North Korea is “very egalitarian” and a “democracy from the bottom”, and Stalin’s rule in the USSR was marked by “popular appreciation”, according to a member of the UCL Academic Board shown in a film obtained by The Cheese Grater.

Dr. Hugh Goodacre, a lecturer and teaching fellow in the Department of Economics, can be seen in the film praising the “genius” of the North Korean dictatorship, and claimed that working-class life in North Korea was “better” than in the UK “in the sense that they are building a socialist society for all the people”.

He went on to claim that there is an “enormous atmosphere of enthusiasm” about the brutal regime’s policies. Despite military tension “it is quite remarkable really… the degree to which if you go there you will find that in general people manage to live a free and dignified life and go about their daily concerns”.

Speaking to The Cheese Grater, Jihyun Park, a Manchester-based North-Korean refugee and activist said that “people in North Korea live in slavery in a gargantuan prison, not even aware of the phrase Human Rights”. Goodacre claimed that there are “no prison camps as such” in the pariah state, which Amnesty International estimates to be detaining 100,000 people in political prison camps where “torture is rampant and public execution common”.

Sitting in his comfortable Blooomsbury office, Goodacre said that he did “not accept that there are systematic human rights violations in North Korea… it is a very egalitarian country”. A United Nations report has said human rights abuses in the country are “strikingly similar” to those in Nazi Germany.

“There are not prison camps. There social issues under socialism are confronted, which are different from those which are confronted under capitalism. You have people who cannot reconcile themselves to the establishment of a socialist system. Something has to be done about them.” Nonetheless Dr Goodacre was keen to emphasise that “it is never necessary to violate human rights”, but contended that “any adverse effects on the lives of anybody in North Korea are the responsibility of imperialism. “

He eulogised North Korea’s eternal president’s Kim Il-Sung, whom he met once, as an “incomparable historical figure” who “always just went to the heart of any issue that was concerning the masses”. Goodacre is an avid collector of the dictator’s books: “I have got 40 volumes of his writings … there is no such encyclopaedia of what daily life is like in poorer countries of this world”.

Minutes from UK-based pro-regime groups record Goodacre as having spoken on the North Korean state’s ‘invincible might’ and singing the North Korean national anthem ‘to applause from the audience’.

Goodacre defended his actions, saying “on these kind of ceremonial occasions I speak the same language as the Koreans do. Obviously I don’t speak like that in my normal daily interaction. I put that hat on when we are celebrating the Birthday of Korea’s leaders and so on….”

The academic also heaped praise on Soviet warlord and mass-murderer Joseph Stalin, saying that his cult of personality amounted to “a form of popular endorsement for a leadership”. Asked whether there was an alternative to Stalin’s crimes against humanity, which included brutal Gulag prison camps and the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine, Goodacre replied “What alternative? Trostky and the whole place would have collapsed.”

Reacting to the economist’s comments, Dr Hiroaki Kuromiya – a Stalin expert from the University of Indiana – gave a damning and barbed critique. He told The Cheese Grater: “it seems to me that he’s a bad scholar with no or little critical sense…Goodacre reminds me of David Irving. Goodacre’s views of Stalinism are utterly untenable“.

Goodacre has also been photographed with British Latvian extremist and former Birkbeck student Aijo Beness at a pro-North Korea rally. Beness has a 2005 conviction for attempting to incite and overthrow of the political system and independence of Latvia, and is currently subject to an international manhunt after skipping bail over fresh charges on similar offenses. He is closely linked to armed pro-Russian separatist insurgents in Eastern Ukraine, considered to be terrorists by Latvian prosecutors. Recent photos show Beness posing with assault rifles and riding a separatist armoured vehicle there. There is no suggestion that Goodacre was aware of Beness’s links to violence when he posted for the photo.

Goodacre told us the photo came as “no surprise” as he had “met him on more than one occasion at Korea events”.

When approached by The Cheese Grater for comment, Dr Goodacre said: “I don’t really have connections with Korea at this time, though I had close connections at a previous period…In fact, I have very openly and publicly done everything I can to promote the Korean ideology of Juche, from public meetings to press conferences, for well over 30 years. Within UCL, I aim to encourage any activities and discussions similarly focused on the development of anti-imperialist and anti-racist activity.”

At time of print, UCL have not responded to our request for comment.

Ollie Phelan and Colin Cortbus

This article appeared in CG 47 titled “Korea-ing Out of Control”.