A curious feature of The Irish Times in the late 1970s was the frequent appearance of advertisements paid for by the North Korean state, detailing Kim Il-Sung’s thoughts and ideological positions on a wide range of issues. The advertisement below, which declared Let Us Smash The Two Koreas Plot and Peacefully Reunify The Country! is a typical example, showing a picture of Kim Il-Sung alongside a message read at “the 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”
Kim Il-Sung’s face would have been a regular sight for readers of the paper, appearing sometimes on a monthly basis. The advertisements referred to him by a variety of titles including ‘Great Leader’ and ‘Comrade’. The first reference I found to these advertisements was within The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party. In the book, Sean Garland, a leading figure in the Official Republican movement, talked about visiting North Korea and informing authorities there that “putting full-page ads into The Irish Times of Kim Il-Sung’s thoughts was a waste of money because nobody fucking read them.” Curiously, The Irish Times itself reported in April 1976 that “after spending a fortune on propaganda material extolling its economic achievements in recent years, North Korea is now virtually bankrupt….the propaganda mainly took the form of advertisements, many of them in western papers.”
The Irish Press wrote about the advertisements in April 1976 calling them “indescribably boring”, and noting that the advertisements were “carefully camouflaged to resemble the paper’s own editorial matter.” Readers of the Dublin-based newspaper saw only the same official state portraits of Kim Il-Sung. In the North Korean media, it was common practice to reprint these Western advertisements as if they were news reports and not paid content. Certainly, they are some of the most unusual advertisements to ever appear in Irish newspaper history.
An interesting comment followed us posting this piece on Facebook. It was highlighted there that in the 1970s the library of Trinity College Dublin was presented with a series of books on Kim Il-Sung by the “State Central Library of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Images of the books have been posted to Facebook by DH History, the history society of the university.