(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist domination. After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK) in the southern portion by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President KIM Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic “self-reliance” as a check against excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese influence. The DPRK demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang’s control. KIM’s son, the current ruler KIM Jong Il, was officially designated as his father’s successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM’s death in 1994. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of approximately 1 million. North Korea’s history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and long-range missile development – as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces – are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, following revelations that the DPRK was pursuing a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US to freeze and ultimately dismantle its existing plutonium-based program, North Korea expelled monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In January 2003, it declared its withdrawal from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. In mid-2003 Pyongyang announced it had completed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods (to extract weapons-grade plutonium) and was developing a “nuclear deterrent.” Beginning in August 2003, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US have participated in the Six-Party Talks aimed at resolving the stalemate over the DPRK’s nuclear programs. North Korea pulled out of the talks in November 2005. It test-fired ballistic missiles in July 2006 and conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. North Korea returned to the Six-Party Talks in December 2006 and subsequently signed two agreements on denuclearization. The 13 February 2007 Initial Actions Agreement shut down the North’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in July 2007. In the 3 October 2007 Second Phase Actions Agreement, Pyongyang pledged to disable those facilities and provide a correct and complete declaration of its nuclear programs. Under the supervision of US nuclear experts, North Korean personnel completed a number of agreed-upon disablement actions at the three core facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex by the end of 2007. North Korea also began the discharge of spent fuel rods in December 2007, but it did not provide a declaration of its nuclear programs by the end of the year.|
In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea, which ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union accepted the surrender of Japanese forces and controlled the area north of the 38th parallel, with the United States controlling the area south of this parallel. Virtually all Koreans welcomed liberation from Japanese imperial rule, yet objected to the re-imposition of foreign rule upon their country. The Soviets and Americans disagreed on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea, with each establishing its socio-economic system upon its jurisdiction, leading, in 1948, to the establishment of ideologically opposed governments. The United States and the Soviet Union then withdrew their forces from Korea. Growing tensions and border skirmishes between north and south led to a civil war, known as the Korean War.
On June 25, 1950, the (North) Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel, with the war aim of peninsular reunification under their political system. The war continued until July 27, 1953, when the United Nations Command, the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement. Since that time the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has separated the North and South.
In the aftermath of the Korean War and throughout the 1960s, the country’s state-controlled economy grew at a significant rate. It was considered the second most industrialized nation in Asia, after Japan. During the 1970s, the expansion of North Korea’s economy, with the accompanying rise in living standards, came to an end, and a few decades later went into reverse. The country struggled throughout the 1990s, largely due to the loss of strategic trade arrangements with the USSR, and strained relations with China following China’s normalization with South Korea in 1992. In addition, North Korea experienced record-breaking floods in 1995 and 1996, followed by several years of equally severe drought, beginning in 1997. This situation, compounded by the existence of only 18 percent arable land and an inability to import goods necessary to sustain industry, led to an immense famine and left North Korea in economic shambles. Large numbers of North Koreans illegally entered the People’s Republic of China in search of food. Faced with a country in decay, Kim Jong-il adopted a “Military-First” policy to reinforce the regime.
Although private property is still formally prohibited, the volume of private trade with China grows year by year. The collapse of the system of state allowances has also contributed to the growth of a multi-sector market economy. Collapse of large state-owned enterprises released a huge amount of workers who engage in cross-border trade with China.
|Geography||Location: Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 127 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 120,540 sq km
land: 120,410 sq km
water: 130 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Mississippi
Land boundaries: total: 1,673 km
border countries: China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 19 km
Coastline: 2,495 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned
Climate: temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer
Terrain: mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m
Natural resources: coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 22.4%
permanent crops: 1.66%
other: 75.94% (2005)
Irrigated land: 14,600 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 77.1 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 9.02 cu km/yr (20%/25%/55%)
per capita: 401 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall
Environment – current issues: water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
|Politics||North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliance) state. Government is organized as a dictatorship, with a pronounced cult of personality organized around Kim Il-sung (the founder of North Korea and the country’s first and only president) and his son and heir, Kim Jong-il. Following Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, he was not replaced but instead received the designation of “Eternal President”, and was entombed in the vast Kumsusan Memorial Palace in central Pyongyang.
Although the active position of president has been abolished in deference to the memory of Kim Il-sung, the de facto head of state is Kim Jong-il, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The legislature of North Korea is the Supreme People’s Assembly, currently led by President Kim Yong-nam. The other senior government figure is Premier Kim Yong-il.
North Korea is a single-party state. The governing party is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, a coalition of the Workers’ Party of North Korea and two other smaller parties, the North Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party. These parties nominate all candidates for office and hold all seats in the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Multiple international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation. North Koreans have been referred to as “some of the world’s most brutalized people”, due to the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic freedoms. North Korean defectors have testified to the existence of prison and detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labour, and forced abortions.
The system changed slightly at the end of 1990s, when population growth became very low. In many cases, where capital punishment was de facto, it replaced by less severe punishments. Bribery became prevalent throughout the country. For example, just listening to South Korean radio could result in capital punishment. However, many North Koreans wear clothes of South Korean origin, listen to Southern music, watch South Korean videotapes and even receive Southern broadcasts, although they are still prohibited; in most cases punishment is nothing more than a pecuniary fine, and many such problems are normally solved “unofficially”, through bribery.
|People||Population: 23,479,089 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 22.9% (male 2,733,352/female 2,654,186)
15-64 years: 68.2% (male 7,931,484/female 8,083,626)
65 years and over: 8.8% (male 751,401/female 1,325,040) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 32.7 years
male: 31.2 years
female: 34.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.732% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.29 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.57 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.86 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.46 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.2 years
male: 69.45 years
female: 75.08 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Korean(s)
Ethnic groups: racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
Religions: traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%