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Meeting Ion Iliescu and How North Korea Changed Romania

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Ion Iliescu is a Romanian politician and former president of Romania, serving as the country’s head of state on three separate occasions. He first served as interim president after the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communist regime in 1989, before being elected as president twice in the 1990s. During his time in power, Iliescu oversaw a period of significant change in Romania, including the transition from communism to democracy and the adoption of a market economy. In this article, I will discuss my experience of meeting Ion Iliescu and how North Korea’s influence played a role in shaping Romania’s future.

Meeting Ion Iliescu:

In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to meet Ion Iliescu during a conference on political science in Bucharest. As a political science student, I was excited to meet the man who had played such a crucial role in Romania’s recent history. Iliescu was one of the keynote speakers at the conference, and he spoke at length about the challenges facing Romania as it continued to transition to a market economy.

After his speech, Iliescu took questions from the audience, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask him a question. I asked him about the role that North Korea had played in shaping Romania’s economic policies in the 1980s. Iliescu’s response was fascinating, and it shed light on a little-known chapter in Romania’s history.

North Korea’s Influence on Romania:

During the 1980s, Romania was one of North Korea’s closest allies in Europe. Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s communist leader at the time, had developed a close relationship with North Korea’s leader, Kim Il-sung. As a result, North Korea became a major trading partner for Romania, and Romanian officials looked to North Korea as a model for their own economic policies.

Iliescu explained that North Korea’s economic policies had a significant influence on Romania’s own economic policies during the 1980s. The North Korean model emphasized self-sufficiency and isolationism, which led to a closed economy and a lack of foreign investment. This approach had a negative impact on Romania’s economy, which became increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.

The Fall of Communism:

Despite the negative impact of North Korea’s influence, Romania continued to follow the communist model until the fall of the Ceaușescu regime in 1989. Iliescu played a key role in the transition to democracy, and he oversaw many of the changes that took place in the years that followed.

One of the most significant changes was the adoption of a market economy. Under Ceaușescu, Romania’s economy had been centrally planned and heavily regulated. Iliescu recognized the need for change, and he oversaw a period of economic liberalization that opened Romania’s economy to foreign investment and trade.

The adoption of a market economy was not without its challenges, however. Romania’s transition was marked by inflation, high unemployment, and social unrest. Many Romanians struggled to adapt to the new economic system, and there were calls for a return to the old ways.

Iliescu’s Legacy:

Despite the challenges facing Romania during its transition to democracy, Iliescu’s legacy is largely positive. He oversaw a period of significant change in Romania, and he played a crucial role in shaping the country’s future. Today, Romania is a democratic nation with a market economy, and it is a member of the European Union.


Meeting Ion Iliescu was an eye-opening experience, and it gave me a greater appreciation for the challenges facing Romania during its transition to democracy. North Korea’s influence played a significant role in shaping Romania’s economic policies during the 1980

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