Not There For the Nutmeg: North Korean Advisors in Grenada and Pyongyang’s Internationalism, 1979-1983

Benjamin Young, George Washington University
President Kim Il-sung shakes hands with Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Source: Pyongyang Times, April 13, 1983.
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This article looks at North Korea’s relationship with Grenada, a small Caribbean spice island, from 1979 to 1983 as a case study of Pyongyang’s socialist internationalism during the Cold War era. Compared to capitalist globalization’s emphasis on profits, markets, and competition, socialist internationalism gave priority to sacrifice, comradeship, and solidarity. As a postcolonial Eastern-bloc nation with one foot in the socialist Second World and the other foot in the anticolonial Third World, North Korea sent advisors, military specialists, equipment, and supplies to recently decolonized nations in Africa, southern Asia, and Latin America as a way to export its peculiar brand of anti-imperialism and spread its image abroad as the legitimate Korean government. The North Korean leadership viewed the socialist Grenadian government as brave revolutionaries fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Thus, the North Koreans offered large amounts of free assistance to the Grenadian government. However, in October 1983, U.S. armed forces invaded Grenada and removed the socialist leadership from power. North Korea’s support of the distant Grenadian Revolution demonstrates the extent to which the regime in Pyongyang committed itself financially, politically, and ideologically to the tenets of socialist internationalism.

Keywords: North Korea, Pyongyang, Caribbean, Cold War, foreign relations