cultural relationship between France and the DPRK I did not know existed. I’m used to only hearing about America’s hostile contact with the DPRK, so it is fascinating to hear about how and why a Western country maintains ties with Kim Jong Il’s government.

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