Wellington’s reluctance to increase interaction continued into the 1980s. In 1980 the Government refused visas for North Koreans, but member of Parliament (MP) Warren Freer visited the DPRK that July. The Society’s first large-scale study tour went in 1982. In 1984 another Society tour occurred. Its leader noted that North Korea ‘apparently had a very happy, healthy society’, but he wondered if there were dissenters and what happened to them.
Relations between the North and Society were sometimes challenging. Poor communication was a serious concern for both. Indeed, Freer declined a Society invitation to be its patron by noting the North’s lack of response to his trade efforts. The Society told Freer it felt ‘rather betrayed’ by the DPRK’s inaction, and told the North its failure to respond to correspondence placed the group in an ‘embarrassing position’ as it was encouraging contact. A leading Society member in 1985 told Australian counterparts ‘We are growing alarmed at the way Pyongyang completely ignores our cables, to say nothing of our letters. I truly despair of ever communicating affectively with them’.
Pyongyang sought stronger relations with the fourth Labour Government. Relations remained limited, chiefly because of Wellington’s reluctance to increase contact within the context of the Cold War. This was further shaped by negative perceptions of the North’s foreign policy and diplomacy, along with positions and experiences of other countries. However, some MPs questioned the Government’s position. Jim Anderton in 1985 remarked that it was in New Zealand’s interests to have friendly relations with all Pacific Rim nations, including North Korea. Helen Clark in 1986 asked Prime Minister David Lange ‘Is there any reason why New Zealand policy now appears to be much more restrictive on this matter [relations with the North] than it was over a decade ago’. The following year she exclaimed ‘I cannot myself see what the problem is in permitting DPRK people to begin to visit on cultural or trade delegations’, and referred to the Ministry’s ‘clearly formulated and highly inflexible approach’. Similarly, she said ‘Heaven knows why we are so timid when other Western countries seem able to establish relations with Pyongyang’. As the decade progressed New Zealand’s position became somewhat more relaxed.