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Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk[1]
Motto: 강성대국
(English: Powerful and Prosperous Nation),
Anthem: 애국가
(tr.: Aegukka)
(English: The Patriotic Song)
and largest city
39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.033°N 125.75°E / 39.033; 125.75
Official languages Korean
Official scripts Chosŏn'gŭl
Ethnic groups Korean
Demonym North Korean, Korean
Government Juche unitary single-party state
 -  Eternal President Kim Il-sung[a]
 -  Supreme Leader
(and NDC Chairman)
Kim Jong-un[b]
 -  Chairman of the Presidium Kim Yong-nam[c]
 -  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[2] (51st)
 -  2008 census 24,052,231[3]
 -  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)
Currency North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
Time zone Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)
Date format yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yy, yyyy/mm/dd (CE–1911, CE)
Drives on the right
Calling code 850
Internet TLD .kp
^  a. Died 1994, named "Eternal President" in 1998.

^  A 2009 constitutional amendment implicitly referred to Kim Jong-il as the "Supreme Leader",[7][8] as well as the "Chairman of the National Defence Commission". In 2011 Kim Jong-Un was named as the new "Supreme Leader of the party, state and army"[9]

^  c. Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs".

North Korea (officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)), is a country in the northern part of the Korean peninsula. North Korea is next to China, Russia, and South Korea. The capital city of North Korea is Pyŏngyang, which is also the largest city.

The country was founded in 1948 after it had been freed from Japanese occupation, but the southern half of the country was, and remains, occupied by the United States. At first there was a war between the armies of the North and South in what is called the Korean War, but the fighting stopped in 1953 while the war never officially ended. Afterwards, North Korea was friendly with China and Russia but never was formally allied with either and became more isolated over time. While the South went from one military dictatorship to another, the North went through steady development and was ahead of the South until the 1980s when the South became more democratic. Soon afterwards, the North's main trading partners collapsed leaving it stranded and isolated. Throughout the 1990s, North Korea suffered from famines and natural disasters. Afterwards, things stabilized but continued to lag behind the South.

The country is organized along socialist lines, as all workplaces are public property and function along a universal plan. This is because the founders of North Korea were inspired by the ideas of communism. But as time went on, North Korea became more conservative and nationalist, and had less in common with other countries aiming for communism. To justify these differences, the country's leader Kim Il-sung said that the government was following his own ideology of "Juche", which means "self-reliance". Later on, the country's leaders began to remove "communism" from North Korean laws and philosophy. After Kim Il-sung died during the disasters of the 1990s, his son Kim Jong-il took his place and was promoted by the government as the leader who led North Korea out of the disasters. Kim Jong-il enacted a new policy of "Songun", or "military-first", which turned the country into a military state. When he died in 2011, his youngest son Kim Jong-un took his place and continues to lead the country today.


Early History

Historians think that the Korean people have lived in the area for thousands of years. Before 1910, Korea was one country. It had a king and people were mostly farmers. The country was peaceful and was not communist. In 1910, that changed. Japan and Russia went to war. Since Japan and Russia were both very close to Korea, Japan took Korea for themselves as part of Japan. Japan then had control.

Divided Korea

Between 1910 and the end World War II in 1945, Korea was part of Japan. After the war, Japan left Korea, and the Soviet Union and United States sent soldiers to Korea. In the north, the Soviet Union helped build North Korea. North Korea became a communist country. In the south, the United States helped build South Korea. The Soviet Union and the United States left Korea in 1948.[source?]

The Korean War

See Korean War for more details.

In 1950, North Korea sent soldiers to South Korea. North Korea wanted to bring together North and South Korea to form a single Korean country, and Korean families that had been split by the division of North and South to be together again. The North Korean leaders wanted South Korea to be communist, like North Korea and the Soviet Union were.

The United Nations sent soldiers to Korea. These soldiers came from many countries. These countries did not like Communism (to learn more, see the article about the Cold War). If South Korea became Communist, then maybe other countries would also. General Douglas MacArthur led the soldiers.

North Korea had taken over much of South Korea by force. With the help of the other countries, South Korea took back their land, and even much of North Korea, up to the Yalu River, which forms the border between North Korea and China. China, which was also communist, helped the North Koreans to get the land back that the South Korean soldiers had taken.

After three years, in 1953, North Korea and South Korea both decided that no one would win the war and both countries signed an armistice, which is an agreement that made both countries stop fighting. North Korea and South Korea were divided by a demilitarized zone, which is a special place that surrounds the border between North and South Korea where both countries can not place lots of soldiers, so that fighting does not start again.

Modern Times

Even though the Demilitarized Zone is meant to stop problems between the two countries, sometimes soldiers on both sides of the border fire their guns at each other. A special town in the zone, Panmunjom, is called the Joint Security Area, or JSA, and sometimes the leaders of both countries meet there to talk about possibly coming back together.

North Korea is one of the few countries in the world that has made nuclear bombs that can kill many people if it is exploded. North Korea will not say how many bombs it has, but other countries think that the North Korean government probably has built ten bombs so far out of a deadly element called plutonium.

In October 2006, North Korea said that it tested one of its nuclear bombs. Although the North Korean government said that the test was not dangerous, many other countries and the United Nations were nonetheless enraged.

Three years later in 2009, North Korea did another test, which broke a United Nations law called Resolution 1718, which said North Korea could not keep building and testing nuclear bombs.

In 2010, a South Korean warship sank, killing over 40 soldiers. An international investigation concluded that North Korea had sunk a South Korean warship with a torpedo. North Korea strongly said that it did not have anything to do with the sinking. When the United States and South Korea planned to set up defenses in case North Korea tried to attack again, North Korea's National Defense Commission threatened on to start a war with its nuclear weapons.

In April 2012, North Korea launched a rocket called Bright Star 3. The reasons for the launch were science and the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il-Sung.

The government said the rocket carried a weather satellite so the government could find out what the weather would be. However, other countries said that the weather satellite was a story made up by the government so the real purpose of the rocket would not the known—which most countries thought was to test a nuclear missile that could be launched at the United States or South Korea. South Korean leaders said it would shoot the rocket down when it came over South Korea.

Because of this rocket, other countries stopped helping North Korea, even though the government invited other countries to see the rocket launch to make it seem like the North Koreans had nothing to hide from other countries. The rocket was eventually launched, but it did not work and crashed just a minute and thirty seconds after it was launched. In December 2012, the government tried to launch the rocket again. It worked this time and went into orbit circling the Earth, though the United States said that it was very unstable and might fall back to Earth.

In February 2013, North Korea tested a nuclear bomb for the 3rd time, causing much outrage from other countries.

Politics and Government

North Korea is a communist country, but most countries in the world say that it is really a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship.

The first head of state and Chairman of the Workers Party of North Korea was Kim Tu-bong.[10]

In the late 1950s, The second head of state and party chairman was Kim Il-Sung.

In July 1994, Kim died; and his son, Kim Jŏng-Il took over. He became the third head of state and party chairman.

In December 2011, Kim died; and his son, Kim Jŏng-Un became the head of the government.

Songun is a North Korean idea. It means "army first." The job of every North Korean person is to feed the Army. Kim Jŏng-Un is the "Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea," which is one of many jobs he has. He is like a king, and can do what he wants. The average North Korean citizen makes around $900 a year. Kim Jŏng-Un makes around $800,000 a year. He lives in a palace and has lots of soldiers who go wherever he does to protect him.

Korean people also do not have much freedom of speech. People get their news from the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, which makes sure all the country's television, radio, and newspaper news makes the government look good. This is called propaganda. The government blocks access to the Internet and it has been found that almost all North Koreans do not know what a computer is. The government also tries to keep ideas from other countries out of North Korea. One North Korean person was put in jail for watching a movie that had Jackie Chan in it.

In parts of the country, there is not enough food. Currently, other countries give food to some people in North Korea. This is called foreign aid. But the aid sometimes stops coming if North Korea is thought to be testing nuclear bombs. Very recently, North Korea's food aid stopped when the government launched a satellite in April 2012. Other countries said North Korea had broken their side of an agreement, but the North Korean government said that it was the United States that had broken the agreement.

It is hard for people from other countries to visit North Korea. Visitors must be guided by two army members called "minders," who try and make sure the people do not find out about anything that might make the government look bad.

Culture and Religion

Historically, both South Korea and North Korea have the same set of values. In 1945, the peninsula was divided. Since then, the government of both North and South Korea were different. This has led to different developments in both North and South Korea. Human Rights Watch says that free religious activities do not exist in North Korea. The culture in Korea has been influenced by that of China. Despite this, Korea has developed a cultural identity that is different from that of Mainland China.[11]

Literature and arts in North Korea are state-controlled. Specialized committees of the KWP are responsible for this.[12] Film is also a significant artistic medium in North Korea and Kim Jong Il's manifesto The Cinema and Directing (1987) is the basis for the nation's filmmakers.[13]

Korean culture came under attack during the Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945. Japan enforced a cultural assimilation policy. During the Japanese rule, Koreans were encouraged to learn and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and Shinto religion, and were forbidden to write or speak the Korean language in schools, businesses, or public places.[14] In addition, the Japanese altered or destroyed various Korean monuments including Gyeongbok Palace and documents which portrayed the Japanese in a negative light were revised.

Scene from the Mass Games
A drawing in one of the chambers of the Goguryeo tombs.

Both Koreas share a Buddhist and Confucian heritage and a recent history of Christian and Cheondoism ("religion of the Heavenly Way") movements. The North Korean constitution states that freedom of religion is permitted.[15] According to the Western standards of religion, the majority of the North Korean population could be characterized as non-religious.[source?] However, the cultural influence of such traditional religions as Buddhism and Confucianism still have an effect on North Korean spiritual life.[16][17][18]

It seems that Buddhists are accepted more than other religious groups. Christians are said to be persecuted by the authorities. Buddhists are given limited funding by the government to promote the religion, because Buddhism played an integral role in traditional Korean culture.[19]

Armed Forces


The land of North Korea is divided into nine areas called provinces and two cities.

The nine provinces are:

  • Pyongannam
  • Pyonganbuk
  • Chagang
  • Hwanghaenam
  • Hwanghaebuk
  • Kangwon
  • Hamgyongnam
  • Hamgyongbuk
  • Ryanggang

The two cities are:

  • Pyongyang, the capital city and also the largest city
  • Rason, a special city where other countries can make money, called a Special Economic Zone.


  1. "Administrative Population and Divisions Figures (#26)" (PDF). DPRK: The Land of the Morning Calm. Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use. 2003-04. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
  2. (Korean) UNFPA (2009-10-01). 한반도 인구 7천400만명 시대 임박. United Nations. Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  3. "DPR Korea 2008 Population Census National Report". Pyongyang: DPRK Central Bureau of Statistics. 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  4. "Country Profile: North Korea". Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK. 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Korea, North". The World Factbook. 2009. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  6. GDP (official exchange rate), The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, last updated on April 26, 2010; accessed on May 17, 2010. Population data obtained from Total Midyear Population, U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base, accessed on May 17, 2010. Note: Per capita values were obtained by dividing the GDP (official exchange rate) data by the Population data.
  7. Choe, Sang-Hun (2009-09-28). "New North Korean Constitution Bolsters Kim’s Power". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
  8. McGivering, Jill (2009-09-29). "N Korea constitution bolsters Kim". BBC. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
  9. BBC News - "North Korea tells world to 'expect no change'", 30 December 2011
  10. Lankov, Andrei "Kim Tu-bong and Historical Linguistics," The Korea Times (ROK). September 2, 2007; retrieved 2012-7-25.
  11. John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer & Albert M. Craig (1978). East Asia: Tradition & Transformation. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. ISBN 0-395-25812-X .
  12. North Korea – Contemporary Cultural Expression, Country Studies.
  13. "Q&A with Anna Broinowski (Aim High in Creation!)". Melbourne International Film Festival. Melbourne International Film Festival. July 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  14. Bruce G. Cumings. "The Rise of Korean Nationalism and Communism". A Country Study: North Korea. Library of Congress. Call number DS932 .N662 1994.
  15. "DPRK's Socialist Constitution (Full Text)". The People's Korea. 1998. Retrieved 4 July 2009.; see Chapter 5, Article 68
  16. "Culture of North Korea – Alternative name, History and ethnic relations". Countries and Their Cultures. Advameg Inc.. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  17. "CIA The World Factbook – North Korea". Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  18. "Background Note: North Korea". U.S. State Department. 2009-2. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  19. Barbara Demick (2 October 2005). "Buddhist Temple Being Restored in N. Korea". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010.