Article: North Korea

Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk

Democratic People's Republic of Korea
7722-125px-flag-of-north-korea-svg-north-korea-.png 7723-110px-coat-of-arms-of-north-korea-north-korea-.png
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Prosperous and Great Country (강성대국)
Anthem: Aegukka
Capital P'yŏngyang
39°2′N 125°45′E
Largest city P'yŏngyang
Official language(s) Korean
Government Totalitarian dictatorship / Socialist State
 - Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-il1
 - President of the SPA Kim Yong-nam2
 - Premier Pak Pong-ju
 - Liberation August 15, 1945 
 - Republic September 9, 1948 
 - Total 120,540 km² (98th)
  46,528 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 4.87%
 - 2006 est. 23,113,0193 (48th)
 - census N/A
 - Density 190/km² (55th)
492/sq mi 
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $40 billion (85th)
 - Per capita $1,800 (149th)
HDI (2003) NA (unranked) â€“ NA
Currency Won (â‚©) (KPW)
Time zone (UTC+9)
  Does not observe DST
Internet TLD none, .kp reserved
Calling code +850
1Kim Jong-il is the nation's most powerful figure; his official title is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, a position which he has held unopposed for 12 years
2Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs"; Kim Il-sung (deceased) officially holds the title of "Eternal President of the Republic"
3Source: CIA World Factbook [1]. Korea does not disclose figures.

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is an East Asian state occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its government is a communist-led single-party state, although it effectively functions as a dictatorship under the autocratic rule of Kim Jong-Il.

Its northern border is predominantly shared with the People's Republic of China. The Russian Federation shares an 18.3 kilometre (11.4 mi) border along the Tumen River in the far northeast corner of the country. To the south, it is bordered by South Korea, with which it formed a single territorial unit known as Korea until 1945.


Main article: Names of Korea

North Koreans call their country Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk (조선민주주의인민화국, lit. "Joseon Democratic People's Republic") or, more commonly, Pukchosŏn (북조선, "North Chosŏn"). Chosŏn is a reference to Gojoseon.


Main article: History of North Korea

The Japanese rule of Korea ceased with the end of World War II in 1945. Korea was occupied by the Soviet Union north of the 38th Parallel and by the United States south of the 38th parallel, but the Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of separate governments in the north and south, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea.

Growing tensions between the governments in the north and south and border skirmishes eventually led to the Korean War, when on June 25, 1950 the North Korean Korean People's Army attacked across the 38th Parallel. The war continued until July 27, 1953, when the United Nations Command, Korean People's Army, and the Chinese People's Volunteers signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement. The DMZ has separated North and South Koreas since.

Kim Il-sung (right) with son Kim Jong-il

North Korea was led by Kim Il Sung from 1948 until his death on July 8, 1994, having delegated most domestic matters to his son Kim Jong-il toward the end of his life. Three years after his father's death, on October 8, 1997, Kim Jong-il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party.[2][3] In 1998, the legislature reconfirmed him as Chairman of the National Defence Commission and declared that position as the "highest office of state."[citation needed] International relations generally improved, and there was a historic North-South summit between the two Koreas in June 2000. However, tensions with the United States have increased recently as North Korea resumed the development of a nuclear weapons program, fired Taepodong-1 missiles in 1998 over Japan, and, on July 5, 2006, test launched 6 missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea), including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile. Despite international protests, on July 6 they launched a 7th missile of either short or mid range.[citation needed] The UN called an emergency meeting to consider what response will be called for.

During Kim Jong-il's rule in the mid-to-late 1990s, the country's economy declined significantly, and food shortages developed in many areas. According to aid groups, millions of people in rural areas starved to death due to famine, exacerbated by a collapse in the food distribution system [4]. Large numbers of North Koreans illegally entered the People's Republic of China in search of food. Hwang Jang-yop, International Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party, defected to South Korea in 1997.

See also: History of Korea, Division of Korea


More information on politics and government of North Korea can be found at the Politics and government of North Korea series.


Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea
Juche Tower, Pyongyang

North Korea is one of the world's few socialist states. The government is dominated by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), to which 80 percent of government officials belong. The KWP's ideology is called Juche (self-reliance). The KWP replaced mentions of Marxism-Leninism in the North Korean constitution with Juche in 1977. Communist critics of the KWP deny that it is a Marxist-Leninist state. Minor political parties exist, but they are subordinated to the KWP and do not oppose its rule. The exact power structure of the country is debated by outside observers.

The Premier is the nominal head of government, but effective power lies with Kim Jong-il, head of the KWP and the military. Kim holds several official titles, the most important being General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. Within the country he is commonly known by the title of "Dear Leader", part of his personality cult. Similarly, his late father Kim Il-sung held the title of "Great Leader."

The 1998 constitution states that the late Kim Il-sung is "Eternal President of the Republic," and the post of president was abolished after his death. The constitution gives many of the functions normally accorded to a head of state to the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, whose president "represents the State" and receives credentials from foreign ambassadors. The government of the republic is led by the Prime Minister and, in theory, a super cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC), the government's top policymaking body. The CPC is headed by the President, who also nominates the other committee members. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the Cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). SAC is headed by a Premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.

The parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly (Choego Inmin Hoeui), is officially the highest organ of state power. Its 687 members are elected every five years by popular vote. The People's Assembly usually holds only two annual meetings, each lasting a few days; it typically ratifies decisions made by the ruling KWP (see rubber stamp). A standing committee elected by the Assembly performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session.

See also: Foreign relations of North Korea, Military of North Korea, North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

Foreign relations and military

Main articles: Military of North Korea and Foreign relations of North Korea


According to Western estimates, North Korea has the fifth-largest military in the world, with the largest percentage of civilians enlisted (49.03 active troops per thousand citizens). The North has an estimated 1.08 million armed personnel, compared to about 686,000 South Korean troops (and 3.5 million paramilitary forces) plus 17,000 US troops in South Korea. Military spending is estimated at 20%-25% of GNP, which would mean that North Korea spends the largest proportion of its GNP on its military in the world. The North has perhaps the world's second-largest special operations force (55,000), designed for insertion behind enemy lines in wartime. While the North has a relatively impressive fleet of submarines, its surface fleet has a very limited capability. Its air force has twice the number of aircraft as the South, but except for a few advanced fighters (about 20 MiG-29s), the North's air force is obsolete.

Foreign Relations

Kim Jong-il with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000

The foreign relations of North Korea are often regarded as tense and unpredictable in certain standards and with some countries. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the North Korean government has been at odds with the United States, Japan and to a lesser degree South Korea. Technically still in a state of war with South Korea, North Korean has maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia. It has sold weapons to Iran and Pakistan.

The fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a significant drop in communist aid to North Korean.

North Korean is a member of several multilateral organizations. It became a member of the United Nations in September 1991. North Korean also belongs to the Food and Agriculture Organization; the International Civil Aviation Organization; the International Postal Union; the UN Conference on Trade and Development; the ITU; the UN Development Programme; the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the World Health Organization; the World Intellectual Property Organization; the World Meteorological Organization; the International Maritime Organization; the International Committee of the Red Cross; and the Nonaligned Movement.

North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with the U.S., which has called it a part of the "axis of evil" and "outposts of tyranny".

The Korean Central News Agency regularly reports that Kim Jong-il has received gifts from a foreign leader or organization.[5] During a 2000 visit to Pyongyang, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave Kim a basketball signed by Michael Jordan.

Missiles and nuclear weapons program

Main article: North Korean nuclear weapons program

North Korea has stated that it has produced nuclear weapons and according to many intelligence and military officials it has produced, or has the capability to produce, at least six or seven nuclear weapons. It also has certain quantity of Nodong 1, 2, SCUD, and the bigger Taepodong 1, 2 missiles, and has reportedly test fired each of them. North Korea claims it has the sovereign right to test its missiles and pursue its weapons program.

Korean reunification

Main article: Korean reunification

Six-party talks

Main article: Six-party talks


Main article: Geography of North Korea

North Korea is on the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula that extends 1,100 kilometres (685 mi) from the Asian mainland.[citation needed] North Korea borders South Korea, China, and Russia. To the west it borders the Yellow Sea and the Korea Bay and to the east it borders the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea). Japan lies east of the peninsula across the Sea of Japan.

The highest point in Korea is the Paektu-san at 2,744 metres (9,003 ft), and major rivers include the Tumen and the Yalu.[citation needed]

The local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma, and winters that can be bitterly cold on occasion.[citation needed] The DPRK's capital and largest city is P'yŏngyang; other major cities include Kaesŏng in the south, SinÅ­iju in the northwest, Wŏnsan and HamhÅ­ng in the east and Ch'ŏngjin in the northeast.

See also: Korean Peninsula


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Please see the discussion on the talk page.
Kwangbok Street in Pyongyang.
Main article: Economy of North Korea

North Korea's economy has been relatively stagnant since the 1970s. The government does not release economic data. Publicly owned industry produces nearly all manufactured goods. The government continues to focus on heavy military industry. As of 2005, the government is estimated to have spent around 25% of the nation's GDP on the military (compared with 2.5% for neighboring South Korea). [6]

In the 1990s North Korea faced significant economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, political mismanagement, serious fertilizer shortages, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. These resulted in a shortfall of staple grain output of more than 1 million tons from what the country needs to meet internationally-accepted minimum requirements.[citation needed] Recent evidence suggests serious food shortages continue.[7]

North Korea has previously received international food and fuel aid from China, South Korea, and the United States in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. In June 2005, the U.S. announced that it would give 50,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea. [citation needed]The United States gave North Korea 50,000 tons in 2004 and 100,000 tons in 2003.[citation needed] On 19 September 2005, North Korea was promised food and fuel aid (among other things) from South Korea, the U.S.A., Japan, Russia, and the PRC in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program and rejoining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Pyongyang subway

In July 2002, North Korea started experimenting with capitalism in the Kaesŏng Industrial Region.[citation needed] A small number of other areas have been designated as Special Administrative Regions, including SinÅ­iju along the China-North Korea border. Mainland China and South Korea are the biggest trade partners of North Korea, with trade with China increasing 38% to $1.02 billion in 2003, and trade with South Korea increasing 12% to $724 million in 2003.[citation needed] It is reported that the number of mobile phones in P'yŏngyang rose from only 3,000 in 2002 to approximately 20,000 during 2004.[citation needed] As of June 2004, however, mobile phones became forbidden again.[citation needed] A small amount of capitalistic elements are gradually spreading from the trial area, including a number of advertising billboards along certain highways. Recent visitors have reported that the number of open-air farmers' markets has increased in Kaesong, P'yŏngyang, as well as along the China-North Korea border, bypassing the food rationing system.

According to the Ministry of Unification of South Korea, the GDP grew by 6.2% in 1999, but only 1.3% in 2000, 3.2 % in 2001, 1.2% in 2002 and 1.8 % in 2003.[citation needed]

In a 2003 event dubbed the "Pong Su incident", a North Korean cargo ship attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia was seized by Australian officials, strengthening Australian and United States suspicions that Pyongyang engages in international drug smuggling. The North Korean government denied any involvement. [8]

See also: List of North Korean companies, Communications in North Korea, Transportation in North Korea


Main article: Demographics of North Korea

North Korea's estimated population of 23,000,000 is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world, with small numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Eastern European minorities.


Main article: Religion in North Korea

Religious activities are heavily suppressed by the officially atheist state, especially Protestantism, which is seen as closely connected to the U.S.A.

North Korea shares with South Korea a Buddhist and Confucianist heritage and recent history of Christian and Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way") movements. Pyongyang was the centre of Christian activity in Korea before the Korean War. Today two state-sanctioned churches exist, which religious freedom advocates allege are mere show-cases for foreigners. [9] [10]. There are an estimated 4,000 Catholics and about 9,000 Protestants in North Korea. [citation needed]

According to a ranking published by the organization Open Doors, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians worldwide [11].


North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea. There are dialect differences within both parts of Korea, but the border between North and South does not represent a major linguistic boundary. Small differences have arisen, primarily in the words used for recent innovations.

Both Koreas also share the writing system hangul. Hanja (Chinese characters) are no longer used in North Korea, although still used in South Korea in some contexts.

The official romanisation is also different. North Korea uses the McCune-Reischauer romanisation of Korean, in contrast to the South's revised version.

Adoption of modern terms from foreign languages have been limited in North Korea, while prevalent in the South.


Main article: Culture of North Korea

There is a vast personality cult around Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and much of North Korea's literature, popular, music, theatre, and film glorify the two men.

In July 2004, the Complex of Koguryo Tombs was the first site in North Korea to be included into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

A popular event in North Korea is the Mass Games. The most recent and largest Mass Games was called "Arirang". It was performed six nights a week for two months, and involved over 100,000 performers. The Mass Games involve performances of dance, gymnastic, and choreographic routines which celebrate the history of North Korea and the Workers’ Party Revolution. The Mass Games are held in Pyongyang at various venues (varying according to the scale of the Games in a particular year) including the May Day Grand Theatre.

See also: Culture of Korea, Korean cuisine, Music of Korea, Public holidays in North Korea, Education in North Korea


Main article: Tourism in North Korea

In principle, any person is allowed to travel to North Korea, and among those who actually go through the complex application process, almost no one is refused entry. Visitors are not, however, allowed to travel outside designated tour areas without their Korean guides.

Tourists holding passports from the United States are typically not granted visas, although exceptions have been made in 1995, 2002, and 2005. North Korea has informed tour operators that they will also grant visas to United States passport holders for 2006. Citizens of South Korea require special government permission from both governments to enter North Korea. In 2002, the area around Mount KÅ­mgang, a scenic mountain close to the South Korea border, has been designated as a special tourist destination (KÅ­mgangsan Tourist Region, commonly known as "the Diamond Mountains" in English), where South Korean citizens do not need special permissions. Tours run by private companies bring thousands of South Koreans to Mount KÅ­mgang every year.

In July 2005 the South Korean company Hyundai Group came to an agreement with the North Korean government to open up more areas to tourism, including Mount Paektu and Kaesong.

Administrative Divisions

Main articles: Subdivisions of North Korea and Cities of North Korea
Map of North Korea

North Korea is divided into 9 provinces, 3 special regions, and 2 directly-governed cities (Chikhalsi; 직할시; 直轄市).

For historical information, see provinces of Korea and special cities of Korea.


  • Chagang Province (Chagang-do; 자강도; 慈江道)
  • North Hamgyŏng Province (Hamgyŏng-pukto; 함경 북도; 咸鏡北道)
  • South Hamgyŏng Province (Hamgyŏng-namdo; 함경 남도; 咸鏡南道)
  • North Hwanghae Province (Hwanghae-pukto; 황해 북도; 黃海北道)
  • South Hwanghae Province (Hwanghae-namdo; 황해 남도; 黃海南道)
  • Kangwŏn Province (Kangwŏndo; 강원도; 江原道)
  • North P'yŏngan Province (P'yŏngan-pukto; 평안 북도; 平安北道)
  • South P'yŏngan Province (P'yŏngan-namdo; 평안 남도; 平安南道)
  • Ryanggang Province (Ryanggang-do; 량강도; 兩江道--sometimes also spelled as 'Yanggang' in English)

Special regions

  • Kaesŏng Industrial Region (Kaesŏng Kong-ŏp Chigu; 개성 공업 지구; 開城工業地區)
  • KÅ­mgangsan Tourist Region (KÅ­mgangsan Kwangwang Chigu; 금강산 관광 지구; 金剛山觀光地區)
  • SinÅ­iju Special Administrative Region (SinÅ­iju T'Å­kpyŏl Haengjŏnggu; 신의주 특별 행정구; 新義州特別行政區)

Directly-governed cities

  • P'yŏngyang Directly-governed City (P'yŏngyang Chikhalsi; 평양 직할시; 平壤直轄市)
  • Rasŏn (Rajin-Sŏnbong) Chikhalsi (라선 (라진-ì„ ë´‰) 직할시; ç¾…å…ˆ (ç¾…æ´¥-先鋒) 直轄市)

Major cities

  • Sinuiju
  • Kaesong
  • Nampho
  • Chongjin
  • Wonsan
  • Hamhung - Hamnam
  • Haeju
  • Kanggye
  • Hyesan


Human rights

Main article: Human rights in North Korea

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation, severely restricting most freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of movement, both inside the country and abroad.

Refugees have testified to the existence of detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder and forced labour [12]. Japanese television aired what it said was footage of a prison camp [13]. In some of the camps, former inmates say the annual mortality rate approaches 25% [14]. A former prison guard and army intelligence officer said that in one camp, chemical weapons were tested on prisoners in a gas chamber [15]. According to a former prisoner, pregnant women inside the camps are often forced to have abortions or the newborn child is killed [16]. None of these claims can be verified, as North Korea denies the existence of the camps and refuses entry to independent human rights observers. However, a recent TIME magazine article documents a young woman's forced abortion in a prison camp and subsequent escape from North Korea.


Main article: North Korean famine

During the 1990s, famine killed between 600,000 and 3.5 million people in the DPRK,[17] [18]. By 1999, foreign aid reduced the number famine deaths, but North Korea's continuing nuclear program led to a decline in international food and development aid. In the spring of 2005, the World Food Program reported that famine conditions were in imminent danger of returning to North Korea, and the government was reported to have mobilized millions of city-dwellers to help rice farmers [19] [20].

See also

  • North Korean Missile Test (2006)
  • List of Korea-related topics
  • North Korea Times
  • List of Koreans
  • Korean reunification
  • Korean nationalism
  • Chongryon
  • Korean friendship association
  • Kimjongilia (national flower)
  • South Korea