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North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • 조선민주주의인민공화국
  • Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk[1]
Flag Emblem
Area controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shown in green
Area controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shown in green
and largest city
Official languages Korean
Official scripts Chosŏn'gŭl
Government Single-party state (various interpretations)
 -  Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un[a]
 -  Chairman of the
Assembly Presidium
Kim Yong-nam[b]
 -  Premier Pak Pong-ju
Legislature Supreme People's Assembly
 -  Liberation 15 August 1945 
 -  Provisional People's Committee for North Korea established February 1946 
 -  DPRK established 9 September 1948 
 -  Total 120,540 km2 (98th)
46,528 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 4.87
 -  2013 estimate 24,895,000 (48th)
 -  2011 census 24,052,231[2]
 -  Density 198.3/km2 (63rd)
513.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $40 billion[3]
 -  Per capita $1,800[3]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $12.4 billion[4]
 -  Per capita $506[4]
Gini (2007) positive decrease 31[5]
Currency North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Time zone Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)
Date format
  • yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
  • yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911 / CE)
Drives on the right
Calling code +850
ISO 3166 code KP
Internet TLD .kp
a. ^ Kim Jong-un holds four concurrent positions: First Secretary of the Workers' Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, First Chairman of the National Defence Commission and Supreme Commander of the People's Army, serve as the "supreme leader" of the DPRK.
b. ^ Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs". The position of president (formerly head of state) was written out of the constitution in 1998. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, was given the appellation "Eternal President" in its preamble.

North Korea (  ), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선민주주의인민공화국; Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a country in East Asia, in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo (or Koryo), a name used by ancient and medieval kingdoms. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. North Korea shares a land border with China to the north and north-west, along the Amnok (Yalu) and Tumen rivers. A small section of the Tumen River also forms North Korea's short border with Russia to the northeast.[6] The Korean Demilitarized Zone marks the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. The legitimacy of this border is not accepted by either side, as both states claim to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula.

Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. In 1945, when Japan was defeated in World War II, Korea was divided into two occupied zones, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south by the United States. Negotiations on unification failed, and in 1948 two separate governments were formed: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. The conflicting claims of sovereignty led to the Korean War in 1950. An armistice in 1953 committed both to a cease-fire, but the two countries remain officially at war because a formal peace treaty was never signed.[7] Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.[8]

The DPRK holds

  • DPR OF KOREA OFFICIAL주체102년's channel on YouTube
  • uriminzokkiri's channel on YouTube
  • Videos from North Korea's channel on YouTube
  • DPRK Music's channel on YouTube
  • North Korea Videos's channel on YouTube
  • DPRK Concert's channel on YouTube
  • DPRK TV Radio's channel on YouTube
  • Documentary by film crew about one-week visit to North Korea on YouTube
  • Flickr tags: North Korea. Sets: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Groups: [9], [10]
  • Inside North Korea – slideshow by The First Post
  • North Korea's official flickr, uriminzok, 우리민족끼리
  • United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Report by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • North Korea at DMOZ
  • North Korea entry at The World Factbook
  • North Korea profile from the BBC News
  • North Korea Encyclopædia Britannica entry
  • Geographic data related to North Korea at OpenStreetMap
  • North Korea – Link Collection (University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries GovPubs)
  • Amnesty International: North Korea: Political Prison Camps - Document on conditions in North Korean prison camps
  • "Show and Tell Pyongyang" – A blog, often with images, in Russian
  • Article about Show and Tell Pyongyang in English on NK News
  • The Daily NK: The Hub of North Korean News – News about North Korea and human rights
  • The website of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries at
  • Korea Education Fund (Archived 31 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine)
  • The website of the digital edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper at
General sites
Government sites

External links

  • "Country Profile: North Korea". Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. July 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  • "North Korea – A Country Study".  


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See also

The Arirang Festival has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the biggest choreographic event in the world.[357] Some 100,000 athletes perform rhythmic gymnastics and dances while another 40,000 participants create a vast animated screen in the background. The event is an artistic representation of the country's history and pays homage to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.[357][358] Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, the largest stadium in the world with its capacity of 150,000, hosts the Festival.[358][359] The Pyongyang Marathon is another notable sports event. It is a IAAF Bronze Label Race where amateur runners from around the world can participate.[360]

North Korea's first appearance in the Olympics came in 1964. The 1972 Olympics saw its summer games debut and five medals, including one gold. With the exception of the boycotted Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics, North Korean athletes have won medals in all summer games since then.[354] Weightlifter Kim Un-guk broke the world record of the Men's 62 kg category at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[355] Successful Olympians receive luxury apartments from the state in recognition for their achievements.[356]

North Koreans have an almost obsessive sports mentality and most schools have daily practice in association football, basketball, table tennis, gymnastics, boxing and others. The DPR Korea League is popular inside the country and its games are often televised.[329] The national football team, Chollima, competed in the FIFA World Cup in 2010, when it lost all three matches against Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.[351] Its 1966 appearance was much more successful, seeing a surprise 1:0 victory over Italy and a quarter final loss to Portugal by 3:5.[352] A national team represents the nation in international basketball competitions as well. In December 2013, former American basketball professional Dennis Rodman visited North Korea to help train the national team after he developed a friendship with Kim Jong-un.[353]

Scene from the 2012 Arirang Festival


North Korea's most famous restaurant, Okryugwan, is known for its raengmyeon cold noodles.[347] Other dishes served there include gray mullet soup with boiled rice, beef rib soup, green bean pancake, sinsollo and dishes made from terrapin.[348][349] Okryugwan sends research teams into the countryside to collect data on Korean cuisine and introduce new recipes.[347] Some Asian cities host branches of the Pyongyang restaurant chain where waitresses perform music and dance.[350]

Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, it has gone through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.[345] Rice dishes and kimchi are staple Korean food. In a traditional meal, they accompany both side dishes (panch'an) and main courses like juk, pulgogi or noodles. Soju liquor is the best-known traditional Korean spirit.[346]

North Korean bibimbap


Bias in reporting on North Korea has occurred in international media as a result of the country's isolation. Nonsensical stories like Kim Jong-un undergoing surgery to look like his grandfather, executing his ex-girlfriend or feeding his uncle to a pack of hungry dogs have been circulated by foreign media as truth despite the lack of a credible source.[342] Many of the claims originate from the South Korean right-wing newspaper Chosun Ilbo.[343] Max Fischer of The Washington Post has written that "almost any story [on North Korea] is treated as broadly credible, no matter how outlandish or thinly sourced".[344] Occasional deliberate disinformation on the part of North Korean establishments further complicates the issue.[342]

North Korean media are under some of the strictest government control in the world. Freedom of the press in 2013 was 177th out of 178 countries in a Reporters Without Borders index.[336] According to Freedom House, all media outlets serve as government mouthpieces, all journalists are Party members and listening to foreign broadcasts carries the threat of a death penalty.[337] The main news provider is the Korean Central News Agency. All 12 newspapers and 20 periodicals, including Rodong Sinmun, are published in the capital.[338] There are three state-owned TV stations. Two of them broadcast only on weekends and the Korean Central Television is on air every day in the evenings.[339] Uriminzokkiri and its associated YouTube and Twitter accounts distribute imagery, news and video issued by government media.[340] The Associated Press opened the first Western all-format, full-time bureau in Pyongyang in 2012.[341]

Government policies towards film are no different than those applied to other arts - motion pictures serve to fulfill the targets of "social education". Some of the most influential films are based on historic events (An Jung-geun shoots Itō Hirobumi) or folk tales (Hong Gildong).[321] Most movies have predictable propaganda story lines which make cinema an unpopular entertainment. Viewers only see films that feature their favorite actors.[329] Western productions are only available at private showings to high-ranking Party members,[333] although the 1997 Titanic is frequently shown to university students as an example of Western culture.[334] Access to foreign media products is available through smuggled DVDs and television or radio broadcasts in border areas.[335]


Kim Il-sung's personal works are considered "classical masterpieces" while the ones created under his instruction are labeled "models of Juche literature". These include The Fate of a Self-Defense Corps Man, The Song of Korea and Immortal History, a series of historical novels depicting the suffering of Koreans under Japanese occupation.[311][321] More than four million literary works were published between the 1980s and the early 2000s, but almost all of them belong to a narrow variety of political genres like "army-first revolutionary literature".[331] Science fiction is considered a secondary genre because it somewhat departs from the traditional standards of detailed descriptions and metaphors of the leader. The exotic settings of the stories give authors more freedom to depict cyberwarfare, violence, sexual abuse and crime, which are absent in other genres. Sci-fi works glorify technology and promote the Juche concept of anthropocentric existence through depictions of robotics, space exploration and immortality.[332]

Unlike the former Soviet Union, no literary underground exists and there are no known dissident writers.[329] All publishing houses are owned by the government or the KWP because they are considered an important tool for propaganda and agitation. The Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House is the most authoritative among them and publishes all works of Kim Il-sung, ideological education materials and party policy documents.[330] Foreign literature did not appear until 1984, when North Korean editions of Indian, German, Chinese and Russian fairy tales, Tales from Shakespeare and some works of Bertolt Brecht and Erich Kästner were printed.[317]

Works of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in a North Korean bookstore


Pop music appeared in the 1980s with the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble and Wangjaesan Light Music Band.[325] Improved relations with South Korea following the Inter-Korean Summit caused a decline in direct ideological messages in pop songs, but themes like comradeship, nostalgia and the construction of a powerful country remained.[326] Today, the all-girl Moranbong Band is the most popular group in the country.[327] North Koreans have also been exposed to K-pop which spreads through illegal markets.[328]

The government emphasized optimistic folk-based tunes and revolutionary music throughout most of the 20th century.[311] Ideological messages are conveyed through massive orchestral pieces like the "Five Great Revolutionary Operas" based on traditional Korean ch'angguk.[321] Revolutionary operas differ from their Western counterparts by adding traditional instruments to the orchestra and avoiding recitative segments.[322] Sea of Blood is the most widely performed of the Five Great Operas: since its premiere in 1971, it has been played over 1,500 times,[323] and its 2010 tour in China was a major success.[322] Western classical music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and other composers is performed both by the State Symphony Orchestra and student orchestras.[324]

KPA State Chorus
Song of Comradeship
Moranbong Band
Let us Dash towards the Future


Most aspects of art have been dominated by Mansudae Art Studio since its establishment in 1959. It employs around 1,000 artists in what is likely the biggest art factory in the world where paintings, murals, posters and monuments are designed and produced.[318] The studio has commercialized its activity and sells its works to collectors in a variety of countries including China, where it is in high demand.[317] Mansudae Overseas Projects is a subdivision of Mansudae Art Studio that carries out construction of large-scale monuments for international customers.[318] Some of the projects include the African Renaissance Monument in Senegal,[319] and the Heroes' Acre in Namibia.[320]

Visual arts are generally produced in the aesthetics of Socialist realism.[316] North Korean painting combines the influence of Soviet and Japanese visual expression to instill a sentimental loyalty to the system.[317] All artists in North Korea are required to join the Artists' Union, and the best among them can receive an official licence to portray the leaders. Portraits and sculptures depicting Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are classed as "Number One works".[316]


Korean heritage is protected and maintained by the state.[314] Over 190 historical sites and objects of national significance are cataloged as National Treasures of North Korea, while some 1,800 less valuable artifacts are included in a list of Cultural Assets. The Historic Sites and Monuments in Kaesong and the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[315]

After the peninsula was divided in 1945, two distinct cultures formed out of the common Korean heritage. North Koreans have almost no exposure to foreign influence[311] apart from occasional performances like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra concert in February 2008.[312][313] Contemporary cultural expression in the country serves a primarily didactic purpose by promoting the Juche idea and Korean reunification. The revolutionary struggle and the brilliance of the leadership are some of the main themes in art. "Reactionary" elements from traditional culture have been discarded and cultural forms with a "folk" spirit have been reintroduced.[311]

Despite a historically strong Chinese influence, Korean culture has shaped its own unique identity.[309] It came under attack during the Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, when Japan enforced a cultural assimilation policy. Koreans were encouraged to learn and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and Shinto religion, and were forbidden to write or speak the Korean language in schools, businesses, or public places.[310]


Usage of communication technology is controlled by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. An adequate nationwide fiber-optic telephone system with 1.18 million fixed lines[301] and expanding mobile coverage is in place.[302] Most phones are installed for senior government officials and installation requires written explanation why the user needs a telephone and how it will be paid for.[303] Cellular coverage is available with a 3G network operated by Koryolink, a joint venture with Orascom Telecom Holding.[304] The number of subscribers has increased from 3,000 in 2002[305] to almost two million in 2013.[304] International calls through either fixed or cellular service are restricted, and mobile Internet is not available.[304] Internet access itself is limited to a handful of elite users and scientists. Instead, North Korea has a walled garden intranet system called Kwangmyong,[306] which is maintained and monitored by the Korea Computer Center.[307] Its content is limited to state media, chat services, message boards,[306] an e-mail service and an estimated 1,000-5,500 websites.[308] Computers employ the Red Star OS, an operating system derived from Linux, with a user shell visually similar to OS X. North Korea's only Internet café is in Pyongyang.[308]

Significant resources have been allocated to the national space program, which is managed by the Korean Committee of Space Technology.[296] Domestically produced launch vehicles and the Kwangmyŏngsŏng satellite class are launched from two spaceports, the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground and the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. After four failed attempts, North Korea became the tenth spacefaring nation with the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 in December 2012, which successfully reached orbit but was believed to be crippled and non-operational.[297][298] It joined the Outer Space Treaty in 2009[299] and has stated its intentions to undertake manned and Moon missions.[296] The government insists the space program is for peaceful purposes, but the United States, Japan, South Korea and other countries maintain that it serves to advance military ballistic missile programs.[300]

Under its "constructing a powerful knowledge economy" slogan, the state has launched a project to concentrate education, scientific research and production into a number of "high-tech development zones". However, international sanctions remain a significant obstacle to their development.[294] The Miraewon network of electronic libraries was established in 2014 under similar slogans.[295]

Unha-3 space launch vehicle at Sohae Satellite Launching Station

R&D efforts are concentrated at the State Academy of Sciences, which runs 40 research institutes, 200 smaller research centers, a scientific equipment factory and six publishing houses.[290] The government considers science and technology as directly linked to economic development.[291][292] A five-year scientific plan emphasizing IT, biotechnology, nanotechnology, marine and plasma research was carried out in the early 2000s.[291] A 2010 report by the South Korean Science and Technology Policy Institute identified polymer chemistry, animal cloning, single carbon materials, nanoscience, mathematics, software, nuclear technology and rocketry as potential areas of inter-Korean scientific cooperation. North Korean institutes are strong in these fields of research, although their engineers require additional training and laboratories need equipment upgrades.[293]

Science and technology

Transport infrastructure includes railways, highways, water and air routes, but rail transport is by far the most widespread. North Korea has some 5,200 kilometres of railways mostly in standard gauge which carry 80% of annual passenger traffic and 86% of freight, but electricity shortages undermine their efficiency.[276] Construction of a high-speed railway connecting Kaesong, Pyongyang and Sinuiju with speeds exceeding 200 km/h was approved in 2013.[282] North Korea connects with the Trans-Siberian Railway through Rajin.[283] By contrast, road transport is very limited - only 724 kilometers of the 25,554 kilometer road network are paved,[284] and maintenance on most roads is poor.[285] Only 2% of the freight capacity is supported by river and sea transport, and air traffic is negligible.[276] All port facilities are ice-free and host a merchant fleet of 158 vessels.[286] Eighty-two airports[287] and 23 helipads[288] are operational and the largest serve the state-run airline, Air Koryo.[276] Cars are relatively rare, but bicycles are common.[289]

The energy infrastructure is obsolete and in disrepair. Power shortages are chronic and would not be alleviated even by electricity imports because the poorly maintained grid causes significant losses during transmission.[275] Coal accounts for 70% of primary energy production, followed by hydroelectric power with 17%.[276] The government under Kim Jong-un has increased emphasis on renewable energy projects like wind farms, solar parks, solar heating and biomass.[277] A set of legal regulations adopted in 2014 stressed the development of geothermal, wind and solar energy along with recycling and environmental conservation.[277][278] North Korea also strives to develop its own civilian nuclear program, but these efforts are under much international dispute due to their military applications and concerns about safety.[279] Russian energy company Gazprom has a project for a $2.5 billion gas pipeline to South Korea through Pyongyang, which is expected to generate an annual revenue of $100 million from transit fees.[280][281]

A Soviet-built M62 diesel unit at Pyongyang Station
Tupolev Tu-204 of Air Koryo over Vladivostok Airport


Foreign trade surpassed pre-crisis levels in 2005 and continues to expand.[266] North Korea has a number of special economic zones (SEZs) and Special Administrative Regions where foreign companies can operate with tax and tariff incentives while North Korean establishments gain access to improved technology.[267] Initially four such zones existed, but they yielded little overall success.[268] The SEZ system was overhauled in 2013 when 14 new zones were opened and the Rason Special Economic Zone was reformed as a joint Chinese-North Korean project.[269] The Kaesong Industrial Region is a special economic zone where more than 100 South Korean companies employ some 52,000 North Korean workers.[270] Outside inter-Korean trade, more than 89% of external trade is conducted with China. Russia is the second-largest foreign partner with $100 million worth of imports and exports for the same year.[271] In 2014, Russia wrote off 90% of North Korea's debt and the two countries agreed to conduct all transactions in rubles.[272][273] Overall, external trade in 2013 reached a total of $7.3 billion - the highest amount since 1990[271] - while inter-Korean trade dropped to an eight-year low of $1.1 billion.[274]

Industry and services employ 65%[257] of North Korea's 12.6 million labor force.[258] Major industries include machine building, military equipment, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.[259] Iron ore and coal production are among the few sectors where North Korea performs significantly better than its southern neighbor – it produces about 10 times larger amounts of each resource.[260] The agricultural sector was shattered by the natural disasters of the 1990s.[261] Its 3,500 cooperatives and state farms[262] were among the most productive and successful in the world around 1980[263] but now experience chronic fertilizer and equipment shortages. Rice, corn, soybeans and potatoes are some of the primary crops and a significant contribution to the food supply comes from commercial fishing and aquaculture.[240] Tourism has been a growing sector for the past decade.[264] North Korea aims to increase the number of foreign visitors from 200,000 to one million by 2016 through projects like the Masikryong Ski Resort.[265]

An industrial plant in Hamhung

The economy is heavily socialized.[249] Food and housing are extensively subsidized by the state; education and healthcare are free;[250] and the payment of taxes was officially abolished in 1974.[251] A variety of goods are available in department stores and supermarkets in Pyongyang,[252] though most of the population relies on small-scale janmadang markets.[253][254] In 2009, the government attempted to stem the expanding free market by banning janmadang and the use of foreign currency,[240] but the resulting inflation spike and rare public protests caused a reversal of these policies.[255] Private trade is dominated by women because most men are required to be present at their workplace, even though many state-owned enterprises are non-operational.[256]

In an attempt to recover from the collapse, the government began structural reforms in 1998 that formally legalized private ownership of assets and decentralized control over production.[241] A second round of reforms in 2002 led to an expansion of market activities, partial monetization, flexible prices and salaries, and the introduction of incentives and accountability techniques.[242] Despite these changes, North Korea remains a command economy where the state owns almost all means of production and development priorities are defined by the government.[240] It has the structural profile of a relatively industrialized country[243] where nearly half of the Gross Domestic Product is generated by industry[244] and human development is at medium levels.[245] Purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP is estimated at $40 billion,[246] with a very low per capita value of $1,800.[247] In 2012, Gross national income per capita was $1,523, compared to $28,430 in South Korea.[248] The North Korean won is the national currency issued by the Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea has been maintaining one of the most closed and centralized economies in the world since the 1940s.[236] For several decades it followed the Soviet pattern of five-year plans with the ultimate goal of achieving self-sufficiency. Extensive Soviet and Chinese support allowed North Korea to rapidly recover from the Korean War and register very high growth rates. Systematic inefficiency began to arise around 1960, when the economy shifted from the extensive to the intensive development stage. The shortage of skilled labor, energy, arable land and transportation significantly impeded long-term growth and resulted in consistent failure to meet planning objectives.[237] The major slowdown of the economy contrasted with South Korea, which surpassed the North in terms of absolute Gross Domestic Product and per capita income by the 1980s.[238] North Korea declared the last seven-year plan unsuccessful in December 1993 and thereafter abandoned planning.[239] The loss of Eastern Bloc trading partners and a series of natural disasters throughout the 1990s caused severe hardships, including widespread famine. By 2000, the situation improved owing to a massive international food assistance effort, but the economy continues to suffer from food shortages, dilapidated infrastructure and a critically low energy supply.[240]

An image of the Korean Peninsula at night shows the economic disparity between North and South Korea


The North Korean government rejects the human rights abuses claims, calling them "a smear campaign" and a "human rights racket" aimed at regime change.[232][233][234] In a report to the UN, North Korea dismissed accusations of atrocities as "wild rumors". The government also admitted some human rights issues related to living conditions and stated that it is working to improve them.[235]

North Korean defectors[227] have provided detailed testimonies on the existence of the total control zones where abuses such as torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labor, and forced abortions have been reported.[119] On the basis of these abuses, as well as persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance of persons and forced starvation, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry has accused North Korea of crimes against humanity.[228][229][230] The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) estimates that over 10,000 people die in North Korean prison camps every year.[231]

The State Security Department extrajudicially apprehends and imprisons those accused of political crimes without due process.[220] People perceived as hostile to the government, such as Christians or critics of the leadership,[221] are deported to labor camps without trial,[222] often with their whole family and mostly without any chance of being released.[223] Based on satellite images and defector testimonies, Amnesty International estimates that around 200,000 prisoners are held in six large political prison camps,[221][224] where they are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery.[225] Supporters of the government who deviate from the government line are subject to reeducation in sections of labor camps set aside for that purpose. Those who are successfully rehabilitated may reassume responsible government positions on their release.[226]

[219] North Korea is widely accused of having one of the worst

Human rights

A uniformed civilian man riding a bicycle in Pyongyang.

While some analysts believe private commerce recently changed the Songbun system to some extent,[212] most North Korean refugees say it remains a commanding presence in everyday life.[208] However the North Korean government claims all citizens are equal and denies any discrimination on the basis of family background.[213]

Songbun allegedly affects access to educational and employment opportunities and particularly whether a person is eligible to join North Korea's ruling party.[209] There are 3 main classifications and about 50 sub-classifications. According to Kim Il-sung, speaking in 1958, the loyal "core class" constituted 25% of the North Korean population, the "wavering class" 55%, and the "hostile class" 20%.[208] The highest status is accorded to individuals descended from those who participated with Kim Il-sung in the resistance against Japanese occupation during and before World War II and to those who were factory workers, laborers or peasants in 1950.[211]

According to North Korean documents and refugee testimonies,[208] all North Koreans are sorted into groups according to their Songbun, an ascribed status system. Based on their own behavior and the political, social, and economic background of their family for three generations as well as behavior by relatives within that range, Songbun is allegedly used to determine whether an individual is trusted with responsibility, given opportunities,[209] or even receives adequate food.[208][210]

Sneaker-wearing North Korean youths walking in Pyongyang.

Ascribed status

Freedom of religion and the right to religious ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed, but religions are restricted in practice.[197][198] According to Religious Intelligence, 64.3% of the population are irreligious adherents of the Juche idea, 16% practice Korean shamanism, 13.5% practice Chondoism, 4.5% are Buddhist and 1.7% are Christian.[199] The cultural influence of Buddhism and Confucianism still has an effect on spiritual life, however.[200][201] Buddhists reportedly fare better than other religious groups. They are given limited funding by the government to promote the religion, because Buddhism played an integral role in traditional Korean culture.[202] Chondoism ("Heavenly Way") is an indigenous syncretic belief combining elements of Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism and Catholicism that is officially represented by the KWP-controlled Chongu Party.[203] In contrast, the Open Doors mission claims the most severe persecution of Christians in the world occurs in North Korea.[204] Four state-sanctioned churches exist, but freedom of religion advocates claim these are showcases for foreigners.[205][206] Amnesty International has also expressed concerns about religious persecution in the country.[207]

North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea, although some dialect differences exist within both Koreas. North Koreans refer to their Pyongyang dialect as munhwa ("cultured language") as opposed to South Korea's Seoul dialect, the p'yojuno ("standard language"), which is viewed as decadent because of its usage of Japanese and English loanwords.[195] Words from Japanese, Chinese or Western origin have been eliminated from munhwa along with the usage of Chinese hanja characters.[195] Written language uses the chosŏn'gul phonetic alphabet, developed under Sejong the Great (1418 – 1450).[196]

The 2008 census listed the entire population as literate, including those in the age group beyond 80.[184] A 11-year free, compulsory cycle of primary and secondary education is provided in more than 27,000 nursery schools, 14,000 kindergartens, 4,800 four-year primary and 4,700 six-year secondary schools.[175] Some 77% of males and 79% of females aged 30–34 have finished secondary school.[184] An additional 300 universities and colleges offer higher education,[175] but Kim Il-sung University is the only one with four-year courses. Most graduates from the compulsory program do not attend university but begin their obligatory military service or proceed to work in farms or factories instead. The main deficiencies of higher education are the heavy presence of ideological subjects, which comprise 50% of courses in social studies and 20% in sciences,[191] and the imbalances in curriculum. The study of natural sciences is greatly emphasized while social sciences are neglected.[192] Heuristics is actively applied to develop the independence and creativity of students throughout the system.[193] Studying of Russian and English language was made compulsory in upper middle schools in 1978.[194]

Food shortages and natural disasters during the 1990s resulted in a steep decline in health care as well. Many hospitals and clinics experienced a lack of essential medicines, equipment, running water and electricity by 2001.[185] [187] The same year, a national telemedicine network connecting Kim Man Yu hospital in Pyongyang with 10 provincial medical facilities was launched.[188] A free universal insurance system is in place,[30] but quality of medical care varies significantly by region.[189] Preventive medicine is emphasized through physical exercise and sports, nationwide monthly checkups and routine spraying of public places against disease. Every individual has a lifetime health card which contains a full medical record.[190]

A dental clinic at one of North Korea's major hospitals

The famine had a significant impact on the population growth rate, which declined to 0.9% annually in 2002[171] and 0.53% in 2014.[180] Late marriages after military service, limited housing space and long hours of work or political studies further exhaust the population and reduce growth.[171] Despite these conditions the national birth rate of 14.5 births per 1,000 population still stands much higher than South Korea's 8.26.[181] However, the national death rate is also higher,[182] and life expectancy is significantly lower at 69.8 years.[183] Two-thirds of households consist of extended families mostly living in two-room units. Marriage is virtually universal and divorce is extremely rare.[184]

With the exception of a small Bush Administration,[174] the situation gradually improved: the number of malnourished children declined from 60% in 1998[175] to 37% in 2006[176] and 28% in 2013.[177] Domestic food production almost recovered to the recommended annual level of 5.37 million tons of cereal equivalent in 2013,[178] but the World Food Program reported a continuing lack of dietary diversity and access to fats and proteins.[179]

North Koreans posing for a photo in front of Kumsusan Palace of the Sun



Much of the equipment is engineered and produced by a domestic defense industry. Weapons are manufactured in roughly 1,800 underground defense industry plants scattered throughout the country, most of them located in Chagang Province.[167] The defense industry is capable of producing a full range of individual and crew-served weapons, artillery, armoured vehicles, tanks, missiles, helicopters, surface combatants, submarines, landing and infiltration craft, Yak-18 trainers and possibly co-production of jet aircraft.[120] According to official North Korean media, military expenditures for 2010 amount to 15.8% of the state budget.[168]

The military faces some issues limiting its conventional capabilities, including obsolete equipment, insufficient fuel supplies and a shortage of digital command and control assets. To compensate for these deficiencies, the KPA has deployed a wide range of asymmetric warfare technologies like anti-personnel blinding lasers,[160] GPS jammers,[161] midget submarines and human torpedoes,[162] stealth paint,[163] electromagnetic pulse bombs,[164] and cyberwarfare units.[165] KPA units have also attempted to jam South Korean military satellites.[166]

North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, but its arsenal remains limited. Various estimates put its stockpile at less than 10 plutonium warheads[153][154] and 12-27 nuclear weapon equivalents if uranium warheads are considered.[155] Delivery capabilities[156] are provided by the Rocket Force, which has some 1,000 ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometres.[157] According to a 2004 South Korean assessment, North Korea possesses a stockpile of chemical weapons estimated to amount to 2,500-5,000 tons, including nerve, blister, blood, and vomiting agents, as well as the ability to cultivate and produce biological weapons including anthrax, smallpox, and cholera.[158][159] Because of its nuclear and missile tests, North Korea has been sanctioned under United Nations Security Council resolutions 1695 of July 2006, 1718 of October 2006, 1874 of June 2009, and 2087 of January 2013.

Ilyushin Il-76 strategic military airlifter used by Air Koryo

Of all KPA branches, the Ground Force is the largest. It has approximately 1 million personnel divided into 80 infantry divisions, 30 artillery brigades, 25 special warfare brigades, 20 mechanized brigades, 10 tank brigades and seven tank regiments.[147] They are equipped with 3,700 tanks, 2,100 APCs and IFVs,[148] 17,900 artillery pieces, 11,000 anti-aircraft guns[149] and some 10,000 MANPADS and anti-tank guided missiles.[150] Other equipment includes 1,600 aircraft in the Air Force and 1,000 vessels in the Navy.[151] North Korea has the largest special forces and the largest submarine fleet in the world.[152]

[146] is subordinated to the latter.Ministry of the People's Armed Forces. Command of the Korean People's Army lies in both the Central Military Commission of the Korean Workers' Party and the independent National Defense Commission. The Rocket Force, and Special Operations Force, Air Force, Naval Force, Ground Force The KPA has five branches: [145][34] and approximately one in every 25 citizens is an enlisted soldier.[33] About 20% of men aged 17–54 serve in the regular armed forces,[144] The

Korean People's Army soldiers at Panmunjom


Relations worsened yet again in the late 2000s and early 2010s when South Korean president Lee Myung-bak adopted a more hard-line approach and suspended aid deliveries until the de-nuclearization of the North. North Korea responded by ending all of its previous agreements with the South.[138] It also deployed additional ballistic missiles[139] and placed its military on full combat alert after South Korea, Japan and the United States threatened to intercept a Unha-2 space launch vehicle.[140] The next few years witnessed a string of hostilities, including the alleged North Korean involvement in the sinking of South Korean warship Cheonan,[53] mutual ending of diplomatic ties,[141] a North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island,[142] and an international crisis involving threats of a nuclear exchange.[143]

[137] and Kim Jong-il signed an 8-point peace agreement.Roh Moo-Hyun On 4 October 2007, South Korean President [136], when Kim Dae Jung visited Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.2000 Inter-Korean Summit states and contributed to the establishment of joint North-South economic projects. The culmination of the Sunshine Policy was the European Union in 1998 was a watershed in inter-Korean relations. It encouraged other countries to engage with the North, which allowed Pyongyang to normalize relations with a number of Kim Dae Jung instituted by South Korean president Sunshine Policy The [135] Inter-Korean relations are at the core of North Korean diplomacy and have seen numerous shifts in the last few decades. In 1972, the two Koreas agreed in principle to achieve

North Korea's policy is to seek reunification without what it sees as outside interference, through a federal structure retaining each side's leadership and systems. In 2000, both North and South Korea signed the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration in which both sides made promises to seek out a peaceful reunification.[132] The Democratic Federal Republic of Korea is a proposed state first mentioned by then North Korean president Kim Il-sung on 10 October 1980, proposing a federation between North and South Korea in which the respective political systems would initially remain.[133]

Korean reunification

As a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the six-party talks were established to find a peaceful solution to the growing tension between the two Korean governments, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the United States. North Korea was previously designated a state sponsor of terrorism[128] because of its alleged involvement in the 1983 Rangoon bombing and the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner.[129] On 11 October 2008, the United States removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism after Pyongyang agreed to cooperate on issues related to its nuclear program.[130] The kidnapping of at least 13 Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and the 1980s was another major issue in the country's foreign policy.[131]

An aid convoy entering North Korea through the Demilitarized Zone in 1998

Initially, North Korea had diplomatic ties with only other Communist countries. In the 1960s and 1970s, it pursued an independent foreign policy, established relations with many developing countries, and joined the Non-Aligned Movement. In the late 1980s and the 1990s its foreign policy was thrown into turmoil with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Suffering an economic crisis, it closed 30% of its embassies. At the same time, it sought to build relations with developed capitalist countries. As of 2012, it had diplomatic relations with 162 countries, as well as the European Union and the Palestinian Authority, and embassies in 42 countries.[124] North Korea continues to have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam and Laos, as well as with Cambodia.[125] Most of the foreign embassies to North Korea are located in Beijing rather than in Pyongyang.[126] The Korean Demilitarized Zone with South Korea is the most heavily fortified border in the world.[127]

Kim Jong-il with former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in 2011

Foreign relations

The Ministry of People's Security (MPS) maintains most law enforcement activities. It is one of the most powerful state institutions in North Korea and oversees the national police force, investigates criminal cases and manages non-political correctional facilities.[113] It also handles other aspects of domestic security like civil registration, traffic control, fire departments and railroad security.[114] The State Security Department was separated from the MPS in 1973 to conduct domestic and foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and manage the political prison system. Political camps can be short-term reeducation zones or "total control zones" for lifetime detention.[115] Camp 14 in Kaechon,[116] Camp 15 in Yodok[117] and Camp 18 in Bukchang[118] are described in detailed testimonies.[119] The security apparatus is very extensive,[120] exerting strict control over residence, travel, employment, clothing, food and family life.[121] Security establishments tightly monitor cellular and digital communications. The MPS, State Security and the Police allegedly conduct real-time monitoring of text messages, online data transfer, monitor phone calls and automatically transcribe recorded conversations. They reportedly have the capacity to triangulate a subscriber's exact location, while military intelligence monitors phone and radio traffic as far as 140 kilometers south of the Demilitarized zone.[122] Mass surveillance is carried out through a system which includes 100,000 CCTV cameras, many of which are installed at the border with China.[123]

North Korea has a civil law system based on the Prussian model and influenced by Japanese traditions and Communist legal theory.[109] Judiciary procedures are handled by the Central Court (the highest court of appeal), provincial or special city-level courts, people's courts and special courts. People's courts are at the lowest level of the system and operate in cities, counties and urban districts, while different kinds of special courts handle cases related to military, railroad or maritime matters. Judges are theoretically elected by their respective local people's assemblies, but in practice they're appointed by the Korean Workers' Party. The penal code is based on the principle of nullum crimen sine lege (no crime without a law), but remains a tool for political control despite several amendments reducing ideological influence.[110] Courts carry out legal procedures related to not only criminal and civil matters, but also political cases as well.[111] Political prisoners are sent to labor camps, while criminal offenders are incarcerated in a separate system.[112]

North Korean traffic police in Pyongyang

Law enforcement and internal security

B. R. Myers also argues that the worship is real and not unlike worship of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.[107] In a more recent event – on 11 June 2012 – a 14-year-old North Korean schoolgirl drowned while attempting to rescue portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il from a flood.[108]

Critics maintain this Kim Jong-il personality cult was inherited from his father, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-il was often the center of attention throughout ordinary life in the DPRK. His birthday is one of the most important public holidays in the country. On his 60th birthday (based on his official date of birth), mass celebrations occurred throughout the country.[99] Kim Jong-il's personality cult, although significant, was not as extensive as his father's. One point of view is that Kim Jong-il's cult of personality was solely out of respect for Kim Il-sung or out of fear of punishment for failure to pay homage.[100] Media and government sources from outside of North Korea generally support this view,[101][102][103][104][105] while North Korean government sources say that it is genuine hero worship.[106]

similar scenes were broadcast by state television following the death of Kim Jong-il. [98] The song "

A propaganda poster with Kim Il-sung's official portrait.

Such reports are contested by North Korea researcher Brian R. Myers: "divine powers have never been attributed to either of the two Kims. In fact, the propaganda apparatus in Pyongyang has generally been careful not to make claims that run directly counter to citizens’ experience or common sense."[95] He further explains that the state propaganda painted Kim Jong-il as someone whose expertise lay in military matters and that the famine of the 1990s was partially caused by natural disasters out of Kim Jong-il's control.[96]

The North Korean government exercises control over many aspects of the nation's culture, and this control is used to perpetuate a cult of personality surrounding Kim Il-sung,[92] and, to a lesser extent, Kim Jong-il.[93] While visiting North Korea in 1979, journalist Bradley Martin noted that nearly all music, art, and sculpture that he observed glorified "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung, whose personality cult was then being extended to his son, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il.[94] Bradley Martin also reported that there is even widespread belief that Kim Il-sung "created the world", and Kim Jong-il could "control the weather".[94]

Personality cult

Some foreign observers have instead described North Korea's political system as an absolute monarchy[82][83][84] or a "hereditary dictatorship".[85] Others view its ideology as a racialist-focused nationalism similar to that of Shōwa Japan,[86][87][88][89] or bearing a resemblance to European Fascism.[90] A defected North Korean scholar dismisses the idea that Juche is the country's leading ideology, regarding its public exaltation as designed to deceive foreigners.[91]

It was initially promoted as a "creative application" of Marxism–Leninism, but in the mid-1970s, it was described by state propaganda as "the only scientific thought...and most effective revolutionary theoretical structure that leads to the future of communist society". Juche eventually replaced Marxist–Leninism entirely by the 1980s,[78] and in 1992 references to the latter were omitted from the constitution.[79] The 2009 constitution dropped references to communism, but retained references to socialism.[80] Juche's concepts of self-reliance have thus evolved with time and circumstances, but still provide the groundwork for the spartan austerity, sacrifice and discipline demanded by the Party.[81]

The Juche ideology is the cornerstone of party works and government operations. It is viewed by the official North Korean line as an embodiment of Kim Il-sung's wisdom, an expression of his leadership, and an idea which provides "a complete answer to any question that arises in the struggle for national libera­tion". Juche was pronounced in December 1955 in order to emphasize a Korea-centered revolution.[76] Its core tenets are economic self-sufficiency, military self-reliance and an independent foreign policy. The roots of Juche were made up of a complex mixture of factors, including the cult of personality centred on Kim Il-sung, the conflict with pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese dissenters, and Korea's centuries-long struggle for independence.[77]

The Juche Tower in Pyongyang

Political ideology

Executive power is vested in the Cabinet of North Korea, which is headed by Premier Pak Pong-ju.[74] The Premier represents the government and functions independently. His authority extends over two vice-premiers, 30 ministers, two cabinet commission chairmen, the cabinet chief secretary, the president of the Central Bank, the director of the Central Statistics Bureau and the president of the Academy of Sciences. A 31st ministry, the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, is under the jurisdiction of the National Defence Commission.[75]

North Koreans touring the Museum of American War Atrocities in 2009

[73] The unicameral

North Korea functions as a highly centralized, Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party[68] which participate in the KWP-led Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Another highly influential structure is the independent National Defence Commission (NDC). Kim Jong-un of the Kim family heads all major governing structures: he is First Secretary of the KWP, First Chairman of the NDC, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army.[69][70] Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is the country's "Eternal President",[71] while Kim Jong-il was announced "Eternal General Secretary" after his death in 2011.[69]

Mansudae Assembly Hall, seat of the Supreme People's Assembly

Government and politics

Map Namea Chosŏn'gŭl Administrative Seat
Capital city (chikhalsi)a
1 Pyongyang 평양직할시 (Chung-guyok)
Special city (teukbyeolsi)a
2 Rason 라선특별시 (Rajin-guyok)
Provinces (do)a
3 South Pyongan 평안남도 Pyongsong
4 North Pyongan 평안북도 Sinuiju
5 Chagang 자강도 Kanggye
6 South Hwanghae 황해남도 Haeju
7 North Hwanghae 황해북도 Sariwon
8 Kangwon 강원도 Wonsan
9 South Hamgyong 함경남도 Hamhung
10 North Hamgyong 함경북도 Chongjin
11 Ryanggang * 량강도 Hyesan
* – Rendered in Southern dialects as "Yanggang" (양강도).

Administrative divisions

North Korea has a combination of a continental climate and an oceanic climate, with four distinct seasons.[63][65] Most of the country is classified as type Dwa in the Köppen climate classification scheme, with warm summers and cold, dry winters.[66] Average snowfall is 37 days during the winter. Summer tends to be short, hot, and wet. Typhoons affect the peninsula on an average of at least once every summer.[65] Late spring droughts often are followed by severe flooding.


The highest point in North Korea is Baekdu Mountain, a volcanic mountain which forms part of the Chinese/North Korean border with basalt lava plateau with elevations between 1,400 and 2,744 meters (4,593 and 9,003 ft) above sea level.[62] The Hamgyong Range, located in the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, has many high peaks including Kwanmobong at approximately 2,541 m (8,337 ft). Other major ranges include the Rangrim Mountains, which are located in the north-central part of North Korea and run in a north-south direction, making communication between the eastern and western parts of the country rather difficult; and the Kangnam Range, which runs along the North Korea–China border. Mount Kumgang, or Diamond Mountain, (approximately 1,638 metres or 5,374 feet) in the Taebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty.[62]

Early European visitors to Korea remarked that the country resembled "a sea in a heavy gale" because of the many successive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula.[62] Some 80% of North Korea is composed of mountains and uplands, separated by deep and narrow valleys. All of the Korean peninsula's mountains with elevations of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft) or more are located in North Korea. The coastal plains are wide in the west and discontinuous in the east. A great majority of the population lives in the plains and lowlands. According to a United Nations Environmental Programme report in 2003, forest covers over 70 percent of the country, mostly on steep slopes.[63] The longest river is the Amnok (Yalu) River which flows for 790 kilometres (491 mi).[64]

Topography of North Korea

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.

North Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula, lying between latitudes 37° and 43°N, and longitudes 124° and 131°E. It covers an area of 120,540 square kilometres (46,541 sq mi). North Korea shares land borders with 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).

Lake Ch'ŏnji at Baekdu Mountain, North Korea's highest point


In 2013 a international crisis erupted regarding North Korea's attempts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. It escalated as North Korea threatened to launch a nuclear strike against the United States and announced it had pulled out of the armistice agreement.[57][58][59][60][61]

On 17 December 2011, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il died from a heart attack.[56] His youngest son Kim Jong-un was announced as his successor.

Tensions with South Korea and the United States increased in 2010 with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan[53] and North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.[54][55]

In August 2009, former U.S. president Bill Clinton met with Kim Jong-il to secure the release of two American journalists who had been sentenced for entering the country illegally.[51] Current U.S. President Barack Obama's position towards North Korea has been to resist making deals with North Korea for the sake of defusing tension, a policy known as "strategic patience."[52]

North Koreans bowing in front of statues of Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il

On October 9, 2006, North Korea announced it had conducted its first nuclear weapons test.[49][50]

The international environment changed with the election of U.S. President Sunshine Policy and former President Bill Clinton's negotiations with North Korea. The US government treated North Korea as a rogue state, while North Korea redoubled its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons to avoid the fate of Iraq.[46][47][48]

Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok meets Bill Clinton at the White House, October 2000

21st century

In the late 1990s, North Korea began making attempts at normalizing relations with the West and negotiating disarmament deals with U.S. officials in exchange for economic aid. At the same time, building on Nordpolitik, South Korea began to engage with the North as part of its Sunshine Policy.[44][45]

In 1992, as Kim Il Sung's health began deteriorating, Kim Jong Il slowly began taking over various state tasks and after his father died of a heart attack in 1994, declared a three-year period of national mourning before officially announcing his position as the new leader. Kim Jong Il instituted a policy called Songun, or "military first". There is much speculation about this policy being used as a strategy to strengthen the military while discouraging coup attempts. Restrictions on travel were tightened and the state security apparatus was strengthened.

North Korea remained closely aligned to China and the Soviet Union until the mid-1960s. Recovery from the war was quick – by 1957 industrial production reached 1949 levels. The last Chinese troops withdrew from the country in October 1958.[42] In 1959, relations with Japan had improved somewhat, and North Korea began allowing the repatriation of Japanese citizens in the country. The same year, North Korea revalued the North Korean Won, which held greater value than its South Korean counterpart. Until the 1960s, economic growth was higher than in South Korea, and North Korean GDP per capita was equal to that of its southern neighbor as late as 1976.[43] In the early 1970s, China began normalizing its relations with the West, particularly the U.S., and reevaluating its relations with North Korea. The diplomatic problems culminated in 1976 with the death of Mao Zedong. In response, Kim Il Sung began severing ties with China and reemphasizing national and economic self-reliance enshrined in his Juche Idea, which promoted producing everything within the country. However, by the 1980s, the economy had begun to stagnate, started its long decline in 1987, and almost completely collapsed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 when all aid was suddenly halted. The North began reestablishing trade relations with China shortly thereafter, but the Chinese could not afford to provide enough food aid to meet demand. Flooding in the mid-1990s exacerbated the economic crisis, severely damaging crops and infrastructure and led to widespread famine which the government proved incapable of curtailing. In 1996, the government accepted UN food aid.

[41] The relative peace between the South and the North following the armistice was interrupted by border skirmishes, celebrity abductions, and assassination attempts. The North failed in several assassination attempts on South Korean leaders, most notably in 1968, 1974 and the

A Korean People's Army soldier pointing to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Post-war 20th century

A heavily guarded demilitarized zone still divides the peninsula, and an anti-Communist and anti-North Korea sentiment remains in South Korea. Since the war, the United States has maintained a strong military presence in the South which is depicted by the North Korean government as an imperialist occupation force.[39]

Although some have referred to the conflict as a civil war, other important factors were involved.[38] The Korean War was also the first armed confrontation of the Cold War and set the standard for many later conflicts. It is often viewed as an example of the proxy war, where the two superpowers would fight in another country, forcing the people in that country to suffer most of the destruction and death involved in a war between such large nations. The superpowers avoided descending into an all-out war against one another, as well as the mutual use of nuclear weapons. It also expanded the Cold War, which to that point had mostly been concerned with Europe.

The military of North Korea invaded the South on 25 June 1950, and swiftly overran most of the country. A United Nations force, led by the United States, intervened to defend the South, and rapidly advanced into North Korea. As they reached the border with China, Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war again. Fighting ended on 27 July 1953, with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea. More than one million civilians and soldiers were killed in the war. As a result of the war, almost every substantial building in North Korea was destroyed.[36][37]

Civilians killed by North Korean forces near Hamhung, October 1950

Korean War (1950–1953)

Soviet forces withdrew from the North in 1948 and most American forces withdrew from the South the following year.

The Rhee regime consolidated itself through harsh persecution of all suspected opponents. It conducted a number of military campaigns against left-wing insurgents during which 30,000 to 100,000 people lost their lives. In October 1948, the Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion occurred and on 24 December 1949, the South Korean Army massacred Mungyeong citizens who were suspected communist sympathizers and affixed the blame on communists.

There was sporadic unrest in the South. In September 1946, South Korean citizens had risen up against the Allied Military Government. In April 1948, an uprising of the Jeju islanders was violently crushed. The South declared its statehood in May 1948 and two months later the ardent anti-Communist Syngman Rhee became its ruler. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was established in the North on 9 September 1948.

The Provisional People's Committee for North Korea was set up in February 1946 in the Soviet zone, headed by Kim Il-sung. He introduced sweeping land reforms and nationalized key industries. Talks on the future of Korea were held in Moscow and Seoul but without result. Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea evaporated as the politics of the Cold War resulted in the establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided into two occupied zones along the 38th parallel, with the northern half of the peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern half by the United States.

Division of Korea (1945)

During World War II, Koreans at home were forced to support the Japanese war effort. Tens of thousands of men were conscripted into Japan's military. Around 200,000 girls and women, many from Korea, were forced to engage in sexual services, with the euphemism "comfort women".

Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names. Worship at Japanese Shinto shrines was made compulsory. The school curriculum was radically modified to eliminate teaching in the Korean language and history. Numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed or taken to Japan. Resistance groups known as Dongnipgun (Liberation Army) operated along the Sino-Korean border, fighting guerrilla warfare against Japanese forces. Some of them took part in allied action in China and parts of South East Asia. One of the guerrilla leaders was the Communist Kim Il-sung, who later became the leader of North Korea.

Japan tried to suppress Korean traditions and culture and ran the economy primarily for its own benefit. Anti-Japanese, pro-liberation rallies took place nationwide on 1 March 1919 (the 1 March Movement). About 7,000 people were killed during the suppression of this movement. Continued anti-Japanese uprisings, such as the nationwide uprising of students in 1929, led to the strengthening of military rule in 1931. After the outbreaks of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and World War II, Japan stepped up efforts to extinguish Korean culture.

In 1910, in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan.

Three Koreans shot for pulling up rails as a protest against seizure of land without payment by the Japanese

Japanese occupation (1910–1945)

Korea has a long history going back to ancient times. It has been governed by many different kingdoms, with different borders, including multiple kingdoms existing at the same time. For centuries it struggled under Chinese domination. At the end of the nineteenth century, it decisively asserted its independence, creating the Korean Empire. Its resistance to foreign influence led to it being dubbed the "Hermit Kingdom".

Early history



  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Japanese occupation (1910–1945) 1.2
    • Division of Korea (1945) 1.3
    • Korean War (1950–1953) 1.4
    • Post-war 20th century 1.5
    • 21st century 1.6
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Administrative divisions 3
  • Government and politics 4
    • Political ideology 4.1
    • Personality cult 4.2
    • Law enforcement and internal security 4.3
    • Foreign relations 4.4
    • Korean reunification 4.5
  • Military 5
  • Society 6
    • Demographics 6.1
    • Ascribed status 6.2
    • Human rights 6.3
  • Economy 7
    • Infrastructure 7.1
    • Science and technology 7.2
  • Culture 8
    • Art 8.1
    • Music 8.2
    • Literature 8.3
    • Media 8.4
    • Cuisine 8.5
    • Sports 8.6
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12

North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy.[32] It is the world's most militarized society, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the 4th largest in the world, after China, the U.S., and India.[33] It possesses nuclear weapons.[34][35] As a result of its isolation, it is sometimes known as the "hermit kingdom".

The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms, and most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are state funded or subsidized.[30] In the 1990s North Korea suffered from a famine and continues to struggle with food production.[31]

Over time North Korea has gradually distanced itself from the world Communist movement. Juche, an ideology of self-reliance, replaced Marxism–Leninism as the official ideology when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972.[27][28] In 2009, the constitution was amended again, quietly removing the brief references to communism (Chosŏn'gŭl: 공산주의).[29]

[26] of which all political officers are required to be a member.Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland holds power in the state and leads the [20], led by a member of the ruling family,Workers' Party of Korea The [25][24][23]

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