North Korea



North Korea Wikipedia

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"Democratic People's Republic of Korea" redirects here. It is not to be confused with the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Coordinates: 40°00′N 127°00′E / 40.000°N 127.000°E / 40.000; 127.000
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • 조선민주주의인민공화국
  • Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
  • 《강성대국》
  • (English: "Powerful and Prosperous Nation")
  • 《애국가》
  • "Aegukka"  (transliteration)
  • (English: "The Patriotic Song")
Area controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shown in green
Area controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shown in green

and largest city

39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.033°N 125.750°E / 39.033; 125.750
Official languagesKorean
Official scriptsChosŏn'gŭl
  • North Korean
  • Korean
GovernmentJuche single-party state (de jure)

Single-party totalitarian military dictatorship under

hereditary dictatorship (de facto)
 - Eternal PresidentKim Il-sung
 - Eternal WPK General SecretaryKim Jong-il
 - Supreme LeaderKim Jong-un[a]
 - Chairman of the

Assembly Presidium
Kim Yong-nam[b]
 - PremierPak Pong-ju
LegislatureSupreme People's Assembly
 - Liberation15 August 1945 
 - Formal declaration9 September 1948 
 - Total120,540 km2 (98th)

46,528 sq mi
 - Water (%)4.87
 - 2013 estimate24,895,000 (48th)
 - 2011 census24,052,231
 - Density198.3/km2 (63rd)

513.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2011 estimate
 - Total$40 billion
 - Per capita$1,800
GDP (nominal)2011 estimate
 - Total$12.4 billion
 - Per capita$506
Gini (2007)positive decrease 31

HDI (2008)Decrease 0.733

high · 156th
CurrencyNorth Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Time zoneKorea Standard Time (UTC+9)
Date format
  • yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
  • yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911 / CE)
Drives on theright
Calling code+850
ISO 3166 codeKP
a.^ Kim Jong-un holds four concurrent positions: First Secretary of the Workers' Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, First Chairman of the National Defence Commission and Supreme Commander of the People's Army, serve as the "supreme leader" of the DPRK.
b.^ Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs". The position of president (formerly head of state) was written out of the constitution in 1998. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, was given the appellation "Eternal President" in its preamble.
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North Korea (About this sound listen), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선민주주의인민공화국; Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a country in East Asia, in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo, a dynasty which ruled in the Middle Ages. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. North Korea shares a land border with China to the north and north-west, along the Amnok (Yalu) and Tumen rivers. A small section of the Tumen River also forms North Korea's short border with Russia to the northeast. The Korean Demilitarized Zone marks the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. The legitimacy of this border is not accepted by either side, as both states claim to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula.

The Korean Peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, until it was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. After the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Japanese rule ceased. The Korean Peninsula was divided into two occupied zones in 1945, with the northern part of the peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern portion by the United States. A United Nations-supervised election held in 1948 led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. The conflicting claims of sovereignty led to the Korean War in 1950. An armistice in 1953 committed both to a cease-fire, but the two countries remain officially at war because a formal peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.

Although the DPRK officially describes itself as a Juche Korean-style socialist state and elections are held, it is widely considered a dictatorship that has been described as totalitarian and Stalinist with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family. The Workers' Party of Korea, led by a member of the ruling family, holds de facto power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be a member. Juche, an ideology of self-reliance initiated by the country's first President, Kim Il-sung, became the official state ideology, replacing Marxism–Leninism, when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972. In 2009, references to Communism (Chosŏn'gŭl: 공산주의) were removed from the country's constitution.

The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms, and most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are state funded or subsidized. In the 1990s North Korea suffered from a famine and continues to struggle with food production. In 2013, the UN identified North Korean government policies as the primary cause of the shortages and estimated that 16 million people required food aid.

North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy in order to strengthen the country and its government. It is the world's most militarized society, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the 4th largest in the world, after China, the U.S., and India. It is a nuclear-weapons state and has an active space program. As a result of its isolation, it is sometimes known as the "hermit kingdom".



                Main article: History of North Korea

                Ancient kingdoms

                Main article: History of Korea
                According to legend, Gojoseon was the first Korean kingdom founded in the north of the peninsula, in 2333 BC by Dangun. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled the northern Korean Peninsula and some parts of Manchuria. Gojoseon was first mentioned in Chinese records in the early 7th century BC, and around the 4th century BC, its capital moved to Pyongyang.

                After many conflicts with the Chinese Han Dynasty, Gojoseon disintegrated. A number of small states emerged in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, leading to the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea period. This saw the kingdoms of Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and the Samhan confederacy occupying the peninsula and southern Manchuria. Of the various states, Goguryeo in the north, and Baekje and Silla in the south, grew to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Goguryeo was the first Korean kingdom to adopt Buddhism as the state religion in 372.

                The kingdom reached its zenith in the 5th century AD, when it controlled central Korea, including the present-day Seoul area. Goguryeo fought numerous wars with China and repulsed a number of Chinese invasions. However, the kingdom fell into decline in the 7th century and after internal power struggles, it was conquered by allied Silla-Tang forces. The unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 676 led to the North South States Period, in which much of the Korean Peninsula was controlled by Silla. The kingdom of Balhae controlled northern areas of Korea and parts of Manchuria between the 7th and 10th centuries.

                Under the rule of Unified Silla, relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful. Silla weakened under internal strife, and eventually was defeated by King Taejo of Goryeo of the Goryeo Dynasty in 935.

                Goryeo, with its capital at Gaegyeong in present day North Korea, gradually came to rule the whole Korean peninsula. The Mongol invasions in the 13th century greatly weakened Goryeo. Goryeo became a dependency of the Mongol Empire and was forced to pay tribute. After the Mongol Empire collapsed, Korea experienced political strife and the Goryeo Dynasty was replaced in 1388 by the long-lasting Joseon Dynasty (named in honor of the ancient Gojoseon kingdom).

                Jikji, the first known book printed with movable metal type in 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.
                Middle Ages

                The capital was moved south to Hanyang (modern-day Seoul) in 1394. Joseon accepted the nominal suzerainty of China. Internal conflicts within the royal court and civil unrest plagued the kingdom in the years that followed, a situation made worse by the depredations of Japanese pirates.

                After a largely peaceful 15th century, central authority declined and Korea was plagued again by coastal raids by Japanese pirates. Two Japanese attempts to conquer Korea were repulsed in 1592–1598. In the early 17th century Korea became involved in wars against the rising Manchus on the northern borders.

                The 17th to 19th centuries were marked by increasing Joseon self-isolation from the outside world, dependence on China for external affairs and occasional internal faction fighting. The Joseon Dynasty tried to isolate from sea traders by closing itself to all nations except China. Slaves, nobi, are estimated to have accounted for about one third of the population of Joseon Korea. By the mid-19th century the Joseon court followed a cautious policy of slow exchange with the West. In 1866, an American-owned armed merchant ship, attempted to open Korea to trade. The ship sailed upriver and became stranded near Pyongyang.

                After being ordered to leave by Korean officials, American crewmen killed four Korean inhabitants, kidnapped a military officer and engaged in sporadic fighting.[citation needed] The ship was finally set aflame by Korean fireships. In 1871, a US force killed 243 Korean troops on Ganghwa island. This incident is called the Sinmiyangyo in Korea. Five years later, Korea signed a trade treaty with Japan, and in 1882 signed a treaty with the United States, ending centuries of isolationism of the "Hermit Kingdom".

                Japanese occupation (1895–1945)
                Main article: Korea under Japanese rule

                Korean volunteers in the Imperial Japanese Army
                As a result of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki stipulated the end of traditional Joseon dependency on China. In 1897, Joseon was renamed the Korean Empire. Russian influence was strong until the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), after which Korea became a protectorate of Japan. Korea was then annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910, leading to 35 years of military rule.

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

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

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

                Division of Korea (1945)

                Main article: Division of Korea

                The Korean peninsula, first divided along the 38th parallel, later along the demarcation line.
                After the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Japanese rule was brought to an end. The Korean peninsula was divided into two occupied zones in 1945 along the 38th parallel, with the northern half of the peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern half by the United States, in accordance with a prior arrangement between the two world powers, where United Nations-supervised elections were intended to be held for the entire peninsula shortly after the war. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which had operated in exile since 1919, was ignored, mainly because of the American perception that it was too communist-aligned.

                In August 1945, the Soviet Army established a Soviet Civil Authority in the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. The Provisional People's Committee for North Korea was set up in February 1946, headed by Kim Il-sung. He introduced sweeping land reforms and nationalized key industries. Talks on the future of Korea were held in Moscow and Seoul but without result. Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea evaporated as the politics of the Cold War resulted in the establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems.

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

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

                Soviet forces withdrew from the North in 1948 and most American forces withdrew from the South the following year. This dramatically weakened the Southern regime and encouraged Kim Il-sung to consider an invasion plan against the South. War proposals were rejected several times by Joseph Stalin, but along with the development of Soviet nuclear weapons, Mao Zedong's victory in China, and the Chinese indication that it would send troops and other support to North Korea, Stalin approved the invasion which led to the start of the Korean War in June 1950. The Korean War broke out when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel to invade the South.

                Korean War (1950–1953)

                Main article: Korean War
                See also: Aftermath of the Korean War, Korean Demilitarized Zone and North Korea – South Korea relations

                Civilians killed by North Korean forces near Hamhung, October 1950
                After Korea was divided by the UN, the two Korean powers both tried to control the whole peninsula under their respective governments. This led to escalating border conflicts on the 38th parallel and attempts to negotiate elections for the whole of Korea. These attempts ended when the military of North Korea invaded the South on 25 June 1950, leading to a full-scale war. With endorsement from the United Nations, countries allied with the United States intervened on behalf of South Korea.

                After rapid advances in a South Korean counterattack, North-allied Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war. 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.

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

                Since the Armistice in 1953, relations between the North Korean government and South Korea, the European Union, Canada, the United States, and Japan have remained tense, and hostile incidents occur often.[page needed] North and South Korea signed the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration in 2000, in which they promised to seek peaceful reunification. On 4 October 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. On 13 March 2013, North Korea confirmed it ended the 1953 Armistice and declared North Korea "is not restrained by the North-South declaration on non-aggression."

                Late 20th century

                Main article: Korean Demilitarized Zone

                A Korean People's Army soldier pointing to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
                The relative peace between the South and the North following the armistice was interrupted by border skirmishes, celebrity abductions, and assassination attempts. The North failed in several assassination attempts on South Korean leaders, most notably in 1968, 1974 and the Rangoon bombing in 1983; tunnels were frequently found under the DMZ and war nearly broke out over the Axe Murder Incident at Panmunjom in 1976. In 1973, extremely secret, high-level contacts began to be conducted through the offices of the Red Cross, but ended after the Panmunjom incident with little progress having been made and the idea that the two Koreas would join international organizations separately.

                North Korea remained closely aligned to China and the Soviet Union until the mid-1960s. Recovery from the war was quick – by 1957 industrial production reached 1949 levels. The last Chinese troops withdrew from the country in October 1958. 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 culminated in 1976 with the death of Mao Zedong. In response, Kim Il Sung began severing ties with China and reemphasizing national and economic self-reliance enshrined in his Juche Idea, which promoted producing everything within the country. However, by the 1980s the economy had begun to stagnate, started its long decline in 1987, and almost completely collapsed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 when all aid was suddenly halted. The North began reestablishing trade relations with China shortly thereafter, but the Chinese could not afford to provide enough food aid to meet demand. Flooding in the mid-1990s exacerbated the economic crisis, severely damaging crops and infrastructure and led to widespread famine which the government proved incapable of curtailing. In 1996, the government capitulated to accepting UN food aid.

                In 1992, as Kim Il Sung's health began deteriorating, Kim Jong Il slowly began taking over various state tasks and after Sung died of a heart attack in 1994, declared a three year period of national mourning before officially announcing his position as the new head of state. As the economy continued to face problems Kim Jong Il instituted a policy called Songun, or "military first" to sideline his father's Juche. There is much speculation about this policy being used as a strategy to strengthen the military while discouraging coup attempts. Restrictions on travel were tightened and the state security apparatus was strengthened. In the late 1990s, North Korea began making attempts at normalizing relations with the West and negotiating disarmament deals with U.S. officials in exchange for food and economic aid.

                In the late 1990s, with the South having transitioned to liberal democracy, the success of the Nordpolitik policy, and power in the North having been taken up by Kim Il-sung's son Kim Jong-il, the two nations began to engage publicly for the first time, with the South declaring its Sunshine Policy.

                Early 21st century

                See also: Bombardment of Yeonpyeong

                Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok meets Bill Clinton at the White House, October 2000
                By the beginning of the 21st century, the worst of the devastating famine had passed, but North Korea continues to rely heavily on foreign aid for its food supply. In January 2002, U.S. president George W. Bush labeled 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, but the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. By 2006, approximately 37,000 American soldiers remained in South Korea, although by June 2009 this number had fallen to around 30,000. Kim Jong-il privately stated his acceptance of U.S. troops on the peninsula, even after a possible reunification. Publicly, North Korea strongly demands the removal of American troops from South Korea.

                On 13 June 2009, the Associated Press reported that in response to new U.N. sanctions, North Korea declared it would progress with its uranium enrichment program. This marked the first time the DPRK has publicly acknowledged that it is conducting a uranium enrichment program. In August 2009, former U.S. president Bill Clinton met with Kim Jong-il to secure the release of two American journalists, who had been sentenced for entering the country illegally. Current U.S. President Barack Obama's position towards North Korea has been to resist making deals with North Korea for the sake of defusing tension, a policy known as "strategic patience."

                On 23 November 2010, North Korea fired about 170 rounds of artillery on Yeonpyeong Island and the surrounding waters near the Yellow Sea border, with some 90 shells landing on the island. The attack resulted in the deaths of two marines and two civilians on the South Korean side, and fifteen marines and at least three civilians wounded. South Korean forces fired back 80 shells, although the results remain unclear. North Korean news sources alleged that the North Korean actions, described as "a prompt and powerful physical strike", were in response to provocation from South Korea that had held an artillery exercise in the disputed waters south of the island.

                On 17 December 2011, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il died from a heart attack. His death was reported by the Korean Central News Agency around 08:30 local time with the newscaster announcing his youngest son Kim Jong-un as his successor.

                The announcement placed South Korean and United States troops on high alert, with many politicians from the global community stating that Kim's death leaves a great deal of uncertainty in the country's future. North Korea was put into a state of semi-alert, with foreigners put under suspicion and asked to leave.

                North Koreans touring the Museum of American War Atrocities in September 2009

                Pre-emptive nuclear strike threats of 2013

                Main article: 2013 North Korean crisis
                On 7 March 2013, North Korea announced its intentions to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States. The statement called the United States, the "sworn enemy of the Korean people".

                On 8 March 2013, the North Korean government announced that it was withdrawing from all non-aggression pacts with South Korea in response to U.N. Resolution 2094. The announcement said it was closing its joint border crossing with South Korea and cutting off the hotline to the South.

                On 13 March 2013, North Korea confirmed it ended the 1953 Armistice and declared North Korea "is not restrained by the North-South declaration on non-aggression. Confirmation of the severing of the hotline between the North and the South—the last remaining communication link between the two countries at that time—was publicly announced on March 27, 2013, the same date that the hotline was cut off. According to the Korean Central News Agency, a senior North Korean military official stated: "Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep up North-South military communications" prior to the cessation of the communication channel.

                North Koreans are bowing to the statues of Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il
                On 30 March 2013, the North Korean government declared it was in 'a state of war' with South Korea. A North Korean statement promised "stern physical actions" against "any provocative act". The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific in response to the U.S. flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula. The United States warned North Korea that the rapidly escalating military confrontation would lead to further isolation, as The Pentagon declared that the U.S. was "fully capable" of defending itself and its allies against a missile attack. On 4 April 2013 North Korea's state news agency KCNA announced "The moment of explosion is approaching fast. No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow."

                U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper speculated that Kim Jong-un is trying to assert his control over North Korea, and has no endgame other than gaining recognition; analysts and other U.S. officials have echoed similar sentiments.

                Four missile launches were conducted on May 18 and 19, 2013—according to South Korea's defense ministry, three short-range guided missiles landed into the waters off the Korean peninsula on May 18, followed by a fourth on May 19. The missiles did not put any neighboring nations at risk and Pyongyang's actions were widely viewed as an exercise in fear creation to prompt other countries to consider security and aid concessions. The launches occurred during a period when relations were strained between the North and the South, as Pyongyang refused to participate in talks over the closed Kaesong plant.

                At the start of June 2013, the North Korean government offered to enter into talks that would represent the first dialogue of its kind in many years. The South Korean government immediately accepted the proposal.


                Main article: Geography of North Korea

                Lake Ch'ŏnji at Baekdu Mountain, North Korea's highest point
                North Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula, lying between latitudes 37° and 43°N, and longitudes 124° and 131°E. It covers an area of 120,540 square kilometres (46,541 sq mi). North Korea shares land borders with China and Russia to the north, and borders South Korea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

                To its west are the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay, and to its east lies Japan across the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea). The highest point in North Korea is Baekdu Mountain at 2,744 metres (9,003 ft). The longest river is the Amnok (Yalu) River which flows for 790 kilometres (491 mi). 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.

                In 2013, internet users were encouraged to participate in a community based event on Google Maps. These users could use Google Map Maker along with Cartography and Telemetry skills that eventually led to a virtual map of Pyongyang. In addition, the Google Map of North Korea includes political prison camp locations such as Camp 22.


                Further information: Korean Peninsula

                Topography of North Korea.
                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% of North Korea is composed of mountains and uplands, separated by deep and narrow valleys. All of the peninsula's mountains with elevations of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft) or more are located in North Korea. The coastal plains are wide in the west and discontinuous in the east. A great majority of the population lives in the plains and lowlands.

                The highest point in North Korea is Baekdu Mountain which is a volcanic mountain which forms part of the Chinese/North Korean border with basalt lava plateau with elevations between 1,400 and 2,744 meters (4,593 and 9,003 ft) above sea level. The Hamgyong Range, located in the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, has many high peaks including Kwanmobong at approximately 2,541 m (8,337 ft).

                Other major ranges include the Rangrim Mountains, which are located in the north-central part of North Korea and run in a north-south direction, making communication between the eastern and western parts of the country rather difficult; and the Kangnam Range, which runs along the North Korea–China border. Mount Kumgang, or Diamond Mountain, (approximately 1,638 metres or 5,374 feet) in the Taebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty.

                For the most part, the plains are small. The most extensive are the Pyongyang and Chaeryong plains, each covering about 500 square kilometers (190 sq mi). Because the mountains on the east coast drop abruptly to the sea, the plains are even smaller there than on the west coast. Unlike neighboring Japan or northern China, North Korea experiences few severe earthquakes.


                Main article: Climate of North Korea
                North Korea has a continental climate with four distinct seasons. Long winters bring bitter cold and clear weather interspersed with snow storms as a result of northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia. Average snowfall is 37 days during the winter. The weather is likely to be particularly harsh in the northern, mountainous regions.

                Summer tends to be short, hot, humid, and rainy because of the southern and southeastern monsoon winds that bring moist air from the Pacific Ocean. Typhoons affect the peninsula on an average of at least once every summer. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons marked by mild temperatures and variable winds and bring the most pleasant weather. Natural hazards include late spring droughts which often are followed by severe flooding. There are occasional typhoons during the early fall.

                North Korea's climate is relatively temperate. Most of the country is classified as type Dwa in the Köppen climate classification scheme, with warm summers and cold, dry winters. In summer there is a short rainy season called changma. On 7 August 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.

                Administrative divisions

                Main article: Administrative divisions of North Korea
                See also: Provinces of Korea, Special cities of North Korea and List of cities in North Korea
                MapNameaChosŏn'gŭlAdministrative Seat
                South Pyongan
                North Hwanghae
                South Hwanghae
                South Hamgyong
                North Hamgyong
                North Pyongan
                South Korea
                Yellow Sea

                (Korea West Sea)
                Korea Bay
                Sea of Japan

                (Korea East Sea)
                Capital city (chikhalsi)a
                Special city (teukbyeolsi)a
                Provinces (do)a
                3South Pyongan평안남도Pyongsong
                4North Pyongan평안북도Sinuiju
                6South Hwanghae황해남도Haeju
                7North Hwanghae황해북도Sariwon
                9South Hamgyong함경남도Hamhung
                10North Hamgyong함경북도Chongjin
                11Ryanggang *량강도Hyesan
                * – Rendered in Southern dialects as "Yanggang" (양강도).
                Largest cities or towns of North Korea

                2008 Census
                RankNameAdministrative divisionPop.


                1PyongyangPyongyang Capital City3,255,288Chongjin


                2HamhungSouth Hamgyong Province768,551
                3ChongjinNorth Hamgyong Province667,929
                4NamphoSouth Pyongan Province366,815
                5WonsanKangwon Province363,127
                6SinuijuNorth Pyongan Province359,341
                7TanchonSouth Hamgyong Province345,875
                8KaechonSouth Pyongan Province319,554
                9KaesongNorth Hwanghae Province308,440
                10SariwonNorth Hwanghae Province307,764

                Government and politics

                Main articles: Government of North Korea and Politics of North Korea

                Mansudae Assembly Hall, seat of the Supreme People's Assembly
                North Korea functions as a highly centralized, single-party republic. According to its 2009 constitution, it is a revolutionary Socialist state "guided in its activities by the Juche idea and the Songun idea". The Korean Workers' Party 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 KWP-led Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Another highly influential structure is the independent National Defence Commission (NDC). Kim Jong-un of the Kim family heads all major governing structures: he is First Secretary of the KWP, First Chairman of the NDC, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is the country's "Eternal President", while Kim Jong-il was announced "Eternal General Secretary" after his death in 2011.

                The unicameral Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) is the highest organ of state authority and holds the legislative power. Its 687 members are elected every five years by universal suffrage. Supreme People's Assembly sessions are convened by the SPA Presidium, whose president (Kim Yong-nam since 1998) also 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. However, the SPA itself cannot initiate any legislation independently of Party or state organs. It is unknown if it has ever criticized or amended bills placed before it, and the elections are based around a single list of KWP-approved candidates who stand without opposition.

                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 Statistics Bureau and the president of the Academy of Sciences. A 31st ministry, the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, is under the jurisdiction of the National Defence Commission.

                Political ideology

                Main article: Juche

                The Juche Tower in Pyongyang
                The Juche ideology is the cornerstone of party works and government operations. It is viewed by the official North Korean line as an embodiment of Kim Il-sung's wisdom, an expression of his leadership, and an idea which provides "a complete answer to any question that arises in the struggle for national libera­tion". Juche was pronounced in December 1955 in order to emphasize a Korea-centered revolution. 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 domestic and foreign political factors, including the need to strengthen the cult of personality, the presence of pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese dissenters, and a centuries-old tradition of independence from foreign powers.

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

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

                Law enforcement and internal security

                Main article: Law enforcement in North Korea

                North Korean traffic police in Pyongyang
                North 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 Central Court (the highest court of appeal), provincial or special city-level courts, people's courts and special courts. People's courts are at the lowest level of the system and operate in cities, counties and urban districts, while different kinds of special courts handle cases related to military, railroad or maritime matters. Judges are theoretically elected by their respective local people's assemblies, but in practice they're appointed by the Korean Workers' Party. The penal code is based on the principle of nullum crimen sine lege (no crime without a law), but remains a tool for political control despite several amendments reducing ideological influence. Courts carry out legal procedures related not only to criminal and civil matters, but to 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 also handles other aspects of domestic security like civil registration, traffic control, fire departments and railroad security. The State Security Department was separated from the MPS in 1973 to conduct domestic and foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and manage the political prison system. Political camps can be short-term reeducation zones or "total control zones" for lifetime detention. Camp 14 in Kaechon, Camp 15 in Yodok and Camp 18 in Bukchang are described in detailed testimonies. The security apparatus is very extensive, exerting strict control over residence, travel, employment, clothing, food and family life. Security establishments tightly monitor cellular and digital communications. The MPS, State Security and the Police allegedly conduct real-time monitoring of text messages, online data transfer, monitor phone calls and automatically transcribe recorded conversations. They reportedly have the capacity to triangulate a subscriber's exact location, while military intelligence monitors phone and radio traffic as far as 140 kilometers south of the Demilitarized zone. Mass surveillance is carried out through a system which includes 100,000 CCTV cameras, many of which are installed at the border with China.

                Foreign relations

                Main article: Foreign relations of North Korea

                Kim Jong-il with former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in 2011
                Initially, North Korea only had diplomatic ties with other Communist countries. In the 1960s and 1970s it pursued an independent foreign policy, established relations with many developing countries, and joined the Non-Aligned Movement. In the late 1980s and the 1990s its foreign policy was thrown into turmoil with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Suffering an economic crisis, it closed 30% of its embassies. At the same time, it sought to build relations with developed capitalist countries. As of 2012, it had diplomatic relations with 162 countries, as well as the European Union and the Palestinian Authority, and embassies in 42 countries. North Korea continues to have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam and Laos, as well as with Cambodia. Most of the foreign embassies to North Korea are located in Beijing rather than in Pyongyang. North Korea began installing a concrete and barbed wire fence on its border with China in 2007, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone with South Korea is the most heavily fortified border in the world.

                An aid convoy entering North Korea through the Demilitarized Zone in 1998
                As a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the six-party talks were established to find a peaceful solution to the growing tension between the two Korean governments, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the United States. North Korea was previously designated a state sponsor of terrorism 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 terrorism after Pyongyang agreed to cooperate on issues related to its nuclear program. The kidnapping of at least 13 Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and the 1980s was another major issue in the country's foreign policy.

                Inter-Korean relations are at the core of North Korean foreign policy and have seen numerous shifts in the last few decades. In 1972, the two Koreas agreed in principle to achieve reunification through peaceful means and without foreign interference. Despite this, relations remained cool well until the early 1990s, with the exception of a brief period in the early 1980s when North Korea provided flood relief to its southern neighbor and the two countries organized a reunion of 92 separated families. The 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 Pyongyang to 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. On 4 October 2007, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and Kim Jong-il signed an 8-point peace agreement.

                Relations worsened yet again in the late 2000s and early 2010s when South Korean president Lee Myung-bak adopted a more hard-line approach and suspended aid deliveries until the de-nuclearization of the North. North Korea responded by ending all of its previous agreements with the South. It also deployed additional ballistic missiles and placed its military on full combat alert after South Korea, Japan and the United States threatened to intercept a Unha-2 space launch vehicle. 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 an international crisis involving threats of a nuclear exchange.


                Main article: Korean People's Army
                See also: North Korea and weapons of mass destruction and Songun

                Korean People's Army soldiers at Panmunjom
                The Korean People's Army (KPA) is the name of North Korea's military organization. The KPA has 1,106,000 active and 8,389,000 reserve and paramilitary troops, which makes it the largest military institution in the world. About 20% 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, Naval Force, Air Force, Special Operations Force, and Rocket Force. Command of the Korean People's Army lies both in the Central Military Commission of the Korean Workers' Party and the independent National Defense Commission. The Ministry of the People's Armed Forces is subordinated to the latter.

                Of all KPA branches, the Ground Force is the largest. It has approximately 1 million personnel divided into 80 infantry divisions, 30 artillery brigades, 25 special warfare brigades, 20 mechanized brigades, 10 tank brigades and seven tank regiments. They are equipped with 3,700 tanks, 2,100 APCs and IFVs, 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.

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