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North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in eastern Asia, covering the northern half of the peninsula of Korea. To the south it borders South Korea with which it formed a single nation until 1948. Its northern border is predominantly with China, and a small section with Russia. It is more commonly known locally as Buk Chosŏn ("North Chosŏn"; 북조선; 北朝鮮). Buk Han ("North Han"; 북한; 北韓) is commonly used in South Korea, as is the revised romanisation of Chosun Minjujui Inmin Gonghwa-guk for the official name.

조선 민주주의 인민 공화국
Chosun Minchu'chui Inmin Konghwa'guk
(In Detail)
National motto: One is sure to win if he believes in and depends upon the people
Official languageKorean
Capital P'yŏngyang
President, Supreme People's Assembly PresidiumKim Yong-nam1
Chairman, National Defense CommissionKim Jong-il2
PremierPak Pong-ju
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 97th
120,540 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 49th
 - Date
From Japan
August 15, 1945
Currency North Korean won
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem A ch'im un pinnara, i kangsan ungum e
Internet TLDNone (.KP is reserved)
Calling Code850
(1) Kim Yong-nam is the de facto head of state; Kim Il-sung is "eternal president"
(2) Kim Jong Il is the most powerful figure in the DPRK; the Chairman of the National Defence Commission is accorded the nation's "highest administrative authority"

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces and Cities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture & Tourism
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External Links
10 Further reading


For pre-1945 history, see Korea Main article: History of North Korea

Japanese occupation of Korea ended after World War II in 1945. Then, Korea was occupied by the Soviet Union north of the 38th parallel and by the United States south of the 38th parallel. United States suppressed an existing network of local Peoples Committees; meanwhile Cold War tensions rose. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two governments claiming to be the sole government of all of Korea: a communist North, and a United States-controlled South led by anti-communist Syngman Rhee. In June 1950, the North Korean Peoples Army attacked, launching the Korean War. The United States-backed South and the Chinese-backed North eventually reached a stalemate. In 1953 they signed a ceasefire, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarised zone along the 38th parallel.

North Korea was ruled from 1948 by Kim Il Sung until his death in 1994. After the death of Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1997. In 1998, the legislature reconfirmed him as Chairman of the National Defence Commission and declared that position as the "highest office of state." International relations generally improved, and there was a historic North-South summit in June 2000. However, tensions recently increased since the United States failed to comply with the 1994 Agreed Framework and North Korea resumed its nuclear weapons programme.


Main article: Politics of North Korea

North Korea's government is dominated by the communist Korean Workers' Party (KWP), to which all government officials belong, though minor political parties exist. The exact power structure is somewhat unclear. North Korea is officially lead by a Prime Minister, but real power lies with Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong Il (son of Kim Il Sung) and the military.

North Korea's 1972 constitution was amended in late 1992 and again in 1998. The government is led by the prime minister and, in theory, a super cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC), the government's top policymaking body. CPC is headed by the president, who also nominates the other committee members. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). SAC is headed by a premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.

Officially, the parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly (최고인민회의 ; Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui), is the highest organ of state power. Its 687 members are elected every four years by popular vote. Usually it holds only two annual meetings, each lasting a few days, but it mostly ratifies decisions made by the ruling KWP. A standing committee elected by the Assembly performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session.

Provinces and Cities

Main article: Administrative divisions of Korea. For historical information, see Provinces of Korea and Special cities of Korea.

As of 2003, North Korea consists of 9 Provinces (Do, singular and plural; ; ) 3 Directly Governed [Self-Governing] Cities (Chik'alshi, singular and plural; 직할시; 直轄市), and several other regions, as listed below. (Names are romanized according to the McCune-Reischauer system as officially used in North Korea; the editor was also guided by the spellings used on the 2003 National Geographic map of Korea).

Ch'ŏngjin City (청진시; 淸津市) used to be a self-governing city, but is now part of North Hamgyŏng Province. The source for this section is located at Chosun Ilbo's page (but is only in Korean).


Main article: Geography of North Korea

Korea forms a peninsula that extends 1,100 km from the Asian mainland. To the west it borders the Yellow Sea and the Korea Bay; to the east it borders the East Sea of Korea/East Sea/Sea of Japan (the name of the sea is disputed). The peninsula ends at the Korea Strait and the East China Sea to the south. The peninsula's northern part (including North Korea) has mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys in the north and east, and has coastal plains prominently in the west. The highest point in Korea is the Paektu-san at 2,744 m. Major rivers include the Tumen and the Yalu that form the northern border with Chinese Manchuria.

The local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma, and winters that can be bitterly cold on occasion. North Korea's capital and largest city is P'yongyang; other major cities include Kaesong in the south, Sinuiju in the northwest, Wonsan and Hamhung in the east and Chongjin in the north.


Main article: Economy of North Korea

Following the official ideology of juche (self-reliance), North Korea has developed independently of global capitalist economies. The resulting economic development and the government's reluctance to publicise economic data limit the amount of reliable information available. Publicly-owned industry produces nearly all manufactured goods, and the regime continues to focus on heavy and military industries at the expense of light and consumer industries.

Due to a five-decade United States embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, the economy has stagnated. Economic decline is partly due to acute energy shortages, worsened by the United States's refusal to implement the 1994 Agreed Framework which required petroleum shipments and construction of lightwater nuclear reactors under KEDO. United States containment policies have made it difficult for the government to maintain aging industrial facilities and obtain new investment. The agricultural outlook, is slightly improved over previous years, but remains weak. The combined effects of serious fertilizer shortages, successive natural disasters, and structural constraints - such as little arable land and a short growing season - have reduced staple grain output to more than 1 million tons less than what the country needs to meet even minimum international requirements.

The steady flow of international food aid has been critical in meeting the population's basic food needs. The impact of other forms of humanitarian assistance such as medical supplies and agricultural assistance has largely been limited to certain areas. Even with aid, malnutrition rates are among the world's highest and estimates of mortality range in the hundreds of thousands or even millions as a direct result of malnutrition and famine-related diseases.


Main article: Demographics of North Korea

North Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world, with only very small Chinese and Japanese communities. Korean language is not a member of a wider linguistic family, though links to Japanese and Altaic languages are being considered. The Korean writing system, Hangeul, was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great to replace the system of Chinese characters, known in Korea as Hanja, which are no longer officially in use in the North. North Korea continues to use the McCune-Reischauer romanisation of Korean, in contrast to the South's revised version.

Korea has a Buddhist and Confucianist heritage, with Christian and traditional Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way") communities. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, was the center of Christian activity before the Korean War. Due to one one of the highest literacy rates in the world, autonomous religious activities are now almost nonexistent in the North.

Culture & Tourism

Main article: Culture of North Korea

An official escort/guide is compulsory when visiting the country. The government welcomes visitors and provides official tours of the country throughout the year. Citizens of the US and South Korea are allowed to visit with a valid visa. United States citizens must enter through a third country since the U.S. government refuses to sign a peace treaty and normalize relations with the D.P.R.K. In recent years, numerous independent tours have been established to such scenic locations as Mt. Kumgang and Pyongyang.

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's Day
February 16Kim Jong Il's Birthday
April 15Kim Il-Sung's Birthday
May 1Day of Work
August 15Independence Day
September 9Founding of the DPRK
October 10Founding of the KWP
December 27Proclamation of the socialistic constitution

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

Further reading

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