Why does North Korea hate the US? Less so now, but certainly back in the day anti-American propaganda was everywhere from billboards to books and of course when you would hear stories from your guides. This particularly pertained to anything to do with the Korean War, such as the Sinchon massacre.
To read about the Sinchon massacre click here.
But, of course it did not stop there, with America also largely being blamed for contemporary problems in the country, particularly those related to sanctions against the regime.
This has changed somewhat since the detente that occurred after the summits between the DPRK and the USA, but of course still very much exists.
So, why does North Korea hate the US? Believe it or not we will keep this article as apolitical as possible and merely report our views as told us by the North Koreans. For the other view there are obviously plenty of other sources prepared to show the flip-side of the coin.
Why does North Korea hate the US? – The Cold War
North Korea is often called the last vestige of the Cold War, particularly at the DMZ. In many respects this is true. Countries such as China and Vietnam might still officially be socialist/communist, but are still very much part of the world economy. Some might even argue they are not even so socialist these days
To read about socialist countries sick here.
Without wanting to give a huge lesson on the Cold War (we will assume you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of it), it pitted two rival blocks and ideologies against each other. The Socialist Bloc was “for the people” and led by the Soviet Union (or China), whilst the western capitalist camp was led by the USA. The west viewed the Soviet’s as the puppet masters, whilst the east viewed America as the puppet masters of the other camp. Hating America was ideological and indeed tribal.
Why does North Korea hate the US – The Korean War
Both sides dispute who started the Korean War, the North say the South and the South say the North. Regardless the North would have overrun South Korea had the Americans not intervened. The UN forces in turn would have overrun North Korea had the Chinese not interveened.
We will not go into the rights and wrongs of warfare, or what is acceptable, but North Korea was arguably the most bombed country on earth and was left demolished by the end of the war. The US also allegedly committed a number of war crimes. When you have a war against country and when a peace treaty is never signed then animosity undauntedly remains.
Never underestimate the affects war between two countries have on a national mentality. One merely has to look at the modern view of China towards Japan, or even the Cambodian view on US bombing of their country. A bombing that many feel led to the victory of the Khmer Rouge.
To read about US support for the Khmer Rouge click here.
North Korea also feel that they won the war, but hey that is a whole whole other question.
To read about who won the Korean War click here.
The US “occupies” South Korea
Once more this is not a political statement, but an interpretation of how the DPRK see things from their eyes. The Chinese volunteers who helped counter the UN troops slowly withdrew from North Korea between 1956-58. There was a mutual defense treaty, but no foreign troops on the soil of the DPRK. The same cannot be said for the Republic of Korea.
Because of this it is also the northern view that the US occupies South Korea, that South Korea is a puppet government and that it is squarely the US and its running dogs that have prevented Korean reunification.
To read what the North Korean view on reunification is click here.
And while South Korea is now democratic, this was not the case until the very late 1980’s, with a string of oppressive military governments that in the view of the North at least were supported and promoted by the USA.
Two polar opposite ideologies
Whilst the officials state ideology of North Korea is Juche, it is communist and Marxist-Leninist in nature. That means the state owning things, not foreign companies.
To read about Juche click here.
We could say the American ideology is “democracy”, but in reality the US are quite happy to deal with despotic regimes if there is open trade. There is no open trade with North Korea.
North Korea therefore view America as an exploitatives capitalist bully of a nation that merely wants to control theirs and other economies through economic Neo-Colonialism. And to be fair it is not just North Korea that hold this view, rightly, or wrongly.
The Nuclear Issue and sanctions on North Korea
There are many arguments why North Korea pursued a nuclear weapons program, but the most prevalent was for regime survival. Another reason why they do not want to give them up. The Libya model being a prime example of why they perhaps feel this way.
It was this nuclear weapons program that has steadily turned North Korea into the most sanctioned country that has ever existed in the modern world. Again we will not get into the politics, or rightness, or wrongness of sanctions, but sanctions affect countries greatly, from civilians right up to the top brass. This is after all the main reasons for them existing. The DPRK blames the US for the sanctions, so in contemporary terms it is a major bone of contention.
North Korea its people and its economy suffer due to sanctions, these sanctions are led by the USA, so why does North Korea hate the US? There’s another reason.
Contemporary US North Korea relations
The 5 year Trump presidency was a very strange affair from a global point of view. Much of America was extremely marginalized and the world was very much a different place during his presidency.
One of the most interesting, yet controversial episodes of this was the friendship and two meetings between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-Un.
You can read about our trip to the Vietnam summit here.
This was the biggest detente in North Korea and US relations since the formation of the country. During this period not only did North Korean state propaganda say nice things about America, but the rhetoric was very much toned down.
Interestingly much of the Anti-US propaganda was taken down from the streets and unavailable for purchase by tourists. At least for a time. Certainly when there was hopes of peace and US investment in North Korea the state was very much prepared to change hatred into at least a tacit respect.
To read about North Korean propaganda click here.
Sadly nothing was to come of the summits, Trump was to leave office and the new Biden administration have hardly been proactive in trying to talk to North Korea. Of course none of us know how this presidency will play out, but the early signs with regards to US-DPRK relations probably don’t bode well.
North Koreans do not hate Americans!
Why does North Korea hate the US? I feel we have given a fairly in-depth article on why there is hatred on a government to government level, but do North Koreans hate Americans? No they do not, not at all and this has been shown on multiple occasions. It is very possible and very normal, both for governments and individual to hate governments, without hating people.
I remember being 16 in Bangladesh and having a Bengali tell me he hated the British. It was a very sobering conversation for e teenager, being told about how the ills of colonialism had screwed up his country. But, he was very elegant in explaining how he did blame me, nor hate me.
One might for example have issue with the policies of the Israeli government without any hatred towards Israelis, or being in anyway anti-Semitic. OK, we are truly of on a tangent here. And obviously those are not our views.
Thousands of US Citizens used to visit North Korea every year
Before America banned its citizens from going to the DPRK at a conservative estimate there were around 2000 Americans visiting the country every year. Not huge numbers, but for us anyway they would make up roughly 10-20% of our clientele.
When we brought Americans to North Korea our guides would make great pains to point out the difference between what they were saying about the American government and American people. Very few American visitors to North Korea would argue that they were treated extremely respectfully by their North Korean hosts.
Again North Korea has issues with other governments, such as the UK, which my Korean friends would periodically bring up with me. You gotta love a political debate with North Koreans!
So, why does North Korea hate the US? War, history, ideology and contemporary politics. Whether you agree with it, or not you can at least understand North Korean government attitudes towards the USA and why people ask the question “Why does North Korea hate the US”?.