South and North Korea’s Diplomatic Ties

From One Korea Policy to Simultaneous Recognition

North Korea
East Asia
text extraction
novel dataset
Korean dataset

Kadir Jun Ayhan


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

South Korea established diplomatic ties with Cuba today (Feb 14, 2024). Cuba is the latest country to simultaneously recognize both Koreas. This is a significant development in the history of the Korean Peninsula given Cuba’s long-term solidarity with North Korea.

South and North Korea very famously competed for diplomatic recognition during the Cold War. This competition was starkly visible especially in newly independent Sub-Saharan African countries where the two Koreas were trying to gain recognition from the same countries. This competition was portrayed in the film entitled, “Escape from Mogadishu (2021)” which is based on real events during the civil war in Somalia.

What follows is a visualization of the diplomatic competition between South and North Korea.

I got the data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and tidied it up to create a panel data set for both Koreas’ diplomatic ties. I extracted the year of diplomatic recognition for each country from Korean notes. In my code, I took into account the changes in diplomatic recognition (e.g., cutting and reestablishing ties). Since I didn’t check each country individually, there may be minor errors. Please let me know, if you spot any errors.

If I find more time, I will create a Shiny app with this data that will allow users to explore the diplomatic ties of both Koreas by filtering for different variables.

Diplomatic Competition between South and North Korea in Numbers

Figure 1: Diplomatic Competition between South and North Korea over the years
Table 1: Maximum Number of Diplomatic Ties per Decade
Decade North Korea South Korea
1940's 11 7
1950's 12 15
1960's 34 82
1970's 97 106
1980's 103 128
1990's 137 181
2000's 161 188
2010's 163 191
2020's 160 193

The Situation in 2024

Table 2: Number of Diplomatic Ties in 2024
North Korea South Korea
159 193

Countries that recognized North Korea in 2024 but not South Korea:

Palestinian Territories, Syria.

Countries that recognized South Korea in 2024 but not North Korea:

Andorra, Argentina, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, France, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Niue, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City

Animated Map of the Diplomatic Competition between South and North Korea

Note on the Map(s)

I rely on the map from the “TMWorldBorders” package, using the same map with 2024 boundaries to enable consistent comparisons between different political units. However, I do not necessarily endorse the political boundaries shown on the map(s). This figure is intended for illustrative purposes only.