[KS] Re-revised posting "Revoking a Recommendation"

Balazs Szalontai aoverl at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Sep 16 01:42:27 EDT 2016

Dear List members,
let’s put my twocents in. Readers of the list might be interested in the following excerpt of Tyranny of the Weak (p. 121):

For example, inNovember 1960 a Korean visited the Bulgarian embassy, trying to send a messageto the Bulgarian Communist Party critical of the KWP and asking the Bulgariansto help the North Korean Party “correct” its mistakes. North Korean securityforces entered the embassy, despite the protests of the embassy staff, andarrested the Korean. This was the last such incident at the Bulgarian embassy;the Bulgarian ambassador remarked to his Soviet counterpart that he had neverseen such a hostile incident in another “fraternal” country. 130 

Footnote 130:Soviet Embassy in DPRK, Report, 30 November 1960. AVPRF, Fond 0102, Opis 16,Papka 85, Delo 7.

AVPRF stands forForeign Policy Archive of the Russian Federation. The words fond, opis, papka,and delo refer to folders, in decreasing order, with the smallest sub-folder(delo) as the last one. The sub-folder specified in Footnote 130 of Tyranny of the Weak includes the diaryreports of A. M. Puzanov, Soviet Ambassador to the DPRK, from the period 9August 1960 to 31 December 1960. As such, this folder can indeed be justlyexpected to contain a diary report about a conversation that occurred betweenBulgarian Ambassador Georgi Kostov Bogdanov and his Soviet counterpart,Ambassador Puzanov, on (or around) 30 November 1960.

Unfortunately,Puzanov’s diary does not contain an entry for 30 November 1960. It cannot, forthe simple reason that from 10 November 1960 to 3 December 1960 Puzanov was inMoscow on an official trip, rather than in Pyongyang, and thus there are noentries in his diary for this period. This can be easily verified, since therelevant part of Puzanov’s diary (19 November 1960) was translated into Englishby Gary Goldberg and made publicly accessibly on the website of Woodrow WilsonCenter’s North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP): 


Puzanov’s diarydoes contain an entry (15 December 1960) recording a conversation betweenPuzanov and Bogdanov about the measures taken by the DPRK security organs. Itdoes not mention, however, the episode described in Tyranny of the Weak., i.e., the entry of a North Korean citizen andhis subsequent arrest. Nor does it include Bogdanov’s statement about nothaving encountered similar conduct in another socialist country:


Another entryfrom Puzanov’s diary, dated 9 December 1960, makes only a brief reference toBogdanov. 

Apart fromNKIDP, the original Russian documents can also be found in a document collectionpublished in South Korea and currently stored in electronic form in theNational Library in Seoul: T’ongil munhwa yŏnkuso, Pyŏngyang soryŏn taesakwan pimil sŏch’ol [Classifed materials of theSoviet Embassy in Pyongyang]. Seoul: k’oria k’ont’ench’u raep, 2002. Therelevant PDF file is KM012204 (pp. 23, 30, and 36).

This raises the question whichsource the author of Tyranny of the Weakused to provide the information above. It is a matter of further concern thatin a conversation with Hungarian Ambassador Karoly Prath, Bogdanov describedthe aforesaid episode slightly differently, that is, he specified that the DPRKsecurity organs arrested said Korean citizen after his departure from theembassy, and thus they did not enter the embassy’s premises “despite theprotests of the embassy staff.” I do not need to explain how great thedifference is in international law and diplomatic protocol. For the descriptionof the episode on the basis of Hungarian sources, see my book, Kim Il Sung inthe Khrushchev Era (pp. 161-162):

A typicalexample of this behavior was mentioned by Bulgarian Ambassador Bogdanov, whohad a conversation with his Hungarian counterpart on 25 November 1960. He toldPráth that a “Korean comrade” had recently visited the Bulgarian Embassy, andintended to write a letter to the BCP CC in order to describe the “mistakes”made by the KWP leadership. Sofia should help the KWP to correct thesemistakes, the dissident stressed. Authorized by the secretary of the embassy towrite the letter there, he was still writing it when a group of state securitymen, informed by the North Korean interpreter, came to the embassy, and pressedthe secretary for the letter. Bogdanov told the visitor to leave the embassy,whereupon he told the secretary in broken Russian: “Look, now they’ll arrestme, and they’ll say I am anti-party!” He was indeed promptly arrested, andhenceforth no other Korean dared to visit the embassy. The Bulgarian ambassadortold Práth that it was only in Turkey where he had experienced such hostilebehavior on the part of the authorities.123 

Endnote 123: HungarianEmbassy to the DPRK, Report, 30 November 1960, KTS, 8. doboz, 5/f, 002482/1961(p. 318).
KTS stands forHungarian National Archives (MNL), XIX-J-1-j Korea 1945-1964, Top SecretDocuments (Korea, Top Secret for short). Doboz is Hungarian for box. I made therelevant chapter of my book accessible on my website:


I would like toencourage list members to compare the primary and secondary sources cited above.

Yours sincerely,Dr. Balazs SzalontaiKorea University, Sejong Campus, Department of North Korean Studies 

      From: Don Baker <ubcdbaker at hotmail.com>
 To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com> 
 Sent: Friday, 16 September 2016, 0:25
 Subject: Re: [KS] Re-revised posting "Revoking a Recommendation"
#yiv9280806856 #yiv9280806856 --.yiv9280806856hmmessage P{margin:0px;padding:0px;}#yiv9280806856 body.yiv9280806856hmmessage{font-size:12pt;font-family:Calibri;}#yiv9280806856 I wouldn’t trust Brian Myers to evaluate someone else’s scholarship. He actually posted on his blog a while back a recommendation to readers to trust a totally concocted “account” of the May 18, 1980, massacre in Kwangju that claimed that the whole incident was caused by North Korean agents who had infiltrated Kwangju before May 18:  Daniel Kim (Kim Taeryŏng) Yŏksarosŏ ŭi 5.18: 5.18 chaep’an pŏmniŭi mosun [Looking at May 18 in historical perspective: Legal contradictions in the trials related to the May 18 incident-  (Seoul: Pibong Books, 2013) Myers went on to assert on his blog that "there is evidence or testimony to back up the claim of DPRK involvement.”   He has now removed that post from his blog, so maybe he realized how ridiculous his assertion was. (The original posting was at http://sthelepress.com/index.php/2016/06/14/recommendation-may-18th-as-history-2013/
Don Baker
Don Baker ProfessorDepartment of Asian Studies University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2 don.baker at ubc.ca

From: jiyulkim at gmail.com
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2016 00:09:00 -0400
To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
Subject: [KS] Re-revised posting "Revoking a Recommendation"

[NOTE TO ADMINISTRATOR: please discard two earlier versions and review this for posting]
I came across this recent posting by B. R. Myers revoking his recommendation for Charles Armstrong's Tyranny of the Weak (2013). Myers' revocation is, for me, unprecedented.
Myers compares Armstrong's Tyranny with Balazs Szalontai's Kim Il Sung in the Khrushchev Era (2005). He gives detailed examples why he can't support the book.  If there is any truth to what Myers says then it is all very disturbing since Armstrong's books are widely admired and used.
I wonder what others think.  Myers' post can be found at http://sthelepress.com/
Jiyul KimOberlin CollegeOberlin, Ohio 

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