North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Powerful and Prosperous Nation
AnthemAegukka (애국가)
("The Patriotic Song")
(and largest city)
39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.033°N 125.75°E / 39.033; 125.75
Official language(s) Korean
Official scripts Chosŏn'gŭl
Demonym North Korean, Korean
Government Juche republic,
unitary single-party republic
 -  Eternal President Kim Il-sung
 -  Supreme Leader[1][2] Kim Jong-il
 -  NDC Chairman Kim Jong-il
 -  Chairman of the Presidium Kim Yong-nam[b]
 -  Premier Choe Yong-rim
Legislature Supreme People's Assembly
 -  Independence declared March 1, 1919 
 -  Liberation August 15, 1945 
 -  Formal declaration September 9, 1948 
 -  Total 120,540 km2 (98th)
46,528 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.87
 -  2009 estimate 24,051,218[3] (51st)
 -  Density 198.3/km2 (55th)
513.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008[4] estimate
 -  Total $40 billion (94th)
 -  Per capita $1,900 (2009 est.)[5] (154th)
GDP (nominal) 2009[5] estimate
 -  Total $28.2 billion (88th)
 -  Per capita $1,244[6] (139th)
Gini (2009[7]) n/a (low
Currency North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Time zone Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)
Date formats yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911, CE)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .kp
Calling code 850
^ a. Died 1994, named "Eternal President" in 1998.
^ b. Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs".

North Korea (), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; Chosongul: 조선민주주의인민공화국), is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. The Amnok River and the Tumen River form the border between North Korea and the People's Republic of China. A section of the Tumen River in the extreme northeast is the border with Russia.

The peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire until it was annexed by Japan following the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones in 1945, following the end of World War II. North Korea refused to participate in a United Nations–supervised election held in the south in 1948, which led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones. Both North and South Korea claimed sovereignty over the Korean Peninsula as a whole, which led to the Korean War of 1950. The Armistice Agreement of 1953 ended the fighting; however, the two countries are officially still at war with each other, as a peace treaty was never signed.[8] Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.[9]

North Korea is a single-party state under a united front led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP).[10][11][12][13] The country's government follows the Juche ideology of self-reliance, developed by the country's former President, Kim Il-sung. After his death, Kim Il-sung was declared to be the country's Eternal President. Juche became the official state ideology when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972,[14] though Kim Il-sung had been using it to form policy since at least as early as 1955.[15] After the collapse of the Soviet Union and a series of natural disasters, a famine occurred, causing the death of 900,000 to 2 million people.[16] Facing these circumstances, leader Kim Jong-Il adopted Songun, or a "military-first" policy in order to strengthen the country and its government.[17] Although North Korea is officially a socialist republic,[18] many outside media organizations report that it is a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship [11][12][19][20][21] with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family and one of the worst human rights records of any country.[22] North Korea is the world's most militarized nation with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel.[23] It is a nuclear weapons state, and has an active space program.[24] Due to the government's secretive nature and its reluctance to allow in foreigners, North Korea is today considered the world's most isolated country and has thus been given the moniker "The Hermit Kingdom" by some.[25][26][27]


In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel in accordance with a United Nations arrangement, to be administered by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The history of North Korea formally begins with the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic in 1948.

Division of Korea

In August 1945, the Soviet Army established a Soviet Civil Authority to rule the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula until a domestic regime, friendly to the USSR, could be established. This became governed by the Provisional People's Committee for North Korea through 1948. After the Soviet forces' departure in 1948, the main agenda in the following years was unification of Korea until the consolidation of Syngman Rhee regime in the South with American military support and the suppression of the October 1948 insurrection ended hopes that the country could be reunified by way of Communist revolution in the South. In 1949, a military intervention into South Korea was considered by Kim Il-sung, but failed to receive support from the Soviet Union, which had played a key role in the establishment of the country.[28]

The withdrawal of most United States forces from the South in June dramatically weakened the Southern regime and encouraged Kim Il-sung to re-think an invasion plan against the South.[28] The idea itself was first rejected by Joseph Stalin but 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 an invasion which led to the Korean War.[29]

Korean War

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea with major hostilities beginning on June 25, 1950, ending with an armistice signed on July 27, 1953. The conflict arose from the division of Korea by the UN and the attempts of the two Korean powers to reunify Korea under their respective governments. The division led to full scale civil war with a cost of more than 2 million civilians and soldiers from both sides. The period immediately before the war was marked by escalating border conflicts at the 38th parallel and attempts to negotiate elections for the entirety of Korea.[30]

These negotiations ended when the military of North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950. Under the aegis of the United Nations, nations 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 and ultimately leading to an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea.

While some have referred to the conflict as a civil war, there were many other factors at play.[31] The Korean War was also the first armed confrontation of the Cold War and set the standard for many later conflicts. It created the idea of a proxy war, where the two superpowers would fight in another country, forcing the people in that nation to suffer the bulk of the destruction and death involved in a war between such large nations. The superpowers avoided descending into an all-out war with 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 continues to divide the peninsula today with anti-Communist and anti-North Korea sentiment still remaining in South Korea.

Since the Armistice in 1953, the 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 frequently.[32][page needed] Both North and South Korea signed the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration in 2000, in which both sides made promises to seek out a peaceful reunification.[33] Additionally, on October 4, 2007, the leaders of North and South Korea pledged to hold summit talks to officially declare the war over and reaffirmed the principle of mutual non-aggression.[34]