Coordinates: 40°00′N 127°00′E / 40.000°N 127.000°E /
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
Korean: 애국가, The Patriotic Song
Area controlled by the North Korean state are shown in dark green;
North Korean-claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
and largest city
39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.033°N 125.750°E / 39.033;
Songun policy (de jure) under a
totalitarian dictatorship (de facto)
• Supreme Leader
Kim Jong-un[n 1]
• Chairman of the
Kim Yong-nam[n 2]
• Director of Army General Political Bureau
• Vice Chairman of Policy Bureau
Supreme People's Assembly
• First Dynasty
Before 194 BC
• Three Kingdoms
• North-South Kingdoms
• Unitary dynasties
• Annexation by Japan
29 August 1910
• Liberation/Independence from Japan
15 August 1945
• Provisional People's Committee for North
8 February 1946
• Foundation of DPRK
9 September 1948
• Chinese withdrawal
Juche ideology implemented
27 December 1972
• Current constitution
29 June 2016
120,540 km2 (46,540 sq mi) (97th)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
• 2008 census
198.3/km2 (513.6/sq mi) (63rd)
• Per capita
• Per capita
North Korean won
North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Pyongyang Time (UTC+8:30)
yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yy, yyyy/mm/dd (AD–1911 / AD)
Drives on the
ISO 3166 code
"North Korea" in
Chosŏn'gŭl (top) and
Hancha (bottom) scripts.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
"Democratic People's Republic of Korea" in
Hancha (top) and
Chosŏn'gŭl (bottom) scripts.
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
(abbreviated as DPRK, DPR
Korea DPR), is a sovereign state in
East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.
Officially, its territory consists of the whole
Korean Peninsula and
its adjacent islands.
Pyongyang is the nation's capital and largest
city. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by
Russia along the
Amnok (known as the Yalu in China) and Tumen
rivers; it is bordered to the south by South Korea, with the
Korean Demilitarized Zone
Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two.
Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be
the legitimate government of the entire peninsula. Both North
South Korea became members of the
United Nations in
Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan. After the Japanese
surrender at the end of World War II in 1945,
Korea was divided into
two zones, with the north occupied by the Soviets and the south
occupied by the Americans. Negotiations on reunification failed, and
in 1948, separate governments were formed: the socialist Democratic
People's Republic of
Korea in the north, and the capitalist Republic
Korea in the south. An invasion initiated by North
Korea led to the
Korean War (1950–1953). The
Korean Armistice Agreement
Korean Armistice Agreement brought about
a ceasefire, but no peace treaty was signed.
Korea officially describes itself as a self-reliant, socialist
state and formally holds elections. Various media outlets have
called it Stalinist, particularly noting the elaborate cult of
Kim Il-sung and his family. The Workers' Party of
Korea (WPK), led by a member of the ruling family, holds power in
the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the
Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be
members. Juche, an ideology of national self-reliance, was
introduced into the constitution in 1972. The means of
production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and
collectivized farms. Most services such as healthcare, education,
housing and food production are subsidized or state-funded. From
1994 to 1998, North
Korea suffered a famine that resulted in the
deaths of between 240,000 and 420,000 people, and the population
continues to suffer malnutrition. North
Korea follows Songun, or
"military-first" policy. It is the country with the highest number
of military and paramilitary personnel, with a total of 9,495,000
active, reserve and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of
1.21 million is the fourth largest in the world, after China, the
United States and India. It possesses nuclear weapons.
International organizations have assessed that human rights violations
Korea have no parallel in the contemporary world.
2.1 Japanese occupation (1910–1945)
2.2 Division of
Korean War (1950–1953)
2.4 Post-war developments
2.5 Post Cold War
2.6 21st century
3.2 Administrative divisions
4 Government and politics
4.1 Political ideology
4.2 Kim dynasty
4.3 Foreign relations
4.4 Inter-Korean relations
4.5 Human rights
4.6 Law enforcement and internal security
6.6 Formal ranking of citizens' loyalty
7.2 Science and technology
8.2 World Heritage
9 See also
13 External links
13.1 Government websites
13.2 General websites
See also: Names of Korea
Korea derives from the name
Goryeo (also spelled Koryŏ). The
Goryeo itself was first used by the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo
(Koguryŏ) in the 5th century as a shortened form of its name. The
10th-century kingdom of
Goryeo succeeded Goguryeo, and
thus inherited its name, which was pronounced by visiting Persian
merchants as "Korea". The modern spelling of
Korea first appeared
in the late 17th century in the travel writings of the Dutch East
India Company's Hendrick Hamel.
After the division of the country into North and South Korea, the two
sides used different terms to refer to Korea: Chosun or Joseon
(조선) in North Korea, and Hanguk (한국) in South Korea. In 1948,
Korea adopted Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk; listen) as its new legal
name. In the wider world, because the government controlled the
northern part of the Korean Peninsula, it is commonly called North
Korea to distinguish it from South Korea, which is officially called
the Republic of Korea.
Main article: History of Korea
Japanese occupation (1910–1945)
Korea under Japanese rule
Koreans shot for pulling up rails as a protest against seizure
of land without payment by the Japanese
After the Russo-Japanese War,
Korea was occupied by Japan
Japan tried to suppress Korean traditions and culture and ran the
economy primarily for its own benefit. Korean resistance groups known
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 first leader of North Korea.
Main articles: Division of
Korea and History of North Korea
Suspected communist sympathizers awaiting execution in May 1948 after
the Jeju Uprising
At the end of World War II in 1945, the
Korean Peninsula was divided
into two 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. The drawing of the division was assigned to two
Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, who chose it
because it divided the country approximately in half but would place
Seoul under American control. No experts on
consulted. Nevertheless, the division was immediately accepted
by the Soviet Union. The agreement was incorporated into the U.S.'s
General Order No. 1 for the surrender of Japan. Initial hopes for
a unified, independent
Korea had evaporated as the politics of the
Cold War resulted in the establishment of two separate states with
diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems.
Terentii Shtykov recommended the establishment of the
Soviet Civil Authority
Soviet Civil Authority in October 1945, and supported
Kim Il-sung as
chairman of the Provisional People's Committee for North Korea,
established in February 1946. During the provisional government,
Shtykov's chief accomplishment was a sweeping land reform program that
broke North Korea's stratified class system. Landlords and Japanese
collaborators fled to the South, where there was no land reform and
sporadic unrest. Shtykov nationalized key industries and led the
Soviet delegation to talks on the future of
Korea in Moscow and
Seoul. In September 1946, South Korean citizens
rose 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. Shtykov served as the first Soviet ambassador, while Kim Il-sung
Soviet forces withdrew from the North in 1948 and most American forces
withdrew from the South in 1949. Ambassador Shtykov suspected Rhee was
planning to invade the North, and was sympathetic to Kim's goal of
Korean unification under socialism. The two successfully lobbied
Joseph Stalin to support a quick war against the South, which
culminated in the outbreak of the Korean War.
Korean War (1950–1953)
Main article: Korean War
See also: Aftermath of the Korean War, Korean Demilitarized Zone, and
South Korea relations
Museum of American War Atrocities. Alleged American war atrocities
against the Korean people is the main theme of the museum.
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 neared 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.
Some have referred to the conflict as a civil war, with other factors
A heavily guarded demilitarized zone (DMZ) still divides the
peninsula, and an anti-communist and anti-North
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.
It claims that the
Korean War was caused by the
United States and
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army soldier pointing to the Korean Demilitarized
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, such as in 1968, 1974 and the
Rangoon bombing in 1983; tunnels were found under the DMZ and tensions
flared over the axe murder incident at
Panmunjom in 1976. For
almost two decades after the war, the two states did not seek to
negotiate with one another. In 1971, secret, high-level contacts began
to be conducted culminating in the 1972 July 4th North-South Joint
Statement that established principles of working toward peaceful
reunification. The talks ultimately failed because in 1973, South
Korea declared its preference that the two Koreas should seek separate
memberships in international organizations.
From left to right: Pak Chang-ok, Li Jishen, Kim Tu-bong, Zhu De, Kim
Il-sung, Averky Aristov,
Pak Chŏng Ae
Pak Chŏng Ae and Choe Yong-gon in 1955.
During the 1956 August Faction Incident,
Kim Il-sung successfully
resisted efforts by the
Soviet Union and
China to depose him in favor
Koreans or the pro-Chinese Yan'an faction. The last
Chinese troops withdrew from the country in October 1958, which is the
consensus as the latest date when North
Korea became effectively
independent. Some scholars believe that the 1956 August incident
demonstrated independence. North
Korea remained closely
China and the Soviet Union, and the Sino-Soviet split
allowed Kim to play the powers off each other. North
to become a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and emphasized the
Juche to distinguish it from both the
Soviet Union and
Recovery from the war was quick—by 1957 industrial production
reached 1949 levels. 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.
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 came to a head in 1976 when Mao Zedong
died. In response,
Kim Il-sung began severing ties with
reemphasizing national and economic self-reliance enshrined in his
Juche ideology, which promoted producing everything within the
country. By the 1980s the economy had begun to stagnate; it started
its long decline in 1987 and almost completely collapsed after the
dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991, when all Soviet 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.
Post Cold War
Pyongyang in 1989
In 1992, as Kim Il-sung's health began deteriorating, Kim Jong-il
slowly began taking over various state tasks.
Kim Il-sung died of a
heart attack in 1994, in the midst of a standoff with the United
States over North Korean nuclear weapon development.
Kim Jong-il declared a three-year period of national mourning before
officially announcing his position as the new leader.
Korea promised to halt its development of nuclear weapons under
the Agreed Framework, negotiated with U.S. president
Bill Clinton and
signed in 1994. Building on Nordpolitik,
South Korea began to engage
with the North as part of its Sunshine Policy.
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.[citation
needed] Restrictions on travel were tightened and the state security
apparatus was strengthened.
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. Since the outbreak of the famine, the government
has reluctantly tolerated illegal black markets while officially
maintaining a state socialist economy. Corruption flourished and
disillusionment with the government spread.
Koreans bowing in front of the statues of
Kim Il-sung (left) and
Kim Jong-il at the Mansudae Grand Monument
The international environment changed with the election of U.S.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush in 2001. His administration rejected South
Sunshine Policy and the Agreed Framework. The U.S. government
Korea as a rogue state, while North
Korea redoubled its
efforts to acquire nuclear weapons to avoid the fate of
Iraq. On 9 October 2006, North
Korea announced it had
conducted its first nuclear weapons test.
Barack Obama adopted a policy of "strategic patience",
resisting making deals with North
Korea for the sake of defusing
tension. Tensions with
South Korea and the
United States increased
in 2010 with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and
North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
On 17 December 2011, the supreme leader of North
Korea Kim Jong-il
died from a heart attack. His youngest son
Kim Jong-un was announced
as his successor. In the face of international condemnation, North
Korea continued to develop its nuclear arsenal, probably including a
hydrogen bomb and a missile capable of reaching the United States.
In 2018, a détente developed, based on North Korea's participation in
Olympics in South Korea. On 8 March 2018, South Korean
officials announced that
Donald Trump might meet with
Kim Jong-un before May to hold high level talks about
Main article: Geography of North Korea
Topographic map of North Korea
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
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
Sea of Japan (East Sea of
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. Some 80 percent of North
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
highest point in North
Korea is Paektu Mountain, a volcanic mountain
with an elevation of 2,744 meters (9,003 ft) above sea level.
Paektu is very significant in Korean culture, in which it is
considered a sacred place by the Korean people and is thus
incorporated in the elaborate folklore around the Kim dynasty.
Other prominent ranges are the Hamgyong Range in the extreme northeast
and the Rangrim Mountains, which are located in the north-central part
of North Korea.
Mount Kumgang in the Taebaek Range, which extends into
South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty.
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. The longest river is the
Amnok (Yalu) River which flows
for 790 kilometres (491 mi).
North Korean coast near Hamhung
Korea map of Köppen climate classification
Korea experiences a combination of continental climate and an
oceanic climate, but most of the country experiences a humid
continental climate within the
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification scheme.
Winters bring clear weather interspersed with snow storms as a result
of northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia. Summer
tends to be by far the hottest, most humid, and rainiest time of year
because of the southern and southeastern monsoon winds that carry
moist air from the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 60 percent of all
precipitation occurs from June to September. Spring and autumn are
transitional seasons between summer and winter. The daily average high
and low temperatures for
Pyongyang are −3 and −13 °C (27 and
9 °F) in January and 29 and 20 °C (84 and 68 °F) in
Main article: Administrative divisions of North Korea
See also: Provinces of Korea,
Special cities of North Korea, and List
of cities in North Korea
Korea West Sea)
Sea of Japan
Korea East Sea)
Capital city (chikhalsi)a
Special city (teukbyeolsi)a
* – Rendered in Southern dialects as "Yanggang" (양강),
"Nason" (나선), or "Najin" (나진).
Largest cities or towns in North Korea
Pyongyang Capital City
South Hamgyong Province
North Hamgyong Province
South Pyongan Province
North Pyongan Province
South Hamgyong Province
South Pyongan Province
North Hwanghae Province
North Hwanghae Province
Government and politics
Main articles: Government of North
Korea and Politics of North Korea
Mansudae Assembly Hall, seat of the Supreme People's Assembly
Korea functions as a highly centralized, one-party state.
According to its 2009 constitution, it is a self-described
revolutionary and socialist state "guided in its activities by the
Juche idea and the
Songun idea".[needs update] In addition to the
Korea is governed by the Ten Principles for the
Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System (also known as the
"Ten Principles of the One-Ideology System") which establishes
standards for governance and a guide for the behaviours of North
Koreans. The Workers' Party of
Korea (WPK) has an estimated
3,000,000 members and dominates every aspect of North Korean politics.
It has two satellite organizations, the Korean Social Democratic Party
and the Chondoist Chongu Party which participate in the WPK-led
Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland.
Kim Jong-un of the Kim dynasty is the current Supreme Leader or
Suryeong of North Korea. He heads all major governing structures: he
is First Secretary of the WPK, Chairman of the State Affairs
Commission of North Korea, and Supreme Commander of the Korean
People's Army. His grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder and
leader of North
Korea until his death in 1994, is the country's
"Eternal President", while his father
Kim Jong-il who succeeded
Kim Il-Sung as leader was announced "Eternal General Secretary" after
his death in 2011.
According to the Constitution of North
Korea there are officially
three main branches of government. The first of these is the State
Affairs Commission of North Korea, which acts as "the supreme national
guidance organ of state sovereignty". Its role is to
deliberate and decide the work on defense building of the State,
including major policies of the State; and to carry out the directions
of the Chairman of the commission, Kim Jong-Un.
Legislative power is held by the unicameral Supreme People's Assembly
(SPA). Its 687 members are elected every five years by universal
Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly sessions are convened by the SPA
Presidium, whose president (
Kim Yong-nam since 1998) represents the
state in relations with foreign countries. Deputies formally elect the
President, the vice-presidents and members of the Presidium and take
part in the constitutionally appointed activities of the legislature:
pass laws, establish domestic and foreign policies, appoint members of
the cabinet, review and approve the state economic plan, among
others. The SPA itself cannot initiate any legislation
independently of party or state organs. It is unknown whether it has
ever criticized or amended bills placed before it, and the elections
are based around a single list of WPK-approved candidates who stand
Executive power is vested in the Cabinet of North Korea, which is
headed by Premier Pak Pong-ju. 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 Bureau of Statistics and the president of the
Academy of Sciences. A 31st ministry, the Ministry of People's Armed
Forces, is under the jurisdiction of the State Affairs
Despite its official title as the 'Democratic People's Republic of
Korea' (DPRK) some observers have described North Korea's political
system as an absolute monarchy or a "hereditary
Further information: Juche
Juche Tower in
Pyongyang is dedicated to 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".
pronounced in December 1955 in order to emphasize a Korea-centered
revolution. 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 centered on Kim Il-sung, the conflict with pro-Soviet
and pro-Chinese dissenters, and Korea's centuries-long struggle for
Juche 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
Juche eventually replaced Marxism–Leninism
entirely by the 1980s, and in 1992 references to the latter were
omitted from the constitution. The 2009 constitution dropped
references to communism and elevated the
Songun military-first policy
while explicitly confirming the position of Kim Jong-il.[needs
update] However, the constitution retains references to
socialism. Juche's concepts of self-reliance have evolved with
time and circumstances, but still provide the groundwork for the
spartan austerity, sacrifice and discipline demanded by the
Brian Reynolds Myers views North Korea's actual ideology as a
Korean ethnic nationalism
Korean ethnic nationalism similar to statism in Shōwa
Main article: Kim dynasty (North Korea)
Main article: North Korean cult of personality
A painting of
Kim Il-sung and
Kim Jong-il on top of Paektu Mountain
Korea has been ruled since its inception by the Kim dynasty,
which in North
Korea is referred to as the Mount Paektu Bloodline. It
is a three-generation lineage descending from the country's first
leader, Kim Il-sung, since 1948. Kim developed a cult of personality
closely tied to the state philosophy of Juche, which was later passed
on to his successors: his son
Kim Jong-il and grandson Kim Jong-un. In
2013 this lineage was made explicit when Clause 2 of Article 10 of the
new edited Ten Fundamental Principles of the Korean Workers' Party
stated that the party and revolution must be carried "eternally" by
the "Baekdu bloodline".
According to New Focus International, the cult of personality,
particularly surrounding Kim Il-sung, has been crucial for
legitimizing the family's hereditary succession, The control the
North Korean government exercises over many aspects of the nation's
culture is used to perpetuate the cult of personality surrounding Kim
Il-sung, and Kim Jong-il. While visiting North
1979, journalist Bradley Martin wrote 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
Claims that the dynasty has been deified are contested by North Korea
researcher B. 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." 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
Kim Jong-un and his sister
Kim Yo-jong (right) in March 2018
The song "No Motherland Without You", sung by the North Korean army
choir, was created especially for
Kim Jong-il and is one of the most
popular tunes in the country.
Kim Il-sung is still officially revered
as the nation's "Eternal President". Several landmarks in North Korea
are named for Kim Il-sung, including
Kim Il-sung University, Kim
Il-sung Stadium, and
Kim Il-sung Square. Defectors have been quoted as
saying that North Korean schools deify both father and son. Kim
Il-sung rejected the notion that he had created a cult around himself,
and accused those who suggested this of
"factionalism".[page needed] Following the death of Kim
Koreans were prostrating and weeping to a bronze statue
of him in an organized event; similar scenes were broadcast by
state television following the death of Kim Jong-il.
Critics maintain this
Kim Jong-il personality cult was inherited from
Kim Jong-il was often the center of attention throughout
ordinary life. 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. 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,
while North Korean government sources consider it genuine hero
The extent of the cult of personality surrounding
Kim Jong-il and Kim
Il-sung was illustrated on 11 June 2012 when a 14-year-old North
Korean schoolgirl drowned while attempting to rescue portraits of the
two from a flood.
Foreign relations of North Korea
The close China-DPRK relationship is celebrated at the Arirang Mass
Games in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-un meets with Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist
Party of China.
As a result of its isolation, North
Korea is sometimes known as the
"hermit kingdom", a term that was originally referred to the
isolationism in the latter part of the
Joseon Dynasty. Initially,
Korea had diplomatic ties with only other communist countries,
and even today, most of the foreign embassies accredited to North
Korea are located in
Beijing rather than in Pyongyang. 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 a number of its embassies. At the same
Korea sought to build relations with developed free market
As of 2015[update], North
Korea had diplomatic relations with 166
countries and embassies in 47 countries. However, owing to the
human rights and political situation, the DPRK is not recognised by
Argentina, Botswana, Estonia, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, and
the United States.[original
research?] This means that in September 2017,
Estonia are the last two European countries that don't have an
official relationship with North Korea. North
Korea continues to
have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam
and Laos, as well as with Cambodia.
North Korean leader
Kim Jong-il meeting with Russian President Putin,
19 July 2000
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, left, meets with Jo Myong
Rok, second from right, first vice-chairman of North Korea's National
Defense Commission, 11 October 2000
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, Russia, China, Japan, and
the United States. The talks were discontinued in 2009. North Korea
was previously designated a state sponsor of terrorism because of
its alleged involvement in the 1983
Rangoon bombing and the 1987
bombing of a South Korean airliner. On 11 October 2008, the
United States removed North
Korea from its list of states that sponsor
Pyongyang agreed to cooperate on issues related to its
nuclear program. North
Korea was re-designated a state sponsor of
terrorism by the U.S. under the
Trump administration on 20 November
2017, 9 years after it was removed from the list. The kidnapping
of at least 13 Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s
and the 1980s has affected North Korea's relationship with Japan.
Main article: Inter-Korean relations
Main article: Korean reunification
Korean Demilitarized Zone
Korean Demilitarized Zone with
South Korea remains the most
heavily fortified border in the world.
Inter-Korean relations are
at the core of North Korean diplomacy and have seen numerous shifts in
the last few decades. 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 1972, the
two Koreas agreed in principle to achieve reunification through
peaceful means and without foreign interference. On 10 October
1980 then North Korean president
Kim Il-sung proposed a federation
between North and
South Korea named the Democratic Federal Republic of
Korea in which the respective political systems would initially
remain. However, relations remained cool well until the early
1990s, with a brief period in the early 1980s when North
to provide flood relief to its southern neighbor. Although the
offer was initially welcomed, talks over how to deliver the relief
goods broke down and none of the promised aid ever crossed the
border. The two countries also organized a reunion of 92
South Korean aid convoy entering North
Korea through the Demilitarized
Sunshine Policy instituted by South Korean president Kim Dae-jung
in 1998 was a watershed in inter-Korean relations. It encouraged other
countries to engage with the North, which allowed
normalize relations with a number of European Union states and
contributed to the establishment of joint North-South economic
projects. The culmination of the
Sunshine Policy was the 2000
Inter-Korean summit, when
Kim Dae-jung visited
Kim Jong-il in
Pyongyang. Both North and
South Korea signed the June 15th
North–South Joint Declaration, in which both sides promised to seek
peaceful reunification. On 4 October 2007, South Korean president
Roh Moo-hyun and
Kim Jong-il signed an eight-point peace
agreement. However, relations worsened in the late 2000s and
early 2010s when South Korean president
Lee Myung-bak adopted a more
hard-line approach and suspended aid deliveries pending the
de-nuclearization of the North. North
Korea responded by ending all of
its previous agreements with the South. It deployed additional
ballistic missiles and placed its military on full combat alert
after South Korea,
Japan and the
United States threatened to intercept
Unha-2 space launch vehicle. The next few years witnessed a
string of hostilities, including the alleged North Korean involvement
in the sinking of South Korean warship Cheonan, mutual ending of
diplomatic ties, a North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong
Island, and growing international concern over North Korea's
nuclear program. In 2018, a détente developed at the Winter
Olympics in the South. In 2018, following the North Korean
participation in the Winter
Olympics in South Korea, the relationship
between the two governments in
Seoul has seen a major
Human rights in North Korea
See also: Prisons in North Korea
A map of political prison camps in North Korea. An estimated 40% of
prisoners die of malnutrition.
Korea is widely accused of having perhaps the worst human rights
record in the world. North
Koreans have been referred to as "some
of the world's most brutalized people" by Human Rights Watch, because
of the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic
freedoms. The North Korean population is strictly managed by
the state and all aspects of daily life are subordinated to party and
state planning. Employment is managed by the party on the basis of
political reliability, and travel is tightly controlled by the
Ministry of People's Security.
Amnesty International reports of severe restrictions on the freedom of
association, expression and movement, arbitrary detention, torture and
other ill-treatment resulting in death, and executions.
State Security Department
State Security Department extrajudicially apprehends and imprisons
those accused of political crimes without due process. People
perceived as hostile to the government, such as Christians or critics
of the leadership, are deported to labor camps without
trial, often with their whole family and mostly without any
chance of being released.
Based on satellite images and defector testimonies, Amnesty
International estimates that around 200,000 prisoners are held in six
large political prison camps, where they are forced to work
in conditions approaching slavery. 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
deemed politically rehabilitated may reassume responsible government
positions on their release.
North Korean defectors 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. 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. 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.
The North Korean government rejects the human rights abuses claims,
calling them "a smear campaign" and a "human rights racket" aimed at
government change. In a report to the UN, North Korea
dismissed accusations of atrocities as "wild rumors". The government
admitted some human rights issues related to living conditions and
stated that it is working to improve them.
Law enforcement and internal security
Main article: Law enforcement in North Korea
See also: Law of North
Judiciary of North Korea
North Korean traffic police in Pyongyang
Korea has a civil law system based on the Prussian model and
influenced by Japanese traditions and communist legal theory.
Judiciary procedures are handled by the Supreme 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 are appointed by the Workers' Party
of Korea. 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. Courts carry out legal procedures related to not only
criminal and civil matters, but also political cases as well.
Political prisoners are sent to labor camps, while criminal offenders
are incarcerated in a separate system.
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. It
handles other aspects of domestic security like civil registration,
traffic control, fire departments and railroad security. The
State Security Department
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 "kwalliso" (total control zones) for lifetime
detention. Camp 15 in Yodok and Camp 18 in Bukchang
have been described in detailed testimonies.
The security apparatus is very extensive, exerting strict control
over residence, travel, employment, clothing, food and family
life. Security forces employ mass surveillance. It is believed
they tightly monitor cellular and digital communications.
Main article: Korean People's Army
See also: North
Korea and weapons of mass destruction and Songun
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers at Panmunjom
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army (KPA) is North Korea's military organization.
The KPA has 1,106,000 active and 8,389,000 reserve and paramilitary
troops, making it the largest military institution in the world.
About 20 percent of men aged 17–54 serve in the regular armed
forces, and approximately one in every 25 citizens is an enlisted
soldier. The KPA has five branches: Ground Force, Navy, Air
Special Operations Force, and Rocket Force. Command of the
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army lies in both the Central Military Commission of
the Workers' Party of
Korea and the independent State Affairs
Ministry of People's Armed Forces is subordinated to
Of all KPA branches, the Ground Force is the largest. It has
approximately one million personnel divided into 80 infantry
divisions, 30 artillery brigades, 25 special warfare brigades, 20
mechanized brigades, 10 tank brigades and seven tank regiments.
They are equipped with 3,700 tanks, 2,100 armoured personnel carriers
and infantry fighting vehicles, 17,900 artillery pieces, 11,000
anti-aircraft guns and some 10,000
MANPADS and anti-tank guided
missiles. Other equipment includes 1,600 aircraft in the Air
Force and 1,000 vessels in the Navy. North
Korea has the largest
special forces and the largest submarine fleet in the world.
Ilyushin Il-76 strategic military airlifter used by Air Koryo
Korea possesses nuclear weapons, but the strength of its arsenal
is uncertain. In January 2018, estimates of North Korea's nuclear
arsenal ranged between 15 and 60 bombs, probably including hydrogen
bombs. Delivery capabilities are provided by the Rocket
Force, which has some 1,000 ballistic missiles with a range of up to
7,400 miles (11,900 km).
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. 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, 2087 of January 2013, and 2397 in December,
The military faces some issues limiting its conventional capabilities,
including obsolete equipment, insufficient fuel supplies and a
shortage of digital command and control assets due to other countries
being banned from selling weapons to it by the UN sanctions. To
compensate for these deficiencies, the KPA has deployed a wide range
of asymmetric warfare technologies like anti-personnel blinding
GPS jammers, midget submarines and human
torpedoes, stealth paint, electromagnetic pulse bombs,
and cyberwarfare units. In 2015, North
Korea was estimated as
having 6,000 sophisticated computer security personnel. KPA units
have allegedly attempted to jam South Korean military satellites.
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. The defense industry is capable of
producing a full range of individual and crew-served weapons,
artillery, armored vehicles, tanks, missiles, helicopters, surface
combatants, submarines, landing and infiltration craft, Yak-18
trainers and possibly co-production of jet aircraft. According to
official North Korean media, military expenditures for 2010 amount to
15.8 percent of the state budget. The U.S. State Department has
estimated that North Korea's military spending averaged 23% of its GDP
from 2004 to 2014, the highest level in the world.
Main articles: Demographics of North
Korea and Ethnic minorities in
Koreans posing for a photo in front of Kumsusan Palace of the
With the exception of a small Chinese community and a few ethnic
Japanese, North Korea's 25,368,620 people are ethnically
homogeneous. Demographic experts in the 20th century estimated
that the population would grow to 25.5 million by 2000 and 28 million
by 2010, but this increase never occurred due to the North Korean
famine. It began in 1995, lasted for three years and resulted in
the deaths of between 240,000 and 420,000 North Koreans.
International donors led by the
United States initiated shipments of
food through the
World Food Program
World Food Program in 1997 to combat the famine.
Despite a drastic reduction of aid under the George W. Bush
Administration, the situation gradually improved: the number of
malnourished children declined from 60% in 1998 to 37% in
2006 and 28% in 2013. Domestic food production almost
recovered to the recommended annual level of 5.37 million tons of
cereal equivalent in 2013, but the
World Food Program
World Food Program reported a
continuing lack of dietary diversity and access to fats and
The famine had a significant impact on the population growth rate,
which declined to 0.9% annually in 2002. It was 0.53% in
2014. Late marriages after military service, limited housing
space and long hours of work or political studies further exhaust the
population and reduce growth. The national birth rate is 14.5
births per year per 1,000 population. Two-thirds of households
consist of extended families mostly living in two-room units. Marriage
is virtually universal and divorce is extremely rare.
Main article: Health in North Korea
A dental clinic at
Pyongyang Maternity Hospital
Korea had a life expectancy of 69.8 years in 2013. While
Korea is classified as a low-income country, the structure of
North Korea's causes of death (2013) is unlike that of other
low-income countries. Instead, it is closer to worldwide
averages, with non-communicable diseases—such as cardiovascular
disease and cancers—accounting for two-thirds of the total
A 2013 study reported that communicable diseases and malnutrition are
responsible for 29% of the total deaths in North Korea. This figure is
higher than those of high-income countries and South Korea, but half
of the average 57% of all deaths in other low-income countries.
In 2003 infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis
B were described as endemic to the country as a result of the
famine. However, in 2013, they were reported to be in
Cardiovascular disease as a single disease group was reported
as the largest cause of death in North Korea. The three major
causes of death in DPR
Korea are ischaemic heart disease (13%), lower
respiratory infections (11%) and cerebrovascular disease (7%).
Non-communicable diseases risk factors in North
Korea include high
rates of urbanisation, an aging society, and high rates of smoking and
alcohol consumption amongst men.
According to a 2003 report by the
United States Department of State,
almost 100% of the population has access to water and sanitation.
80% of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities in
A free universal insurance system is in place. Quality of medical
care varies significantly by region and is often low, with severe
shortages of equipment, drugs and anaesthetics. According to WHO,
expenditure on health per capita is one of the lowest in the
world. 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.
Main article: Education in North Korea
North Korean schoolchildren
The 2008 census listed the entire population as literate. An
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. 77%
of males and 79% of females aged 30–34 have finished secondary
school. An additional 300 universities and colleges offer higher
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, and the imbalances
in curriculum. The study of natural sciences is greatly emphasized
while social sciences are neglected.
Heuristics is actively
applied to develop the independence and creativity of students
throughout the system. The study of Russian and English was made
compulsory in upper middle schools in 1978.
Further information: North–South differences in the Korean language
Korea shares the
Korean language with South Korea, although some
dialectal differences exist within both Koreas. North Koreans
refer to their
Pyongyang dialect as munhwaŏ ("cultured language") as
opposed to the dialects of South Korea, especially the
or p'yojun'ŏ ("standard language"), which are viewed as decadent
because of its use of loanwords from Chinese and European languages
(particularly English). Words of Chinese, Manchu or Western
origin have been eliminated from munhwa along with the usage of
Chinese hancha characters. Written language uses only the
chosŏn'gŭl phonetic alphabet, developed under Sejong the Great
Further information: Religion in North Korea
Chilgol Church in Pyongyang, where Kang Pan-sok—the mother of the
late supreme leader Kim Il-sung—served as a
There are no known official statistics of religions in North Korea.
According to Religious Intelligence, 64.3% of the population are
irreligious, 16% practice Korean shamanism, 13.5% practice Chondoism,
4.5% are Buddhist, and 1.7% are Christian. Freedom of religion
and the right to religious ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed,
but religions are restricted by the government. Amnesty
International has expressed concerns about religious persecution in
The influence of Buddhism and Confucianism still has an effect on
cultural life. Chondoism ("Heavenly Way") is an indigenous
syncretic belief combining elements of Korean shamanism, Buddhism,
Catholicism that is officially represented by the
WPK-controlled Chongu Party.
Open Doors mission, a Protestant-group based in the United States
and founded during the Cold War-era, claims the most severe
persecution of Christians in the world occurs in North Korea.
Four state-sanctioned churches exist, but critics claim these are
showcases for foreigners.
Formal ranking of citizens' loyalty
Further information: Songbun
Sneaker-wearing North Korean youths walking in Pyongyang
According to North Korean documents and refugee testimonies, all
Koreans are sorted into groups according to their Songbun, an
ascribed status system based on a citizen's assessed loyalty to the
government. 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, or even receives adequate food.
Songbun allegedly affects access to educational and employment
opportunities and particularly whether a person is eligible to join
North Korea's ruling party. 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%. 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.
While some analysts believe private commerce recently changed the
Songbun system to some extent, most North Korean refugees say it
remains a commanding presence in everyday life. The North Korean
government claims all citizens are equal and denies any discrimination
on the basis of family background.
Main article: Economy of North Korea
Korea has maintained one of the most closed and centralized
economies in the world since the 1940s. 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
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.
The major slowdown of the economy contrasted with South Korea, which
surpassed the North in terms of absolute GDP and per capita income by
the 1980s. North
Korea declared the last seven-year plan
unsuccessful in December 1993 and thereafter stopped announcing
An industrial plant in Hamhung
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. 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. 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. 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
Korea has the structural profile of a relatively industrialized
country where nearly half of the
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is
generated by industry and human development is at medium
Purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP is estimated at $40
billion, with a very low per capita value of $1,800. In 2012,
Gross national income per capita was $1,523, compared to $28,430 in
South Korea. The
North Korean won
North Korean won is the national currency,
issued by the Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of
The economy is heavily nationalized. Food and housing are
extensively subsidized by the state; education and healthcare are
free; and the payment of taxes was officially abolished in
1974. A variety of goods are available in department stores and
supermarkets in Pyongyang, though most of the population relies
on small-scale jangmadang markets. In 2009, the government
attempted to stem the expanding free market by banning jangmadang and
the use of foreign currency, heavily devaluing the won and
restricting the convertibility of savings in the old currency,
but the resulting inflation spike and rare public protests caused a
reversal of these policies. 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.
Foreign tourists in Masikryong Ski Resort
Industry and services employ 65% of North Korea's 12.6 million
labor force. Major industries include machine building, military
equipment, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing
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. Using ex-Romanian drilling rigs, several oil
exploration companies have confirmed significant oil reserves in the
North Korean shelf of the Sea of Japan, and in areas south of
Pyongyang. The agricultural sector was shattered by the natural
disasters of the 1990s. Its 3,500 cooperatives and state
farms were among the most productive and successful in the world
around 1980 but now experience chronic fertilizer and equipment
shortages. Rice, corn, soybeans and potatoes are some of the primary
crops. A significant contribution to the food supply comes from
commercial fishing and aquaculture. Tourism has been a growing
sector for the past decade. 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.[needs update]
Foreign trade surpassed pre-crisis levels in 2005 and continues to
expand.[needs update] 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.
Initially four such zones existed, but they yielded little overall
success. The SEZ system was overhauled in 2013 when 14 new zones
were opened and the
Special Economic Zone was reformed as a
joint Chinese-North Korean project. The
Kaesong Industrial Region
is a special economic zone where more than 100 South Korean companies
employ some 52,000 North Korean workers. As of August 2017, China
is the biggest trading partner of North
Korea outside inter-Korean
trade, accounting for more than 84% of the total external trade ($5.3
billion) followed by
India at 3.3% share ($205 million).In 2014,
Russia wrote off 90% of North Korea's debt and the two countries
agreed to conduct all transactions in Rubles. Overall,
external trade in 2013 reached a total of $7.3 billion (the highest
amount since 1990), while inter-Korean trade dropped to an
eight-year low of $1.1 billion.
Further information: Energy in North
Korea and Transport in North
Satellite image of the
Korean Peninsula at night, showing North Korea
in almost complete darkness, with one small bright spot, the capital
North Korea's 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.[needs update] Coal
accounts for 70% of primary energy production, followed by
hydroelectric power with 17%. The government under Kim Jong-un
has increased emphasis on renewable energy projects like wind farms,
solar parks, solar heating and biomass. A set of legal
regulations adopted in 2014 stressed the development of geothermal,
wind and solar energy along with recycling and environmental
conservation. North Korea's long-term objective is to curb
fossil fuel usage and reach an output of 5 million kilowatts from
renewable sources by 2044, up from its current total of 430,000
kilowatts from all sources. Wind power is projected to satisfy 15% of
the country's total energy demand under this strategy.
Korea also strives to develop its own civilian nuclear program.
These efforts are under much international dispute due to their
military applications and concerns about safety.
A Soviet-built M62 diesel unit at
Tupolev Tu-204 of
Air Koryo over Vladivostok Airport
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. Construction of
a high-speed railway connecting Kaesong,
speeds exceeding 200 km/h was approved in 2013. North Korea
connects with the
Trans-Siberian Railway through Rajin.
Road transport is very limited — only 724 kilometers of the 25,554
kilometer road network are paved, and maintenance on most roads
is poor. Only 2% of the freight capacity is supported by river
and sea transport, and air traffic is negligible. All port
facilities are ice-free and host a merchant fleet of 158 vessels.
Eighty-two airports and 23 helipads are operational and the
largest serve the state-run airline, Air Koryo. Cars are
relatively rare, but bicycles are common.[needs update]
Science and technology
Further information: Korean Committee of Space Technology,
Telecommunications in North Korea, and National Aerospace Development
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. The
government considers science and technology to be directly linked to
economic development. A five-year scientific plan
emphasizing IT, biotechnology, nanotechnology, marine and plasma
research was carried out in the early 2000s. A 2010 report by the
South Korean Science and Technology Policy Institute identified
polymer chemistry, 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.
Unha-3 space launch vehicle at Sohae
Satellite Launching Station
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". International sanctions remain a significant obstacle to their
development. The Miraewon network of electronic libraries was
established in 2014 under similar slogans.
Significant resources have been allocated to the national space
program, which is managed by the National Aerospace Development
Administration (formerly managed by the Korean Committee of Space
Technology until April 2013) Domestically produced launch
vehicles and the Kwangmyŏngsŏng satellite class are launched from
two spaceports, the
Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground
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
Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 in December 2012, which successfully reached
orbit but was believed to be crippled and non-operational.
It joined the
Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty in 2009 and has stated its
intentions to undertake manned and Moon missions. The government
insists the space program is for peaceful purposes, but the United
South Korea and other countries maintain that it serves
to advance military ballistic missile programs.
On 7 February 2016, North
Korea successfully launched a long-range
rocket, supposedly to place a satellite into orbit. Critics believe
that the real purpose of the launch was to test a ballistic missile.
The launch was strongly condemned by the UN Security
Council. A statement broadcast on Korean Central
Television said that a new Earth observation satellite,
Kwangmyongsong-4, had successfully been put into orbit less than 10
minutes after lift-off from the Sohae space centre in North Phyongan
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 and expanding
mobile coverage is in place. 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. Cellular
coverage is available with a 3G network operated by Koryolink, a joint
venture with Orascom Telecom Holding. The number of subscribers
has increased from 3,000 in 2002 to almost two million in
2013. International calls through either fixed or cellular
service are restricted, and mobile
Internet is not available.
Internet access itself is limited to a handful of elite users and
scientists. Instead, North
Korea has a walled garden intranet system
called Kwangmyong, which is maintained and monitored by the Korea
Computer Center. Its content is limited to state media, chat
services, message boards, an e-mail service and an estimated
1,000–5,500 websites. Computers employ the Red Star OS, an
operating system derived from Linux, with a user shell visually
similar to that of OS X. On 19 September 2016, a TLDR project
noticed the North Korean
Internet DNS data and top-level domain was
left open which allowed global DNS zone transfers. A dump of the data
discovered was shared on GitHub.
Main article: Culture of North Korea
See also: Culture of Korea
Pyohunsa Buddhist Temple, a National Treasure of North Korea
Despite a historically strong Chinese influence, Korean culture has
shaped its own unique identity. It came under attack during the
Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, when
Japan enforced a cultural
Koreans were encouraged to learn and speak
Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and
and were forbidden to write or speak the
Korean language in schools,
businesses, or public places.
After the peninsula was divided in 1945, two distinct cultures formed
out of the common Korean heritage. North
Koreans have little exposure
to foreign influence. 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.
Korean heritage is protected and maintained by the state. 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
World Heritage Sites.
Korean art and Korean architecture
Propaganda art in North Korea
Visual arts are generally produced in the aesthetics of Socialist
Korean painting combines the influence of Soviet
and Japanese visual expression to instill a sentimental loyalty to the
system. 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
Kim Jong-il and
Kim Jong-un are classed as "Number One
Most aspects of art have been dominated by
Mansudae Art Studio
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. 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.
Mansudae Overseas Projects
Mansudae Overseas Projects is a subdivision of Mansudae Art Studio
that carries out construction of large-scale monuments for
international customers. Some of the projects include the African
Renaissance Monument in Senegal, and the Heroes' Acre in
In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the
Goguryeo tumulus is
registered on the
World Heritage list of UNESCO. These remains were
registered as the first
World Heritage property of the Democratic
People's Republic of
Korea in the
World Heritage Committee
(WHC) in July 2004. There are 63 burial mounds in the tomb group, with
clear murals preserved. It is believed that these murals also
influenced the Japanese Kita Tora burial mound.
Main article: Music of North Korea
"Song of Comradeship"
performed by the KPA State Chorus
"Let us Dash towards the Future"
performed by Moranbong Band
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The government emphasized optimistic folk-based tunes and
revolutionary music throughout most of the 20th century.
Ideological messages are conveyed through massive orchestral pieces
like the "Five Great Revolutionary Operas" based on traditional Korean
ch'angguk. Revolutionary operas differ from their Western
counterparts by adding traditional instruments to the orchestra and
avoiding recitative segments.
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, and its 2010 tour in
China was a
major success. Western classical music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky,
Stravinsky and other composers is performed both by the State Symphony
Orchestra and student orchestras.
Pop music appeared in the 1980s with the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble
and Wangjaesan Light Music Band. 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. In
2014, the all-girl
Moranbong Band was described as the most popular
group in the country. North
Koreans also listen to
spreads through illegal markets.[needs update]
Main article: North Korean literature
A North Korean bookstore with works of
Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il
All publishing houses are owned by the government or the WPK 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. The
availability of foreign literature is limited, examples being North
Korean editions of Indian, German, Chinese and Russian fairy tales,
Tales from Shakespeare
Tales from Shakespeare and some works of
Bertolt Brecht and Erich
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. 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
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
Main article: Media of North Korea
Rodong Sinmun office in Pyongyang
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). Most movies have predictable propaganda story
lines which make cinema an unpopular entertainment. Viewers only see
films that feature their favorite actors. Western productions are
only available at private showings to high-ranking Party members,
although the 1997 film Titanic is frequently shown to university
students as an example of Western culture.[needs update] Access
to foreign media products is available through smuggled DVDs and
television or radio broadcasts in border areas. Western films
like The Interview, Titanic, and Charlie's Angels are just a few films
that have been smuggled across the borders of North Korea, allowing
for access to the North Korean citizens.  The Human Rights
Foundation launched a campaign called "Flash Drives For Freedom" in
order to smuggle flash drives into North
Korea containing over 20,000
songs and films to educate the North Korean public about social,
political and cultural advancements made by the rest of the world.
North Korean media are under some of the strictest government control
in the world. Freedom of the press in 2017 was 180th out of 180
countries in Reporters Without Borders' annual Press Freedom
Index. 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. The main news provider is the Korean Central News
Agency. All 12 major newspapers and 20 periodicals, including Rodong
Sinmun, are published in the capital.
There are three state-owned TV stations. Two of them broadcast only on
weekends and the
Korean Central Television
Korean Central Television is on air every day in the
Uriminzokkiri and its associated
YouTube and Twitter
accounts distribute imagery, news and video issued by government
Associated Press opened the first Western all-format,
full-time bureau in
Pyongyang in 2012.
Bias in reporting on North
Korea has occurred in international media
as a result of the country's isolation. 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. Many of the claims originate from the South Korean
right-wing newspaper The Chosun Ilbo. Max Fisher 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". Occasional deliberate disinformation on the part of
North Korean establishments further complicates the issue. The
censorship in North
Korea encompasses all the information produced by
the media. Monitored heavily by government officials, the media is
strictly used to reinforce ideals approved by the government. 
There is no freedom of press in North
Korea as all the media is
controlled and filtered through governmental censors. 
Main article: Korean cuisine
See also: List of North Korean dishes
North Korean bibimbap
Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political
change. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions
Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, it has gone through a
complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural
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.
North Korea's most famous restaurant, Okryu-gwan, located in
Pyongyang, is known for its raengmyeon cold noodles. Other dishes
served there include gray mullet soup with boiled rice, beef rib soup,
green bean pancake, sinsollo and dishes made from terrapin.
Okryu-gwan sends research teams into the countryside to collect data
Korean cuisine and introduce new recipes. Some Asian cities
host branches of the
Pyongyang restaurant chain where waitresses
perform music and dance.
Main article: Sport in North Korea
Korea (in red) against Brazil at the 2010 FIFA World Cup
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. The
national football team, Chollima, competed in the
FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup in
2010, when it lost all three matches against Brazil, Portugal and
Ivory Coast. 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. 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.
A scene from the 2012 Arirang Festival
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
Kim Un-guk broke the world record of the
Men's 62 kg category at the 2012 Summer
Olympics in London.
Successful Olympians receive luxury apartments from the state in
recognition for their achievements.
Arirang Festival has been recognized by the Guinness World Records
as the biggest choreographic event in the world. 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
Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Rungrado 1st of May
Stadium, the largest stadium in the world with its capacity of
150,000, hosts the Festival. The
Pyongyang Marathon is
another notable sports event. It is a IAAF Bronze Label Race where
amateur runners from around the world can participate.
Index of North Korea-related articles
List of documentary films about North Korea
Korea Uncovered – a mapping project
Outline of North Korea
Kim Jong-un holds four concurrent positions: Chairman of the
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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.
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