North Korea Explained

Native Name:Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk[1]
Conventional Long Name:Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Conventional Short Name:DPR Korea
Common Name:North Korea
"Powerful and Prosperous Nation"
National Anthem:Aegukka
Official Languages:Korean
Demonym:North Korean, Korean
Government Type:Juche socialist Republic,
Single-party communist state
Leader Title1:Eternal President of the Republic
Leader Title2:Chairman of the National Defence Commission
Leader Title3:President of the Supreme People's Assembly
Leader Title4:Premier
Leader Name1:Kim Il-sung
(deceased) a
Leader Name2:Kim Jong-ilb
Leader Name3:Kim Yong-namc
Leader Name4:Kim Yong-il
Largest City:Pyongyang
Area Km2:120,540
Area Sq Mi:46,528
Area Rank:98th
Area Magnitude:1 E11
Percent Water:4.87
Population Estimate:23,790,000
Population Estimate Year:2007
Population Estimate Rank:47th
Population Density Km2:190
Population Density Sq Mi:492
Population Density Rank:55th
Gdp Ppp Year:2007[2]
Gdp Nominal Year:2007[3]
Gdp Nominal:$25.96 billion
Gdp Nominal Rank:85th
Gdp Nominal Per Capita:$1,114
Gdp Nominal Per Capita Rank:132nd
Gdp Ppp:$40.00 billion
Gdp Ppp Rank:89th
Gdp Ppp Per Capita:$1,700
Gdp Ppp Per Capita Rank:156th
Gini Year:2008[4]
Gini Category:low>
Hdi Year:1998[5]
Hdi Rank:75th
Hdi Category:medium>
Fsi:97.7 0.4
Fsi Year:2007
Fsi Rank:13th
Fsi Category:Alert>
Sovereignty Type:Establishment
Established Event1:Independence declared
Established Event2:Liberation
Established Event3:Formal declaration
Established Date1:March 1, 1919
Established Date2:August 15, 1945
Established Date3:September 9, 1948
Currency:North Korean won (₩)
Currency Code:KPW
Time Zone:Korea Standard Time
Utc Offset:+9
Date Format:yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911, CE)
Drives On:right
Calling Code:850
Footnotes:a Died 1994, named "Eternal President" in 1998.
b Kim Jong-il is the nation's most prominent leading figure and government figure head, 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".

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a state in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The border between North Korea and South Korea is called the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The Amnok River is the border between North Korea and 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 Russian and U.S. occupied zones in 1945, following World War II. North Korea refused to participate in a United Nations-supervised election held in the south in 1948. This led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones. Both North and South Korea claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula and both were accepted as members of the UN in 1991.

North Korea is a one party state.[6] [7] [8] [9] [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. Though nominally a socialist republic, it is widely considered by the outside world to be a de facto totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship.[12] [13] The current leader is Kim Jong-il, the late president Kim Il-sung's son.


See main article: Geography of North Korea.

See also: Korean Peninsula.

North Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula, covering an area of 120540km2 (roughly the size of the American state Pennsylvania). 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 2744m (9,003feet). The longest river is the Amnok River which flows for 790km.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.


See main article: History of North Korea.

Government and politics

See main article: Politics of North Korea.

North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliant) state[17] 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,[18] 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.

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 rights

See 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] There is a national mandated 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 ago 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 relations

See main article: Foreign relations of North Korea.

See also: North Korea-United States relations.

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.[28] By 2006, approximately 37,000 American soldiers remained in South Korea, with plans to reduce the number to 25,000 by 2008.[29] Kim Jong-il has privately stated his acceptance of U.S. troops on the peninsula, even after a possible reunification.[30] Publicly, North Korea strongly demands the removal of American troops from Korea (see North Korea-United States relations).[30]

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 China continues to provide substantial assistance. North Korea continues to have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.[31] North Korea has started installing a concrete and barbed wire fence on its northern border, in response to China's wishing to curb refugees fleeing from North Korea. Previously the shared border with China and North Korea had only been lightly patrolled.[32]

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.[33]

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 had designated the North as a state sponsor of terrorism.[34] The 1983 bombing that killed members of the South Korean government and the 1987 destruction of a South Korean airliner have been attributed to North Korea.[35] The DPRK has also admitted responsibility for thekidnap of 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s: five of whom were returned to Japan in 2002.[36] On October 11, 2008, the United States removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.[37]


See main article: Korean People's Army.

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 Civil Securities Force.

According to the U.S. Department of State, North Korea has the fourth-largest military in the world, at an estimated 1.21 million armed personnel, with about 20% of men aged 17-54 in the regular armed forces.[38] North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel per capita of any nation in the world, with approximately 40 enlisted soldiers per 1,000 citizens.[39] Military strategy is designed for insertion of agents and sabotage behind enemy lines in wartime,[38] with much of the KPA's forces deployed along the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Nuclear weapons program

See 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 thecapability 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's 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 is being 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]


See main article: Economy of North Korea.

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, the North Korean economy could grow to 6-7% annually "with the right incentives and reform measures".[48]

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.[49]

The dominant sector in the North Korean economy is industry (43.1%), followed by services (33.6%) and agriculture (23.6%).[50] Major industries include military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.

North Korea is currently one of the world's top ten producers of fresh fruit[51] and the 15th largest producer of apples in the world.[52] It has substantial natural resources and is the world's 18th largest producer of iron and zinc,[53] [54] having the 22nd largest coal reserves in the world.[55] It is also the 15th largest fluorite producer[56] and 12th largest producer of copper and salt in Asia.[57] [58] Other major natural resources in production include lead, tungsten, graphite, magnesite, gold, pyrites, fluorspar and hydropower.[59]

Economic stagnation

See main article: North Korean famine.

In the 1990s North Korea faced significant economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, economic mismanagement, serious fertilizer shortages, and 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.[60] 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."[61] The deaths were most likely caused by famine-related illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea rather than starvation.[61]

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.[62]

The history of Japanese assistance to North Korea has been marked with unrest; from a large pro-Pyongyang community of North Koreans in Japan to public outrage over the 1998 North Korean missile launch and revelations regarding the abduction of Japanese citizens.[63] In June 1995 an agreement was reached that the two countries would act jointly. 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.[64] 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.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66]

Foreign commerce

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 oversight.[66] In 2005, China and South Korea combined to provide 1 million tons of food aid, each contributing half.[67] 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.[68]

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".[69] Humanitarian aid from North Korea's neighbors has been cut off at times to provoke North Korea to resume boycotted talks, such as South Korea's "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.[70] There have also been aid disruptions due to widespread theft of railroad cars used by mainland China to deliver food relief.[71] In July 2002, North Korea started experimenting with capitalism in the Kaesong Industrial Region.[72] 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.[69] It is reported that the number of mobile phones in Pyongyang rose from only 3,000 in 2002 to approximately 20,000 during 2004.[73] As of June 2004, however, mobile phones became forbidden again.[74] 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.[75]


See main article: Tourism in North Korea.

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 tongue of the tourist. While tourism has increased over the last few years, tourists from Western countries remain few. The majority of the tourists that do go come from China and Japan. 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. This has been cancelled because of a death of a South Korean woman.


See main article: article and Media of North Korea.

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.[76]

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.[77] The media upholds the personality cult of Kim Jong-il, regularly reporting on his daily activities.


See main article: Communications in North Korea and Transportation in North Korea.

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.[78] There is a small narrow gauge railway in operation in Haeju peninsula.[78] 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.

Water transport on the major rivers and along the coasts plays 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, 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.


See main article: Demographics 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 72.2 years in 2008, a figure above the world average and higher than its neighbor Russia but slightly below China.[79] Infant mortality stood at 21.86, which is below the world average and lower than more industrialized countries such as Brazil and Romania[80] but slightly higher than China. According to the UNICEF "The State of the world's Children 2003" North Korea appears ranked at the 73th place, while Brazil and Romania has been ranked at 92th and 121th place respectly. [81] North Korea's Total fertility rate is relatively low and stood at 2.0 in 2008, comparable to the United States and France.[82] The country maintains a high literacy rate of 99%, comparable to most developed countries.[83]


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 North Korea 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.


See 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.[84] Although North Korea is officially atheist and according to the Western standards of religion - the majority of Korean population could be characterized as irreligious[85] - the cultural influence of such traditional religions as Buddhism and Confucianism still have an effect on North Korean spiritual life.[86] [87] [88]

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.[89]

According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in the DPRK as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.[90] According to Religious Intelligence the situation of religion in North Korea is the following:[91]

15,460,000 adherents (64.31% of population)

3,846,000 adherents (16% of population)

3,245,000 adherents (13.50% of population)

1,082,000 adherents (4.50% of population)

406,000 adherents (1.69% of population)

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.[92] [93] Official government statistics report that there are 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea.[94]

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.[95] Human rights groups such as Amnesty International also have expressed concerns about religious persecution in North Korea.[96]


See main article: Education in North Korea.

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.[28]

Health care

See 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.[97]

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.[98]

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 1000 people.[99]

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% percent were acutely malnourished. As a result, those who suffered during the disaster have ongoing health problems.


See main article: Culture of Korea and Contemporary culture of North Korea.

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.

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 May Day Stadium.

Culture is officially protected by the North Korean government. 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. Outside the capital, there's a major theatre in Hamhung and in every city there are State-run theatres and stadiums.

Korean culture came under attack during the Japanese rule from 1910-1945. Japan enforced a cultural assimilation policy. Koreans were forced 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.[100] 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,[101] albeit for a handpicked "invited audience."[102]

Administrative divisions

See main article: Administrative divisions of North Korea and Cities of North Korea.

See also: Provinces of Korea and Special cities of Korea.

Directly-governed cities (T'ŭkbyŏlsi)a
1Pyongyang (National Capital)평양 직할시平壤直轄市
2Rason라선 직할시羅先直轄市
Special Administrative Regions (T'ŭkbyŏl Haengjeonggu)a
3Kaesŏng Industrial Region개성 공업 지구開城工業地區
4Kumgangsan Tourist Region금강산 관광 지구金剛山觀光地區
5Sinuiju Special Administrative Region신의주 특별 행정구新義州特別行政區
7Pyongbuk평안 북도平安北道
8Pyongnam평안 남도平安南道
9Hwangnam황해 남도黃海南道
10Hwangbuk황해 북도黃海北道
12Hamnam함경 남도咸鏡南道
13Hambuk함경 북도咸鏡北道

Major cities

See also

Further reading


External links

General information

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Administrative Divisions and Population Figures (#26). DPRK: The Land of the Morning Calm. Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use. 2003-04. PDF. 2006-10-10.
  2. Web site: Country Profile: North Korea. 2007-08-01. 2007-07-20. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK.
  4. See List of countries by income equality.
  6. Web site: North Korea power struggle looms. 2007-10-31. Spencer. Richard. Richard Spencer (journalist). 2007-08-28. The Telegraph (online version of UK national newspaper). A power struggle to succeed Kim Jong-il as leader of North Korea's Stalinist dictatorship may be looming after his eldest son was reported to have returned from semi-voluntary exile..
  7. Web site: North Korea Says It Is Using Plutonium to Make A-Bombs. 2007-10-31. Brooke. James. James Brooke (journalist). 2003-10-02. The New York Times (online version of New York, United States newspaper). North Korea, run by a Stalinist dictatorship for almost six decades, is largely closed to foreign reporters and it is impossible to independently check today's claims..
  8. Web site: North Korea's nuclear 'deal' leaves Japan feeling nervous. 2007-10-31. Parry. Richard Lloyd. Richard Lloyd Parry. 2007-09-05. The Times (online version of UK's national newspaper of record). The US Government contradicted earlier North Korean claims that it had agreed to remove the Stalinist dictatorship’s designation as a terrorist state and to lift economic sanctions, as part of talks aimed at disarming Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons..
  9. Web site: The Korean crisis. 2007-10-31. Walsh. Lynn. Lynn Walsh. 2003-02-08. CWI online: Socialism Today, February 2003 edition, journal of the Socialist Party, CWI England and Wales., website of the committee for a worker’s international. Kim Jong-il's regime needs economic concessions to avoid collapse, and just as crucially needs an end to the strategic siege imposed by the US since the end of the Korean war (1950-53). Pyongyang's nuclear brinkmanship, though potentially dangerous, is driven by fear rather than by militaristic ambition. The rotten Stalinist dictatorship faces the prospect of an implosion. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which deprived North Korea of vital economic support, the regime has consistently attempted to secure from the US a non-aggression pact, recognition of its sovereignty, and economic assistance. The US's equally consistent refusal to enter into direct negotiations with North Korea, effectively ruling out a peace treaty to formally close the 1950-53 Korean war, has encouraged the regime to resort to nuclear blackmail..
  10. Web site: US is threat to peace not North Korea. 2007-10-31. Oakley. Corey. Corey Oakley. 2006. October. Edition 109 - October-November 2006. Socialist Alternative website in Australia. In this context, the constant attempts by the Western press to paint Kim Jong Il as simply a raving lunatic look, well, mad. There is no denying that the regime he presides over is a nasty Stalinist dictatorship that brutally oppresses its own population. But in the face of constant threats from the US, Pyongyang's actions have a definite rationality from the regime's point of view..
  11. Web site: Leader Article: Let The Music Play On. 2008-03-27. Baruma. Ian. The Times of India. North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is one of the world's most oppressive, closed, and vicious dictatorships. It is perhaps the last living example of pure totalitarianism - control of the state over every aspect of human life. Is such a place the right venue for a western orchestra? Can one imagine the New York Philharmonic, which performed to great acclaim in Pyongyang, entertaining Stalin or Hitler?.
  12. Web site: Freedom in the World, 2006. Freedom House. 2007-02-13.
  13. Web site: Economist Intelligence Unit democracy index 2006. 2007-10-09. 2007. PDF. Economist Intelligence Unit.
  14. Web site: Korea Geography. 2007-08-01. Caraway, Bill. 2007. The Korean History Project.
  15. Web site: North Korea - Climate. 2007-08-01. Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress. 2007. Country Studies.
  16. "Emergency appeal for DPRK flood survivors", website of the Red Cross
  17. Web site: 18. Is North Korea a 'Stalinist' state?. 2007-10-31. 2005-05-05. DPRK FAQ; Document approved by Zo Sun Il. Official Webpages of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
  18. Web site: DPRK's Socialist Constitution (Full Text). 2007-08-01. 10th Supreme People's Assembly.. 1998-09-15. The People's Korea.
  19. Web site: Our Issues, North Korea. 2007-08-01. Amnesty International. 2007. Human Rights Concerns.
  20. Web site: Grotesque indifference. 2007-08-01. Seok, Kay. 2007-05-15. Human Rights Watch.
  21. Web site: The Hidden Gulag]: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps - Prisoners' Testimonies and Satellite Photographs]. 2007-08-01. Hawk, David. 2003. U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
  22. Web site: The Hidden Gulag]: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps - Prisoners' Testimonies and Satellite Photographs]. 2007-08-01. Hawk, David. 2003. U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
  23. News: South Korean Dramas Are All the Rage among North Korean People. The Daily NK. Yoon Il Geun. 2007-11-02.
  24. News: North Korean People Copy South Korean TV Drama for Trade. The Daily NK. Lee Sung Jin. 2008-02-22.
  25. Web site: North-South Joint Declaration. 2007-08-01. 2000-06-15. Naenara.
  26. Web site: Factbox - North, South Korea pledge peace, prosperity. 2007-10-04. Reuters.
  27. Web site: Interview - Madeleine Albright. 2007-08-11. Bury, Chris. November. 2000. Nightline Frontline, on
  28. Web site: [ Korea, North]. 2007-08-01. 2007. CIA World Factbook. North Korea itself does not disclose figures.
  29. Web site: S. Korea to cut 40,000 troops by 2008. 2007-08-01. Xinhua. 2005-01-13. People's Daily Online.
  30. Web site: North Korea: Six-Party Talks Continue. 2007-08-01. Oberdorfer, Don. 2005-07-28. The Washington Post Online.
  31. Web site: Kim Yong Nam Visits 3 ASEAN Nations To Strengthen Traditional Ties. 2007-08-01. 2001. The People's Korea.
  32. Report: N. Korea building fence to keep people in
  33. Web site: U.N. verifies closure of North Korean nuclear facilities. 2007-07-18. CNN.
  34. Web site: Country Reports on Terrorism: Chapter 3 -- State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. 2008-06-26.
  35. Web site: Country Guide. 2008-06-26. Washington Post.
  36. Web site: "N Korea to face Japan sanctions". 2008-06-26. BBC.
  37. News: U.S. takes North Korea off terror list. CNN. 2008-10-11. 2008-10-11.
  38. Web site: Background Note: North Korea. 2007-08-01. Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. April. 2007. United States Department of State.
  39. Web site: Army personnel (per capita) by country. 2007-08-01. 2007. NationMaster.
  40. Web site: US confirms nuclear claim. New York Times. 2006-10-15. 2006-10-16.
  41. Web site: US says Test points to N. Korea nuclear blast. 2007-08-01.
  42. Web site: Post-election push on N Korea. 2007-08-01. 2005-11-06. BBC News.
  43. News: N. Korea destroys nuclear reactor tower. CNN. 2008-06-27. 2008-06-27.
  44. News: North Korea Destroys Tower at Nuclear Site. New York Times. Choe. Sang-Hun. 2008-06-27. 2008-06-27.
  45. News: North Korea Blasts Cooling Tower at Yongbyon Nuclear Plant. Bloomberg. Heejin. Koo. Viola Gienger. 2008-06-27. 2008-06-27.
  46. News: North Korea claims to have weaponized plutonium. 2009-01-17. CNN. 2009-01-18.
  47. News: North Korea says all agreements with South are void. 2009-01-30. IHT. 2009-01-30.
  52. See List of countries by apple production
  53. List of countries by iron production
  54. See List of countries by zinc production
  55. See Coal.
  56. See List of countries by fluorite production
  57. See [List of countries by copper mine production]
  58. See List of countries by salt production
  60. Web site: North Korea - Agriculture. 2007-08-01. Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress. 2007. Country Studies.
  61. Web site: Famine may have killed 2 million in North Korea. 2007-08-01. Lee, May. 1998-08-19. CNN.
  62. Web site: Asia-Pacific : North Korea. 2007-08-01. 2007. Amnesty International.
  63. Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland,'Ch6 The political economy of aid' Famine in North Korea, Columbia University Press, New York, 2007, Pg 137
  64. Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland,'Ch6 The political economy of aid' Famine in North Korea, Columbia University Press, New York, 2007, Pg 137
  65. Web site: US Has Put Food Aid for North Korea on Hold. 2007-08-01. Solomon, Jay. 2005-05-20. Wall Street Journal.
  66. Web site: Report on U.S. Humanitarian assistance to North Koreans. 2007-08-01. 2006-04-15. United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs. PDF.
  67. Web site: North Korea: Ending Food Aid Would Deepen Hunger. 2007-08-02. 2006-10-11. Human Rights Watch.
  68. Web site: China's N.K. policy unlikely to change. 2007-08-02. Nam, Sung-wook. 2006-10-26. The Korea Herald.
  69. Web site: Fourth round of Six-Party Talks. 2007-08-01. 2005-09-27. CanKor, on Korean Peace and Security.
  70. Web site: S. Korea Suspends Food Aid to North. 2007-08-02. Faiola, Anthony. 2006-07-14. Washington Post.
  71. Web site: class=htc href="LiveCall:47-0000779">47-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1 China halts rail freight to North Korea. 2007-10-18. 2007-10-18. Financial Times.
  72. Web site: North Korea to Let Capitalism Loose in Investment Zone. 2007-08-02. French, Howard W.. 2002-09-25. The New York Times.
  73. Web site: Chinese Cell Phone Breaches North Korean Hermit Kingdom. 2007-08-02. MacKinnon, Rebecca. 2005-01-17. Yale Global Online.
  74. Web site: North Korea recalls mobile phones. 2007-08-02. 2004-06-04. The Sydney Morning Herald.
  75. Web site: N Korean heroin ship sunk by jet. 2007-08-02. 2006-03-23. BBC News.
  76. Annual Press Freedom Index
  77. "Meagre media for North Korea"
  78. A Glimpse of North Korea's Railways
  83. See List of countries by literacy rate
  84. Web site: Chapter 5, Article 68 of the DPRK constitution.
  85. Every Culture - Koreans
  86. Every Culture - Culture of NORTH KOREA
  87. CIA The World Factbook -- North Korea
  89. News: Buddhist Temple Being Restored in N. Korea. October 2, 2005. Los Angeles Times.
  90. Web site: Human Rights in North Korea. 2007-08-02. July. 2004. Human Rights Watch.
  91. Religious Intelligence UK report
  92. Web site: Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 2007-08-02. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 2004-09-21. Nautilus Institute.
  93. Web site: N Korea stages Mass for Pope. 2007-08-02. 2005-04-10. BBC News.
  94. Web site: North Korean Religion. 2007-08-02. Windows on Asia.
  95. Open Doors International : WWL: Focus on the Top Ten
  96. Web site: Korea Report 2002. 2007-08-02. 2001. Amnesty International.
  97. News: N Korea healthcare 'near collapse'. BBC News. 2008-11-18.
  98. Web site: Life Inside North Korea. 2008-11-18. U.S. Department of State.
  99. Web site: [ Korea, North]. 2008-12-09. 2008. CIA World Factbook. North Korea itself does not disclose figures.
  100. Book: Cumings, Bruce G.. A Country Study: North Korea. The Rise of Korean Nationalism and Communism. Library of Congress. Call number DS932 .N662 1994.
  101. Web site: Americans in Pyongyang Perform. 2008-02-26. CNN.
  102. Web site: Letter From North Korea -- Update. 2008-12-01 author=Ben Rosen.