In a little-known episode of the Cold War that challenges many common assumptions, North Korea forged extensive political, economic, military and cultural relations with the small South American-Caribbean coastal state of Guyana in the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, Guyana was ruled by an authoritarian socialist regime under Forbes Burbham, whose unorthodox conception of “socialism” was viewed skeptically by Communist countries other than North Korea. Burnham’s program of “co-operative socialism,” which envisaged a population strictly obedient to his own wishes as the supreme leader, was distinctly similar to the juche philosophy espoused by the long-time North Korean dictator, Kim Il-Sung. Burnham deeply admired North Korea’s economic and military “achievements,” attributing them to the strict obedience of the North Korean populace to the wishes of Kim Il-Sung. Burnham envisaged a similar role for himself in Guyana and attempted to import various North Korean approaches to socialist education and culture. Guyana came to resemble North Korea in some important respects, but it gradually moved away from this pattern after Burnham’s death in 1985.


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pp. 41-63
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