Cuba & South Korea: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?

Dmitri Prieto

Dance from Havana Compas performing in South Korea. Photo: Gabriel Dávalos/

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s close ties with North Korea, evidenced by the recently confiscated shipment of obsolete war equipment sent to Kim Il Sung’s People’s Democratic Republic for their eventual “repair” and re-shipment to the Caribbean island, has not got in the way of a rapprochement between Cuba and South Korea, at least not culturally speaking.

A Cuban cultural delegation, made up of the pop folk-music duo Buena Fe, the Havana Compas Dance Troupe and other representatives of the island’s music, arts and intellectual scene, are currently touring the Asian nation.

Tour activities are being coordinated by Cuba’s Jose Marti Cultural Society.

The Seoul-based counterpart of the organization, known for promoting the study of Cuba’s independence hero, is none other the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.

The cultural gatherings in South Korea were covered by well-known Cuban television host Julio Acanda. During the coverage,  Acanda showed himself impressed by the level of economic, urban and aesthetic development in the South Korean capital and made mention of US military bases to refer to the recent (and chronic) political conflict between the United States and North Korea.

Relations between Cuba and South Korea aren’t new. South Korea’s excellent products have been present in different sectors of Cuba’s domestic market for a long time.

I do believe, however, that this is the first time we hear this type of praise for the South Korea’s cultural (as well as political and intellectual) life, from an official representative of the Cuban government (it’s no secret that Acanda’s employer, Cuban television, is an official State and Cuban Communist Party institution).

Cuban television portrayed South Korea in friendly terms, expressing sincere affection and an attitude of respectful openness towards this politically and culturally different nation. It conveyed the image of a hard-working, cordial and affable people, of an unmistakably prosperous country.

To date, I believe only the northern half of the Korean peninsula enjoyed such treatment on Cuban television. For those of us who know something about the political situation in Korea, this recent gesture of cultural rapprochement with South Korea cannot but taste of cruel irony.

A month and a half ago, a well-informed source told me that the detention of Cuba’s shipment of war equipment to North Korea may be a pretext for a change in the Cuban government’s policy towards the two Koreas. I wonder if we already witnessing this change?

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

2 thoughts on “Cuba & South Korea: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?

  • For goodness sake, the writer is only sharing information and then posing a question.

    If the world were good for nothing else, it is a fine subject for speculation. Speculation keeps things really interesting. What the writer hasn’t done, and rightly so, is jump to conclusions.

    What is certain is this: Go to GoogleMaps and view a satellite shot over North Korea and South Korea. Both were equally poor nothings half a century ago. North Korea embraced the communist worker’s paradise; Pyongyang is pitch-black at night. South Korea embraced capitalism; Seoul is a glowing jewel at night with ribbons of light spreading out from it, and they are turning out Samsungs and Hyundais all over the world.

    PS. When referring to the two brothers, the grammar should be “Castros” (plural) not “Castro’s” (singular).

  • The speculation in the last paragraph is ridiculous. If the Cuban govt wanted to change the status of their diplomatic relations with North & South Korea, they would simply do it. They wouldn’t bother orchestrating some tawdry scenario involving military hardware hidden under sacks of sugar. It’s not like the Castro’s need public approval for their foreign policy.

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