Skip to content

Review by Dr Dermot Hudson: Talking to North Korea

Dermot Hudson, (2019). New myths replace old ones, Anglo-Peoples Korea, 18 May. DOI:

The book ‘ Talking to North Korea: Ending the Nuclear Standoff ‘ by former Labour Member of the European Parliament(MEP)  Glyn Ford has been praised in some quarters as offering a fair and balanced perspective on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  and the nuclear issue . Certainly compared to the deluge of very crude propaganda against the DPRK that swamp bookshops and the internet , Ford’s book looks quite academic. Ford’s earlier book about the DPRK which was co-written by a south Korean author , “North Korea on the Brink” betrayed a certain hostility . Ford is attempting to set up himself up as the chief ‘north Korean expert’ for the soft Left and liberals in the UK and Europe.

During the September 2018 visit of the Juche Idea Study Group of England to the DPRK for the 70th anniversary of the foundation , we encountered Glyn Ford several times in the Koryo Hotel but he did not speak to us or engage with us.

Ford used to be a Labour MEP  for the South West from 1984 to 2009 and is a strong supporter of the European Union and Remain. Ford co-authored a pro EU book with Glenys Kinnock.  Ford is very much an EU gravy train rider  .During his last year as an MEP he would have been receiving about £78,000 per year plus allowances and has no doubt got a generous pension from the EU.As we know the EU is no friend of workers’ or progressive people , it is very much a vehicle for neo-liberalism , austerity and globalisation. The EU has imposed sanctions on the DPRK , Venezuela and other independent countries.

The website Corporate Europe Observatory reveals  that Ford runs   Polint, a “UK based EU Consultancy operating in Brussels, specialised in EU Public Affairs and International Relations” and G+  whose clients included ” a number of Japanese clients, according to the EU’s Transparency Register including: JEITA (Japan Electronics & Information Technology Industries Association), JMC (Japan Machinery Center for Trade and Investment) and JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association).” Ford had also written an article in favour of a US-south Korea free trade agreement which shows that he is a supporter of globalisation.

Some of the book has been overtaken by events such as the DPRK-US Hanoi summit which ended without agreement due to US intransigence and high-handness . DPRK supreme leader Marshal KIM JONG UN put the US on notice that it had until the end of the year to come up with a better proposal to end the deadlock in DPRK-US negotiations..

In his introduction to the book Ford shows his hand as being hostile to the DPRK  calling it a “theocracy ” , which is a gross slander against the socialist system of the DPRK and the Juche idea ! . Nothing could be further from the truth . He also claims that the DPRK does not want ‘early unification ‘ . Surely Ford on his many visits to the DPRK must have sensed that all DPRK citizens desire reunification , ‘We Are One ‘ .If the DPRK does not want early reunification why did it go to the effort of holding 3 inter-Korean summits with south Korea within the space of months ? Ford’s claim does not add up.’Indeed it is a terrible insult to the aspirations of all Korean people , whether in the DPRK , in south Korea or other countries , for reunification.

Ford also repeats the assertion made by some bourgeois academics and dodgy CIA linked websites such as ‘NKNews ‘ that the DPRK is not a planned economy . In fact the DPRK is a planned economy and not a market economy.  Ford actually slanders the socialist planned economy calling it a ‘command economy ‘ Article 34 of the DPRK Socialist Constitution  states  “The national economy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a planned economy. The State shall draw up and implement the plans for the development of the national economy in accordance with the laws of socialist economic development so that the balance between accumulation and consumption can be maintained correctly, economic construction accelerated, the people’s standard of living steadily raised and the nation’s defence capabilities strengthened. The State shall ensure a high rate of growth in production and a balanced development of the national economy by implementing unified and detailed planning.“.

The DPRK has not abolished the State Planning Commission , it is still there and is headed by a DPRK vice premier . A conference of DPRK planning workers was held in October 2015.In 2016 at the 7th congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea , a five year strategy for economic development was announced . In his 2019 New Year Address respected Marshal KIM JONG UN referred to improving the planning of the economy and unified guidance over it . It is clearly nonsense to suggest that the DPRK is not a planned economy but Ford is happy to recycle this anti-DPRK trope which is reminiscent of some of the more subtle Cold War propaganda which tried to suggest that the socialist countries were really the same as capitalist countries.It could also be added that the DPRK dealt a blow to those trying to restore capitalism in the DPRK by liquidating the modern factionalist clique in December 2013, Ford mentions this episode several times but misses the crucial point that the anti-party traitor had a plan to restore capitalism in the DPRK and make the DPRK a colony of the US and some big powers.

Ford also exaggerates issues within the DPRK-China relationship .In fact the DPRK and China do talk to each other and co-operate but of course the DPRK is committed to independence and does not want to be dominated by anyone. Ironically  Ford contradicts his earlier arguments that the DPRK is dependent upon  China.

Unlike some  who proclaim themselves to be ‘north Korean experts ‘ , Ford does make reference to the Juche idea , the guiding ideology of the DPRK . An understanding of Juche is totally essential for any study of the DPRK . However , Ford falls down here . He tries to compare Juche to Titoism(which was based on market socialism and the acceptance of US aid) and even the forgotten J T Murphy a CPGB leader mysteriously expelled from the party in the early 1930s .Ford manages to get wrong the title of President KIM IL SUNG’s seminal work  calling it ” ‘On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Carrying Out Ideological Projects” when in fact the correct title as everyone knows is “On eliminating dogmatism and formalism and establishing Juche in ideological  Work”. Such an error hints at a poor understanding of the subject matter. HoweverFord shows some understanding of how the DPRK asserted Juche in its struggle against big powers . He also points out the Western media are wrong to say that Juche is self-reliance or autarky . However this contradicted  elsewhere in the book where he refers to ” autarkic nationalism”. Ford does not show consistency .

Ford slanders the Juche idea as religion ! . Nothing could be further than the truth.How can the Juche Idea which is based on the profound philosophical concept that man is the master of everything and decides everything . This basically the opposite of religions of one kind and another . Whatever differences that may all religions are based on the concept that man’s destiny is controlled by a supernatural force or person , or by something that exists outside of nature . Juche by asserting that man is the master rejects such as a concept . Indeed as a chairman KIM JONG IL in his thesis  said  “The idea that man is the master of everything and decides everything, in other words, the idea that man is the master of the world and his own destiny and is the transformer of the world and the shaper of his destiny, is fundamentally opposed to idealism and metaphysics. Idealism leads to mystical theory that the world and man’s destiny are controlled by the supernatural might،, while metaphysics leads to the fatalistic belief that everything in the world is immutable and, accordingly, man must be obedient to his predetermined destiny. The idea that man is the master of the world and his own destiny and is able to transform the world and shape his destiny, is based on the premise of the materialistic and dialectical viewpoint which denies mysticism and fatalism. “.This totally disproves the idea that Juche is some kind of metaphysical religion.

To be anti Juche is basically to be anti-DPRK as the Juche idea is the guiding ideology of People’s Korea and the ideological underpinning of the DPRK’s achievements such as social welfare, full employment and a high growth economy. Ford’s remarks are not only a criminal slander of the Juche idea but highly toxic and insidious as they aim at misleading people in Western countries about the nature of the Juche idea and the social system in the DPRK .  The Juche idea is the revolutionary ideology of the progressive people aspiring towards independence , over a 1000 Juche Idea Study Groups have been set up in the world and many figures such as academics , activists  and others study it . Ford is clearly trying to undermine the attraction of the Juche idea for progressive people and stifle the study of the Juche Idea in the West.

Ford also repeats old anti-DPRK propaganda about ‘terrorism ‘ against south Korea ignoring the fact the DPRK denied this charge and provided a factual refutation of the accusation. In fact such incidents were false flag cases manufactured by the south Korean puppet fascist regime in an attempt to defame the DPRK and divert attention away from its own internal crisis .

Ford also regurgitates the old myth of ‘the famine ‘ devoting a whole chapter to it .Visiting the DPRK in 1996 although the situation was very difficult and the Korean guides were very frank with us about the massive challenges facing the DPRK , we saw nothing that would indicate an actual famine on the scale of what happened in some African countries. There was no one starving or begging for food. Ford claims that between 800,000 to 3,000,000 people allegedly died in the so-called ‘famine’ (note wide variation in the figures) . However , the facts are  that inn October 2008 the DPRK population had grown to  over 24 million. This exceeded the growth rate in the population predicted by some experts. In 1996 the DPRK’s population stood at 22.1 million so the population has increased by 2 million or 10%. Surely if 3 million people had died then the DPRK’s population would have been only 19 million in 2008. Ford is just parroting imperialist lies about the DPRK.

Ford quotes numerous reactionary sources in his book such as so-called ‘defectors’. He makes no reference at all to materials produced and published by the UK Korean Friendship Association and Juche Idea Study Group of England . Ford gives an extensive bibliography but only 3 books published by the DPRK ‘s Foreign Languages Publishing House . Basically a very one sided book from an academic point of view . No one should be under the illusion that this book is very sympathetic to the DPRK , it is not ,far from it ! Ford’s book is praised by right wing anti-DPRK academic Andrei Lankov .

Ford himself openly admits that he is a believer in  ‘critical engagement’ – for ‘changing the regime’. Some might say this is better than the ‘regime change ‘ advocates or mad men like John Bolton but it shows Ford is part of the imperialist camp , albeit on the liberal side of it , rather than being a progressive or anti-imperialist.Ford’s approach is basically similar to the ‘strategy of peaceful transition’ or Kennedy doctrine deployed by the imperialists during the Cold War  to undermine the socialist countries from within it. Ford hopes to soften up the DPRK gradually and replace the socialist system of the DPRK gradually turning the DPRK into a colony of the US and EU . However Ford’s wishes are a daydream that will be shattered a million times over by the Korean people led by dear respected Marshal KIM JONG UN and united around the Juche Idea.

No one should have any illusions about Glyn Ford’s book , it should be consigned to the bargain basement or the bin . Instead we recommend people read the publications of the Juche Idea Study Group of England and UK Korean Friendship Association such as “In Defence of Juche ” , “In Defence of Songun ” and “Victory of Juche Korea is a Science “.

Dr Dermot Hudson
Chairman Juche Idea Study Group of England
President Association for the Study Politics UK
Chairman and Official Delegate Korean Friendship Association for UK
Chairman British Solidarity Committee for  Peace and Reunification on the Korean Peninsula