Wow! Really? North Korean Students Joined Hungary’s 1956 Revolution To Fight Communism
Tamás Székely 2017.05.31.
Did you know that during the era of Soviet occupation (1945-1989) a number of North Korean students lived and studied in Hungary? And would you have thought that many of them were not hard-line Communists at all but freedom-loving heroes who joined the Hungarian revolution in 1956?
In a recently published mno.hu article, journalist Csaba Molnár writes mainly about the complicated situation of today’s Pyongyang University of Science & Technology (PUST), but he also provides us with an insight into the history of the North Korean students who lived in Hungary during the Communist times. Following the Korean War, the Communist dictatorship of North Korea sent a number of its veterans to the Soviet-occupied Hungary as exchange students. According to estimations by Hungarian historians, about 1000 North Korean citizens arrived in Hungary between 1950 and 1957. The Hungarian state established two institutes for them in Budapest: the Kim Il-sung school and Pak Chong-ae children’s home.
When the Hungarian uprising of 1956 began, roughly 200 of these students joined the Hungarian freedom-fighters in the Corvin köz. Their war experience proved to be useful to the Hungarians, many of whom lacked military training. In the aftermath of the revolution, Soviet forces and Hungarian police gathered up the North Korean students — easily distinguished from locals by their appearance—and deported them back to North Korea, with a few escaping to Austria. One of them, however, decided to stay in Hungary and married a Hungarian woman in Debrecen. Although the couple was relentlessly harassed by the North Korean Embassy, they resisted the pressure and today they still live in Hungary. They have two grown-up children.
In the 1960s and 1970s, mostly North Vietnamese exchange students moved to Hungary, but also a few North Koreans. When Hungary became the first Eastern Bloc nation to open relations with South Korea, in response, North Korea angrily suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary.