Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk[1]
Flag of North Korea.svg Emblem of North Korea.svg
Motto강성대국 "Powerful and Prosperous Nation"
AnthemAegukka (Template:Lang-en)
Locator map of North Korea.svg
(and largest city)
39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.0333°N 125.75°E / 39.0333; 125.75
Official languages Korean
Demonym North Korean, Korean
Government Hereditary autocracy,
Juche political religion,
Single-party communist state
 -  Eternal President of the Republic Kim Il-sung
(deceased) a
 -  Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong-ilb
 -  President of the Supreme People's Assembly Kim Yong-namc
 -  Premier Kim Yong-il
 -  Independence declared March 1, 1919 
 -  Liberation August 15, 1945 
 -  Formal declaration September 9, 1948 
 -  Total 120,540 km2 (98th)
46,528 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.87
 -  2008 estimate 23,906,000 (47th)
 -  Density 190/km2 (55th)
492/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007[2] estimate
 -  Total $40.00 billion (89th)
 -  Per capita $1,700 (2008 est.)[3] (156th)
GDP (nominal) 2008[4] estimate
 -  Total $25.96 billion (85th)
 -  Per capita $1,116 (139th)
Gini (2008[5]) 31 (low
HDI (1998[6]) 0.766 (medium) (75th)
Currency North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Time zone Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)
Date formats yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911, CE)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .kp
Calling code 850
a Died 1994, named "Eternal President" in 1998.
b Kim Jong-il is the nation's most prominent leading figure and government figurehead, although he is neither the head of state nor the head of government; his official title is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, a position which he has held since 1994.
c Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs".
Korea north map

Map of North Korea

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) (Hangul: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a state in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer area between North Korea and South Korea. The Amnok (or Yalu) River is the border between North Korea and People's Republic of China. The Tumen River in the extreme north-east is the border with Russia.

The peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire until it was occupied by Japan following the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones in 1945, following the end of World War II. North Korea refused to participate in a United Nations-supervised election held in the south in 1948, which led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones. Both North and South Korea claimed sovereignty over the peninsula as a whole, which led to the Korean War of 1950. A 1953 armistice temporarily ended the fighting; however, the two countries are officially still at war with each other, as a peace treaty was never signed.[7] Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.[8] On May 26, 2009, North Korea unilaterally withdrew from the armistice.[9]

North Korea is a single-party state under a united front led by the Korean Workers' Party.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag. Tag has more than one name associated with reference.[10][11] The country's government styles itself as following the Juche ideology of self-reliance, developed by Kim Il-sung, the country's former leader. Juche became the official state ideology in 1972,[12] when the country adopted a new constitution, though Kim Il-sung had been using the ideology to form policy since 1963.[13] Though nominally a socialist republic, it is widely considered by the outside world to be a de facto authoritarian/totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship.[14][10][11] The current leader is Kim Jong-il, the late president Kim Il-sung's son.


Main article: Geography of North Korea
Baitou Mountain Tianchi

The Baekdu Mountain

North Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula, covering an area of 120,540 square kilometres (46,541 sq mi). North Korea shares land borders with People's Republic of China and Russia to the north, and borders South Korea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. To its west are the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay, and to its east lies Japan across the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea). The highest point in North Korea is Paektu-san Mountain at 2,744 metres (9,003 ft). The longest river is the Amnok River which flows for 790 kilometres (491 mi).[15]

North Korea's climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called changma, and winters that can be bitterly cold.[16] On August 7, 2007, the most devastating floods in 40 years caused the North Korean Government to ask for international help. NGOs, such as the Red Cross, asked people to raise funds because they feared a humanitarian catastrophe.[17]

The capital and largest city is Pyongyang; other major cities include Kaesong in the south, Sinuiju in the northwest, Wonsan and Hamhung in the east and Chongjin in the northeast.


Main article: History of North Korea

Government and politicsEdit

Main article: Politics of North Korea

North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliant) state[18] with a pronounced cult of personality organized around Kim Il-sung (the founder of North Korea and the country's first and only president) and his son and heir, Kim Jong-il. Following Kim Il-sung's death in 1994, he was not replaced but instead received the designation of "Eternal President", and was entombed in the vast Kumsusan Memorial Palace in central Pyongyang.

Although the active position of president has been abolished in deference to the memory of Kim Il-sung,[19] the de facto head of state is Kim Jong-il, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The legislature of North Korea is the Supreme People's Assembly, currently led by President Kim Yong-nam. The other senior government figure is Premier Kim Yong-il.

Juche Tower

The Tower of Juche Idea

North Korea is a single-party state. The governing party is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, a coalition of the Workers' Party of Korea and two other smaller parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party. These parties nominate all candidates for office and hold all seats in the Supreme People's Assembly.

Human rightsEdit

Main article: Human rights in North Korea

Multiple international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation.[20] North Koreans have been referred to as "some of the world's most brutalized people", due to the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic freedoms.[21] North Korean defectors have testified to the existence of prison and detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates (about 0.85% of the population), and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labour, and forced abortions.[22] There is a national mandated work dress code.[22]

The system changed slightly at the end of 1990s, when population growth became very low. In many cases, where capital punishment was de facto, it was replaced by less severe punishments. Bribery became prevalent throughout the country. For example, years agoTemplate:Specify just listening to South Korean radio could result in capital punishment. However, many North Koreans now illegally wear clothes of South Korean origin, listen to Southern music, watch South Korean videotapes and even receive Southern broadcasts.[23][24]

Foreign relationsEdit

Main article: Foreign relations of North Korea
Arch of Reunification

The Arch of Reunification

Since the ceasefire of the Korean War in 1953 the relations between the North Korean government and South Korea, European Union, Canada, the United States, and Japan have remained tense. Fighting was halted in the ceasefire, but both Koreas are still technically at war. Both North and South Korea signed the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration in 2000, in which both sides made promises to seek out a peaceful reunification.[25] Additionally, on October 4, 2007, the leaders of North and South Korea pledged to hold summit talks to officially declare the war over and reaffirmed the principle of mutual non-aggression.[26]

In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush labelled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" and an "outpost of tyranny". The highest-level contact the government has had with the United States was with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who made a visit to Pyongyang in 2000,[27] but the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.[4] By 2006, approximately 37,000 American soldiers remained in South Korea, with plans to reduce the number to 25,000 by 2008.[28] Kim Jong-il has privately stated his acceptance of U.S. troops on the peninsula, even after a possible reunification.[29] Publicly, North Korea strongly demands the removal of American troops from Korea (see North Korea-United States relations).[29]

Vladimir Putin with Kim Jong-Il-4

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Il in 2002

North Korea has long maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia. The fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, resulted in a devastating drop in aid to North Korea from Russia, although People's Republic of China continues to provide substantial assistance. North Korea continues to have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.[30] North Korea has started installing a concrete and barbed wire fence on its northern border, in response to People's Republic of China's wish to curb refugees fleeing from North Korea. Previously the shared border with People's Republic of China and North Korea had only been lightly patrolled.[31]

As a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the Six-party talks were established to find a peaceful solution to the growing unrest between the two Korean governments, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the United States.

On July 17, 2007, United Nations inspectors verified the shutdown of five North Korean nuclear facilities, according to the February 2007 agreement.[32]

On October 4, 2007, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il signed an 8-point peace agreement, on issues of permanent peace, high-level talks, economic cooperation, renewal of train, highway and air travel, and a joint Olympic cheering squad.[26]

The United States and South Korea previously designated the North as a state sponsor of terrorism.[33] The 1983 bombing that killed members of the South Korean government and the destruction of a South Korean airliner have been attributed to North Korea.[34] North Korea has also admitted responsibility for the kidnap of 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s: five of whom were returned to Japan in 2002.[35] On October 11, 2008, the United States removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.[36]


Main article: Korean People's Army

A KPAF MiG-29S in 2003.

Kim Jong-il is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The Korean People's Army (KPA) is the name for the collective armed personnel of the North Korean military. The army has four branches: Ground Force, Naval Force, Air Force, and the State Security Department.

According to the U.S. Department of State, North Korea has the fifth-largest army in the world, at an estimated 1.21 million armed personnel, with about 20% of men aged 17–54 in the regular armed forces.[37] North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel per capita of any nation in the world, with approximately 1 enlisted soldier for every 25 citizens.[38] Military strategy is designed for insertion of agents and sabotage behind enemy lines in wartime,[37] with much of the KPA's forces deployed along the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone. According to official North Korean media, planned military expenditures for 2009 are 15.8% of GDP.[39]

Nuclear weapons programEdit

Main article: North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

On October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.[40] The blast was smaller than expected and U.S. officials suggested that it may have been an unsuccessful test or a partially successful fizzle.[41] North Korea has previously stated that it has produced nuclear weapons and according to U.S. intelligence and military officials it has produced, or has the capability to produce, up to six or seven such devices.[42]

On March 17, 2007, North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks it would begin shut down preparations for its main nuclear facility. This was later confirmed on July 14, 2007 as International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors observed the initial shut-down phases of the currently operating 5 MW Yongbyon nuclear reactor, despite there being no official time line declared. In return, the reclusive nation has received 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil shipped from South Korea. Once the old small nuclear reactor is permanently shut down, North Korea will receive the equivalent of 950,000 tons of fuel oil when the six-nation talks reconvene. Following breakthrough talks held in September 2007, aimed at hastening the end of North Korea's nuclear program, North Korea was to "disable some part of its nuclear facilities" by the end of 2007, according to the US Assistant Secretary of State.

The details of such an agreement are due to be worked out in a session held in the People's Republic of China which will involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. Terms for the agreement have thus far not been disclosed, nor has it been disclosed what offer was made on the United States' part in exchange. North Korea, however, has already been removed from the U.S list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On June 27, 2008, North Korea destroyed a water cooling tower at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon.[43] It has been reported that without the cooling tower, North Korea cannot create plutonium,[43] though The New York Times reported that "the tower is a technically insignificant structure, [and is] relatively easy to rebuild."[44] The implosion was hailed as a symbolic way of showing that North Korea is committed to ending its nuclear program.[45]

It was reported on January 17, 2009, that North Korea had weaponized around thirty kilograms of plutonium.[46] Also, a U.S. scholar visiting North Korea around that time was informed by Pyongyang that there was enough plutonium to sustain four or five nuclear bombs.[47]

On May 25, 2009, North Korea announced that it had conducted a second nuclear test prompting outrage from countries all across the globe.[48] The announcement came just after geological sensors in South Korea detected an artificial tremor.[48] According to the Russian Defense Department, the blast yield of the second bomb was between 10 and 20 kilotons, comparable to the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII.[49]

Missile programEdit

Main article: North Korean ballistic missile program
File:Baekdusan-1 SLV.jpg

North Korea has deployed a wide range of ballistic missiles, mostly derived from Soviet models. The Artillery Guidance Bureau represents the strategic missile force and is equipped with some 900 missiles.

On April 5, 2009, North Korea launched a rocket (Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2) over Japan that landed in the Pacific Ocean, an act that defied United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which dictated that North Korea suspend all ballistic missile activities.[50] Although North Korea insists that it was a communications satellite launch and is part of its peaceful space program, the United States, South Korea, Japan, and a number of other countries saw the launch as a long-range missile test. As a resuly, a UN Security Council meeting was convened on April 6, 2009,[51] and following Security Council meetings resulted in a Security Council Presidential Statement condemning the launch as a breach of Security Council Resolution 1718. In response to this statement, North Korea on April 14, 2009, declared that the six-party talks "have turned into a platform for infringing upon the sovereignty of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," and they plan to strengthen their nuclear capabilities.[52]

North Korea has announced that sanctions will be considered a declaration of war.[53]


Main article: Economy of North Korea
Korean peninsula at night

An image of the Korean Peninsula at night rendered from DMSP observations. The disparity in illumination levels is cited by some as an indication of the difference in energy and economic development between the North and South.[54][55]

Pyongyang apartments

View of Pyongyang (the country's capital)

North Korea has an industrialised, autarkic command economy. Of the five remaining communist states in the world, North Korea is one of only two (along with Cuba) with an entirely state-planned, government-owned economy.

North Korea's isolation policy means that international trade is highly restricted, hampering a significant potential for economic growth. Nonetheless, due to its strategic location in East Asia connecting four major economies and having a cheap, young, and skilled workforce, it is projected that the North Korean economy could grow to 6-7% annually "with the right incentives and reform measures".[56]

Until 1998, the United Nations published HDI and GDP per capita figures for North Korea, which stood at a medium level of human development at 0.766 (ranked 75th) and a GDP per capita of $4,058.[57] The average salary is about $47 per month.[58] Despite chronic economic problems, quality of life is improving and wages are rising.[59]

In 2008, the CIA World Fact Book estimated North Korea's GDP per capita (based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)) to be $1,700 (ranked 192 out of 230 countries), a level similar to that of Chad and Cote d'Ivoire.[60] North Korea's economy is completely socialized, which means that food rations, housing, healthcare, and education is offered from the state for free.[61] The payment of taxes has been abolished since April 1, 1974.[62]Template:Verify credibility North Korea's GDP growth is slow, but somewhat steady, floating around 1-2% per annum.

GDP Growth by year[63]
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
1.3 % 3.7 % 1.2 % 1.8 % 2.2 % 1.0 % 1.6 %

Based on estimates in 2002, the dominant sector in the North Korean economy is industry (43.1%), followed by services (33.6%) and agriculture (23.3%). In 2004, it was estimated that agriculture employed 37% of the workforce while industry and services employed the remaining 63%.[4] Major industries include military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.

In 2005, North Korea was ranked by the FAO as an estimated 10th in the production of fresh fruit[64] and as an estimated 19th in the production of apples.[65] It has substantial natural resources and is the world's 18th largest producer of iron and zinc,[66][67] having the 22nd largest coal reserves in the world.[68] It is also the 15th largest fluorite producer[69] and 12th largest producer of copper and salt in Asia.[70][71] Other major natural resources in production include lead, tungsten, graphite, magnesite, gold, pyrites, fluorspar and hydropower.[4]

Foreign commerceEdit


The Kaesong Industrial Region is North Korea's light industry center.

China and South Korea remain the largest donors of food aid to North Korea. The U.S. objects to this manner of donating food due to lack of supervision.[72] In 2005, China and South Korea combined to provide 1 million tons of food aid, each contributing half.[73] In addition to food aid, China reportedly provides an estimated 80 to 90 percent of North Korea's oil imports at "friendly prices" that are sharply lower than the world market price.[74]

On September 19, 2005, North Korea was promised fuel aid and various other non-food incentives from South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia, and China in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program and rejoining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Providing food in exchange for abandoning weapons programs has historically been avoided by the U.S. so as not to be perceived as "using food as a weapon".[75] Humanitarian aid from North Korea's neighbors has been cut off at times to provoke North Korea to resume boycotted talks, For example, South Korea's had the "postponed consideration" of 500,000 tons of rice for the North in 2006 but the idea of providing food as a clear incentive (as opposed to resuming "general humanitarian aid") has been avoided.[76] There have also been aid disruptions due to widespread theft of railroad cars used by mainland China to deliver food relief.[77]

Wonsan waterfront (2937890043)

Wonsan is an important port city and naval base in southeastern North Korea.

In July 2002, North Korea started experimenting with capitalism in the Kaesong Industrial Region.[78] A small number of other areas have been designated as Special Administrative Regions, including Sinŭiju along the China-North Korea border. China and South Korea are the biggest trade partners of North Korea, with trade with China increasing 15% to US$1.6 billion in 2005, and trade with South Korea increasing 50% to over 1 billion for the first time in 2005.[75] It is reported that the number of mobile phones in Pyongyang rose from only 3,000 in 2002 to approximately 20,000 during 2004.[79] As of June 2004, however, mobile phones became forbidden again.[80] A small number 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 and Pyongyang, as well as along the China-North Korea border, bypassing the food rationing system.

In a 2003 event dubbed the "Pong Su incident", a North Korean cargo ship allegedly 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.[81]


Main article: Tourism in North Korea

The Kŭmgangsan Tourist Region is popular among South Korean tourists.

File:Pyongyang-feb-2009-crop-Ryugyong Hotel.jpg

Tourism in North Korea is organized by the state owned Tourism Organisation ("Ryohaengsa"). Every group of travelers as well as individual tourist/visitors are permanently accompanied by one or two "guides" who normally speak the mother language of the tourist. While tourism has increased over the last few years, tourists from Western countries remain few. The majority of the tourists who visit come from China, Russia and Japan. Russian citizens from the Asian part of Russia prefer North Korea as a tourist destination due to the relatively low prices, lack of pollution and the warmer climate. For citizens of the US and South Korea it is practically impossible to obtain a visa for North Korea. Exceptions for US citizens are made for the yearly Arirang Festival.

In the area of the Kŭmgangsan-mountains, the company Hyundai established and operates a special Tourist area. Traveling to this area is also possible for South Koreans and US citizens, but only in organized groups from South Korea. A special administrative region known as the Kŭmgangsan Tourist Region exists for this purpose. Trips to the region have been temporarily suspended due to the death of a South Korean woman in late 2008.


Main article: North Korean famine

In the 1990s North Korea faced significant economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, economic mismanagement and serious resource shortages after the collapse of the Eastern 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 dietary requirements.[83] The North Korean famine known as "Arduous March" resulted in the deaths of between 300,000 and 800,000 North Koreans per year during the three year famine, peaking in 1997, with 2.0 million total being "the highest possible estimate."[84] The deaths were most likely caused by famine-related illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea rather than starvation.[84]

In 2006, Amnesty International reported that a national nutrition "survey" conducted by the North Korean government, the World Food Programme, and UNICEF found that 7 percent of children were severely malnourished; 37 percent were chronically malnourished; 23.4 percent were underweight; and one in three mothers was malnourished and anaemic as the result of the lingering effect of the famine. The inflation caused by some of the 2002 economic reforms, including the Songun or "Military-first" policy, was cited for creating the increased price of basic foods.[85]

The history of Japanese assistance to North Korea has been marked with unrest; from a large pro-Pyongyang community of Koreans in Japan to public outrage over the 1998 North Korean missile launch and revelations regarding the abduction of Japanese citizens.[86] In June 1995 an agreement was reached that the two countries would act jointly.[86] South Korea would provide 150,000 MT of grain in unmarked bags, and Japan would provide 150,000 MT gratis and another 150,000 MT on concessional terms.[86] In October 1995 and January 1996, North Korea again approached Japan for assistance. On these two occasions, both of which came at crucial moments in the evolution of the famine, opposition from both South Korea and domestic political sources quashed the deals.[86] Beginning in 1997, the U.S. began shipping food aid to North Korea through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to combat the famine. Shipments peaked in 1999 at nearly 700,000 tons making the U.S. the largest foreign aid donor to the country at the time. Under the Bush Administration, aid was drastically reduced year after year from 350,000 tons in 2001 to 40,000 in 2004.[87] The Bush Administration took criticism for using "food as a weapon" during talks over the North's nuclear weapons program, but insisted the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) criteria were the same for all countries and the situation in North Korea had "improved significantly since its collapse in the mid-1990s." Agricultural production had increased from about 2.7 million metric tons in 1997 to 4.2 million metric tons in 2004.[72]


Template:Main article

The media of North Korea is one of the most strictly controlled in the world. As a result, information is tightly controlled both into and out of North Korea. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press; however, the government prohibits the exercise of these rights in practice. In its 2008 report, Reporters Without Borders classified the media environment in North Korea as 172 out of 173, only above that of Eritrea.[88]

Only news that favors the regime is permitted, whilst news that covers the economic and political problems in the country, or criticisms of the regime from abroad is not allowed.[89] The media upholds the personality cult of Kim Jong-il, regularly reporting on his daily activities.


Main article: Communications in North Korea
Pyongyang Metro-1

Pyongyang Metro

Tram North Korea PY

A Pyongyang Tram car

There is a mix of local built and imported trolleybuses and trams in urban centers in North Korea. Earlier fleets were obtained in Europe and China, but trade embargo has forced North Korea to build their own vehicles. Railways of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Choson Cul Minzuzui Inmingonghoagug is the only rail operator in North Korea. It has a network of 5,200 km of track with 4,500 km in Standard gauge.[90] There is a small narrow gauge railway in operation in Haeju peninsula.[90] The railway fleet consists of a mix of electric and steam locomotives. Cars are mostly made in North Korea using Soviet designs. There are some locomotives from Imperial Japan, the United States and Europe remaining in use. Second-hand Chinese locomotives (early DF4Bs, BJ Hydraulics, etc.) have also been spotted in active service.

Sunan International Airport, Pyongyang, North Korea

Il-76, Tu-204, Il-62 and Tu-154 of Air Koryo at Sunan International Airport.

Water transport on the major rivers and along the coasts plays a growing role in freight and passenger traffic. Except for the Yalu and Taedong rivers, most of the inland waterways, totaling 2,253 kilometers, are navigable only by small boats. Coastal traffic is heaviest on the eastern seaboard, whose deeper waters can accommodate larger vessels. The major ports are Nampho on the west coast and Rajin, Chongjin, Wonsan, and Hamhung on the east coast. The country's harbor loading capacity in the 1990s was estimated at almost 35 million tons a year. In the early 1990s, North Korea possessed an oceangoing merchant fleet, largely domestically produced, of sixty-eight ships (of at least 1,000 gross-registered tons), totaling 465,801 gross-registered tons (Template:DWT), which includes fifty-eight cargo ships and two tankers. There is a continuing investment in upgrading and expanding port facilities, developing transportation--particularly on the Taedong River--and increasing the share of international cargo by domestic vessels.

North Korea's international air connections are limited. There are regularly scheduled flights from the Sunan International Airport--twenty-four kilometers north of Pyongyang--to Moscow, Khabarovsk, Beijing, Macau, Vladivostok, Bangkok, Shenyang, Shenzhen and charter flights from Sunan to Tokyo as well as to East European countries, the Middle East, and Africa. An agreement to initiate a service between Pyongyang and Tokyo was signed in 1990. Internal flights are available between Pyongyang, Hamhung, Wonsan, and Chongjin. All civil aircraft operated by Air Koryo are thirty-four aircraft in 2008, these were purchased from the Soviet Union and Russia. From 1976 to 1978, four Tu-154 jets were added to the small fleet of propeller-driven An-24s afterwards adding four long range Ilyushin Il-62M, three Ilyushin Il-76MD large cargo aircraft and 2 long range Tupolev Tu-204-300's purchased in 2008.


Main article: Demographics of North Korea
Pyramide Corée du Nord

Population pyramid of North Korea

North Korea's population of roughly 23 million is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous in the world, with very small numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, South Korean, and European expatriate minorities.

According to the CIA World Factbook, North Korea's life expectancy was 63.8 years in 2009, a figure roughly equivalent to that of Pakistan and Burma and slightly lower than Russia.[91] Infant mortality stood at a high level of 51.34, which is 2.5 times higher than that of China, 5 times that of Russia, 12 times that of South Korea.[92] According to the UNICEF "The State of the world's Children 2003" North Korea appears ranked at the 73rd place, while Brazil and Romania has been ranked at 92nd and 121st place respectively.[92][93] North Korea's Total fertility rate is relatively low and stood at 1.96 in 2009, comparable to those of the United States and France.[94]


North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea. There are dialect differences within both Koreas, but the border between North and South does not represent a major linguistic boundary. While prevalent in the South, the adoption of modern terms from foreign languages has been limited in North Korea. Hanja (Chinese characters) are no longer used in North Korea, although still occasionally used in South Korea. Both Koreas share the phonetic writing system called Chosongul in the north and Hangul south of the DMZ. The official Romanization differs in the two countries, with North Korea using a slightly modified McCune-Reischauer system, and the South using the Revised Romanization of Korean.


Main article: Religion in North Korea

Both Koreas share a Buddhist and Confucian heritage and a recent history of Christian and Cheondoism ("religion of the Heavenly Way") movements. The North Korean constitution states that freedom of religion is permitted.[95] North Korea is officially Juche and according to the Western standards of religion — the majority of Korean population could be characterized as irreligious. However the majority are definitely religious from a sociological viewpoint[96] — the cultural influence of such traditional religions as Buddhism and Confucianism still have an effect on North Korean spiritual life.[97][98][99]

Nevertheless, Buddhists in North Korea reportedly fared better than other religious groups — particularly Christians, who were said to often face persecution by the authorities, and Buddhists were given limited funding by the government to promote the religion, given that Buddhism played an integral role in traditional Korean culture.[100]

According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.[101] According to Religious Intelligence the situation of religion in North Korea is the following:[102]

  • Irreligion: 15,460,000 adherents (64.31% of population, the vast majority of which are adherents of the Juche philosophy)
  • Korean shamanism: 3,846,000 adherents (16% of population)
  • Cheondoism: 3,245,000 adherents (13.50% of population)
  • Buddhism: 1,082,000 adherents (4.50% of population)
  • Christianity: 406,000 adherents (1.69% of population)

It should be noted that the promoters of Juche describe it as a secular and ethical philosophy, not as a religion. However, from a sociological viewpoint it's overtly and clearly religious. Thomas J. Belke has written a book describing Juche as the newest world religion, with "more adherents than Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism or Zoroastrianism"[103][104]

Pyongyang was the center of Christian activity in Korea before the Korean War. Today, four state-sanctioned churches exist, which freedom of religion advocates say are showcases for foreigners.[105][106] Official government statistics report that there are 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea.[107]

According to a ranking published by Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians in the world.[108] Human rights groups such as Amnesty International also have expressed concerns about religious persecution in North Korea.[109]


Main article: Education in North Korea
Mangyondae Schoolchildrens Palace in Pyongyang 04

A young girl in a school in Mangyongdae

Education in North Korea is controlled by the government and is compulsory until the secondary level. Compulsory education lasts eleven years, and encompasses one year of preschool, four years of primary education and six years of secondary education. The North Korean School curricula consists of both academic and political subject matter.

Primary schools are known as people's schools and children attend this school from the age of six to nine. They are later enrolled in either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school, depending on their specialities. They enter secondary school at the age of ten and leave when they are sixteen.

Higher education is not compulsory in North Korea. It is composed of two systems: academic higher education and higher education for continuing education. The academic higher education system includes three kinds of institutions: universities, professional schools, and technical schools. Graduate schools for master and doctoral level studies are attached to universities, and are for students who want to continue their education. There are several universities in North Korea, of which the most famous one is the Kim Il-sung University.

North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world, with a literacy rate of 99% for adults.[4]

Health careEdit

Main article: Health in North Korea

Health care and medical treatment is free in North Korea. North Korea spends 3% of its gross domestic product on health care. Its healthcare system has been in a steep decline since the 1990s due to natural disasters, economic problems, and food and energy shortages. Many hospitals and clinics in North Korea lack essential medicines and equipment, running water and electricity.[110]

Almost 100% of the population has access to water and sanitation, but it is not completely potable. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis B are considered to be endemic to the country.[111]

According to 2008 estimates, North Korea had the 117th highest life expectancy of any country in the world, with an average life expectancy of 72.2 years at birth. North Korea has a death rate of 7.29 deaths per 1,000 people.[4]

Among other health problems, many North Korean citizens suffer from the after effects of malnutrition, caused by famines related to the failure of its food distribution program and military first policy. A 1998 United Nations (UN) World Food Program report revealed that 60% of children suffered from malnutrition, and 16% were acutely malnourished. As a result, those who suffered during the disaster have ongoing health problems.


Main article: Culture of Korea
North Korea-Pyongyang-Arirang Mass Games-01 (1)

Scene from the Mass Games

Kimchek-univ e-library1

Kimchaek University e-Library in Pyongyang

Man - Anak Tomb No. 3

A drawing in one of the chambers of the Goguryeo tombs.

Culture is actively suppressed by the North Korean government. On the surface, large buildings committed to culture have been built, such as the People's Palace of Culture or the Grand People's Palace of Studies, both in Pyongyang. However, culture in North Korea largely remains under strict government surveillance.

Korean culture allegedly came under attack during the Japanese rule from 1910-1945. Japan enforced a cultural assimilation policy. During the Japanese rule, Koreans were encouraged to learn and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and Shinto religion, and forbidden to write or speak the Korean language in schools, businesses, or public places.[112] In addition, the Japanese altered or destroyed various Korean monuments including Gyeongbok Palace and documents which portrayed the Japanese in a negative light were revised.

In July 2004, the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs became the first site in the country to be included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

In February 2008, The New York Philharmonic Orchestra became the first US musical group ever to perform in North Korea,[113] albeit for a handpicked "invited audience."[114] The concert was broadcast on national television.[115]

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. Attendees to this event in recent years report that the anti-West sentiments have been toned down compared to previous performances. 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 Rungrado May Day Stadium, which is the largest stadium in the world with a capacity of 150,000 people.

Personality cult Edit

Template:Refimprovesect There is a vast cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and much of North Korea's literature, popular music, theater, and film glorify the two men. There are hundreds of statues of the former scattered around the country, as well as numerous public places and buildings. The most prominent landmarks bearing Kim Il-sung's name are at Kim Il-sung University, Kim Il-sung Stadium, Kim Il-sung Square, Kim Il-sung Bridge and the Immortal Statue of Kim Il-sung. The Juche calendar is also a prominent element in the former leader's personality cult - its starting year is the birth year of Kim Il-sung, 1912, though it is simply a variation on the Gregorian calendar. The highest official post in the country, the "Eternal president of the Republic", is actually a personality cult element.[citation needed] Kim Jong-il's personality cult, although significant, is not as extensive as his father's. In 2004 some of his official portraits were taken down from public buildings.[116]

Administrative divisionsEdit

Main article: Administrative divisions of North Korea
Provinces of North Korea

Principal divisions of North Korea

Namea hangul Hanja
Directly-governed cities (Chikhalsi)a
1 Pyongyang (National Capital) 평양 직할시 平壤直轄市
Special Administrative Regions (T'ŭkpyŏl Haengjŏnggu)a
2 Kaesŏng Industrial Region 개성 공업 지구 開城工業地區
3 Kumgangsan Tourist Region 금강산 관광 지구 金剛山觀光地區
4 Sinuiju Special Administrative Region 신의주 특별 행정구 新義州特別行政區
5 Chagang 자강도 慈江道
6 Pyongbuk 평안 북도平安北道
7 Pyongnam 평안 남도平安南道
8 Hwangnam 황해 남도黃海南道
9 Hwangbuk 황해 북도黃海北道
10 Kangwon 강원도 江原道
11 Hamnam 함경 남도咸鏡南道
12 Hambuk 함경 북도咸鏡北道
13 Ryanggang * 량강도 兩江道
* - Sometimes rendered "Yanggang".

Major citiesEdit


See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

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General information
  • North Korea Uncovered, (North Korea Google Earth) Comprehensive mapping on Google Earth of the DPRK's political and economic infrastructure, including railways, hotels, factories, military facilities, tourist destinations, cultural facilities, ports, communications, and electricity grid
  • Naenara - ("My country") DPRK's Official Web Portal run by Korea Computer Company
  • Association d'amitié franco-coréenne - ("France Korea Friendship Association") Website in French (automatic translation in English and other languages)