North Korea has often been considered an aberration in the post-Cold War international system, a relic of a Stalinist past. In fact, a close examination of North Korean foreign relations during the Cold War period reveals that Pyongyang's behavior never fit neatly into the paradigm of a bipolar international order, and that the Cold War itself had a distinctive dynamic in the Korean context. This dynamic helps to explain the continued existence of a divided Korea to this day, long after the bipolar international system has ended. Based largely on formerly secret materials from North Korea's Cold War allies in Eastern Europe, this paper suggests that Pyongyang's "aberrent" behavior long pre-dates the 1990s. It argues that North Korea has exhibited more continuity than change in the way it has dealt with the outside world over the last several decades, focusing on three areas of foreign policy: economic extraction, political non-alignment, and the development of an independent nuclear weapons capability.
Charles K. Armstrong is The Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences in the Department of History and the Director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. In the fall semester of 2008 he was a Visiting Professor in the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.
A specialist in the modern history of Korea and East Asia, Professor Armstrong is the author or editor of several books, including The Koreas (Routledge, 2007), The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950 (Cornell, 2003), Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia (M.E. Sharpe, 2006), and Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy, and the State (Routledge, second edition 2006), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. His current book projects include a study of North Korean foreign relations in the Cold War era and a history of modern East Asia.
Professor Armstrong holds a B.A. in Chinese Studies from Yale University, an M.A. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the Columbia faculty since 1996.