North Korea

North Korea (DPRK)

(Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea))

Flag of North Korea
Map of North Korea
Asian Continent
Two tone map of North Korea
North Korea DPRK

Capital: P’yŏngyang

Population (Estimated July 2012): 24,589,122

Area: 122,762 km2 or 47,399 mi2

Currency: (North Korean) won (W)

Official Language: Korean

Political Information: Juche (concept loosely meaning Korean Self reliance) Single Party State

Official Religion: No Official Religion (traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way))

Highest Mountain: Baekdu Mountain at 2,744m or 9,003ft

GDP Official Exchange Rate (OER is more precise at gauging a country’s economic power)

(Estimated 2009): $28 billion (US$) or (GBP)

GDP (OER) Per Capita (per member of the population estimated 2011): (US$) or (GBP)


GDP Purchasing Power Parity (PPP is good for gauging living conditions and the use of resources but is not as accurate as OER. This data has been calculated based on the sum value of all goods and services produced in the country valued at prices prevailing in the United States) 

 (Estimated 2011): $40 billion (US$) or (GBP)

GDP (PPP) Per Capita (per member of the population estimated 2011): $1,800 (US$) or (GBP)

Time Zone (GMT/UTC): +9:00



Counties/Provinces/States: 9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 2 municipalities (si, singular and plural)

provinces: Chagang-do (Chagang), Hamgyong-bukto (North Hamgyong), Hamgyong-namdo (South Hamgyong), Hwanghae-bukto (North Hwanghae), Hwanghae-namdo (South Hwanghae), Kangwon-do (Kangwon), P’yongan-bukto (North P’yongan), P’yongan-namdo (South P’yongan), Yanggang-do (Yanggang)

municipalities: Nason-si, P’yongyang-si (Pyongyang)

Leaders: Kim Jong- un, who is Supreme Commander of The People’s Army and General Secretary of The Worker’s Party. 

Additional: Gained Independence from Japan on the 15th of August 1948.

Sources: CIA World Fact Book, Encyclopaedia Britannica.

North Korea

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has a lengthy and intricate history. The Korean Peninsula was once a unified entity, but following the Second World War, it was divided into two separate countries: North Korea and South Korea. The division resulted from Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, with the Soviet Union occupying the northern part of the peninsula and the United States occupying the southern part.

In 1948, North Korea was officially established as a communist state under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, who became the country’s first supreme leader. Under Kim Il-sung’s rule, North Korea pursued a policy of self-reliance and isolation from the rest of the world. The country’s economy heavily relied on aid from the Soviet Union and China, and it adopted a strict ideology known as Juche, which emphasised independence and self-sufficiency.

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War, which lasted for three years and resulted in millions of deaths and the division of the peninsula along the 38th parallel. The war ended in 1953 with an armistice agreement, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war. Since then, North Korea has remained a highly secretive and authoritarian state, with successive leaders from the Kim family maintaining tight control over all aspects of society.

Despite its isolation, North Korea has continued to make headlines on the international stage due to its nuclear ambitions, human rights abuses, and confrontations with other countries. The country’s history is marked by a combination of political repression, economic hardship, and military aggression, making it one of the most enigmatic and controversial nations in the world.


  • North Korea was established in 1948 following the end of World War II and the division of Korea into North and South.
  • The country is a single-party state with the ruling Korean Workers’ Party and its leader, currently Kim Jong-un, holding absolute power.
  • Human rights abuses in North Korea are widespread, including forced labour camps, restrictions on freedom of speech and movement, and lack of access to basic necessities.
  • North Korea’s nuclear program has been a source of international concern, with the country conducting multiple nuclear tests and missile launches.
  • The country faces extensive international sanctions due to its nuclear program and human rights abuses, impacting its economy and international relations.


Political Structure and Leadership


The Principles of Juche Ideology

The country’s political structure is based on the principles of Kim Il-sung’s “Juche” ideology, which emphasises self-reliance, nationalism, and loyalty to the supreme leader.

The Supreme Leader’s Authority

The supreme leader holds ultimate authority in North Korea and is revered as a near-deity figure. After Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, his son Kim Jong-il took over as the country’s leader, and upon his death in 2011, his son Kim Jong-un assumed power. The supreme leader is not only the head of state but also holds several other key positions, including chairman of the National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army.

A Hierarchical Structure of Control

The leadership cult surrounding the supreme leader is pervasive in North Korean society, with his image adorning public spaces and his words treated as law. Beneath the supreme leader, there is a hierarchical structure of government officials, military leaders, and party cadres who are responsible for implementing policies and maintaining control over the population. The political system is characterised by strict censorship, propaganda, and surveillance, with any dissent or opposition to the regime being met with severe punishment.

Human Rights Issues

North Korea has long been condemned for its severe human rights abuses, which have been described as some of the worst in the world. The regime’s control over all aspects of society extends to its treatment of its citizens, who are subjected to systematic repression, surveillance, and propaganda. Freedom of speech, assembly, and religion are severely restricted, and any dissent or criticism of the government is met with harsh punishment, including imprisonment in forced labour camps or execution.

One of the most notorious aspects of North Korea’s human rights record is its extensive network of prison camps, where tens of thousands of people are held in inhumane conditions for political reasons. Reports from defectors and human rights organizations have detailed horrific abuses in these camps, including torture, starvation, forced labor, and executions. The regime also maintains tight control over information and restricts access to outside media, leading to a lack of awareness about the outside world among the general population.

In addition to political repression, North Korea also faces serious challenges in providing for the basic needs of its citizens. The country has struggled with chronic food shortages and malnutrition, exacerbated by economic mismanagement and international sanctions. The combination of political repression and economic hardship has led to a dire human rights situation in North Korea, prompting widespread condemnation from the international community.

North Korea’s Nuclear Program

North Korea’s nuclear program has been a source of international concern for decades. The country first began pursuing nuclear weapons in the 1960s under Kim Il-sung’s leadership, viewing them as a means of deterring foreign intervention and bolstering its security. Despite signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985, North Korea continued to develop its nuclear capabilities in secret, leading to escalating tensions with other countries.

In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, sparking widespread condemnation and calls for sanctions from the international community. Since then, the country has conducted several more nuclear tests and launched numerous ballistic missile tests, further raising alarm about its nuclear ambitions. The regime has repeatedly stated that its nuclear weapons are necessary for self-defence against perceived threats from the United States and its allies.

Efforts to denuclearize North Korea have been a major focus of international diplomacy, with multiple rounds of negotiations and agreements aimed at halting its nuclear program. However, progress has been limited, with North Korea continuing to expand its nuclear arsenal despite diplomatic efforts and sanctions. The regime’s nuclear provocations have heightened tensions in the region and raised concerns about the potential for a catastrophic conflict.

International Relations and Sanctions

North Korea’s confrontational stance on its nuclear program has led to strained relations with much of the international community. The regime’s provocative actions, including missile launches and nuclear tests, have drawn widespread condemnation from countries around the world. In response to these actions, the United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions on North Korea aimed at curbing its nuclear activities and pressuring it to return to negotiations.

The sanctions have targeted various aspects of North Korea’s economy, including its exports of coal, textiles, and seafood, as well as restrictions on oil imports and financial transactions. The goal of these measures is to deprive the regime of resources that could be used to fund its nuclear program and force it to come to the negotiating table. However, there are concerns about the humanitarian impact of sanctions on ordinary North Korean citizens, who already face significant economic hardship.

Despite these challenges, there have been some diplomatic breakthroughs in recent years. In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held historic summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump, leading to pledges to work towards denuclearization and improve relations. However, subsequent negotiations have stalled, and tensions have once again escalated following North Korea’s resumption of missile tests.

The international community continues to grapple with how best to address North Korea’s nuclear program while avoiding further destabilization in the region. Finding a balance between pressure and engagement remains a key challenge for policymakers seeking to address one of the most pressing security threats in the world.

Economy and Daily Life

North Korea’s economy and daily life are deeply influenced by its authoritarian regime, economic sanctions, and isolation from much of the international community. While there are signs of change and adaptation, particularly through the emergence of informal markets, the overall structure remains rigid and controlled by the state.


  1. Centralized Economy: North Korea operates a highly centralized, planned economy. The state owns and controls all means of production, and economic planning is centrally coordinated by the government.

  2. Industrial Focus: The economy is heavily focused on heavy industry and military production. Key industries include mining (especially coal and minerals), metallurgy, machinery, and chemicals.

  3. Agriculture: Agriculture is also centrally planned and organized into collective farms. The country faces chronic food shortages due to a combination of poor soil, natural disasters, and inefficient farming practices.

  4. Sanctions and Trade: International sanctions, particularly from the United Nations and the United States, heavily impact the North Korean economy. These sanctions target key economic sectors, including arms exports, luxury goods, and certain raw materials. Trade is mainly conducted with China, which is North Korea’s largest trading partner.

  5. Emerging Markets: In recent years, there have been signs of emerging markets and private enterprise, especially in urban areas. Informal markets known as “jangmadang” have become vital for everyday commerce and access to goods not provided by the state.

Daily Life

  1. Living Conditions: Daily life in North Korea varies greatly between urban and rural areas. In cities like Pyongyang, residents generally have better access to goods and services compared to those in the countryside. However, even in urban areas, living conditions can be basic, with limited access to electricity, running water, and reliable heating.

  2. Food and Nutrition: Food security is a major issue. The average diet consists of rice, maize, and vegetables, with occasional meat or fish. Malnutrition remains a problem, especially among children.

  3. Work and Labor: The state assigns jobs, and people work long hours in factories, farms, or state-run enterprises. Wages are minimal, and many rely on barter or the informal economy to supplement their incomes.

  4. Education and Healthcare: Education is free and mandatory until the age of 16. The curriculum is heavily focused on ideological education, emphasizing the teachings of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. Healthcare is also free, but the quality varies significantly, with shortages of medicine and equipment being common.

  5. Social Life and Control: The government exercises strict control over all aspects of social life. Travel within the country is restricted, and there is heavy censorship of information. The regime uses a pervasive surveillance system to monitor citizens and maintain control.

  6. Propaganda and Ideology: The government utilizes extensive propaganda to promote its ideology and the leadership of the Kim family. Public gatherings, parades, and mass games are common, celebrating national achievements and loyalty to the regime.

  7. Cultural Activities: Despite restrictions, cultural activities such as traditional music, dance, and sports are part of daily life. There are state-run theaters, museums, and cultural centers where people can engage in these activities.


Future Outlook for North Korea

The future outlook for North Korea remains uncertain due to a combination of internal challenges and external pressures. The regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons continues to be a major source of concern for regional stability and global security. Efforts to denuclearize North Korea have faced numerous obstacles, including disagreements over verification measures and concerns about the regime’s commitment to disarmament.

Economic development is another key issue facing North Korea. The country’s outdated infrastructure and limited access to resources have hindered efforts to improve living standards for its citizens. International sanctions have further exacerbated these challenges by restricting trade and investment opportunities.

Despite these obstacles, there have been some signs of potential change in recent years. Diplomatic engagement between North Korea and other countries has led to discussions about easing tensions and improving relations. There is also growing interest in exploring opportunities for economic cooperation that could benefit both North Korea and its neighbours.

The future trajectory of North Korea will depend on a complex interplay of factors including diplomatic efforts, economic reforms, internal dynamics within the regime, and regional security considerations. Finding a path towards stability and prosperity for North Korea will require sustained engagement from the international community as well as a willingness from the regime to address longstanding challenges.




What is the official name of North Korea?

The official name of North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

What is the capital city of North Korea?

The capital city of North Korea is Pyongyang.

What is the population of North Korea?

As of 2021, the estimated population of North Korea is around 25 million people.

What is the official language of North Korea?

The official language of North Korea is Korean.

What type of government does North Korea have?

North Korea is a single-party state with a totalitarian regime. The ruling party is the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Is North Korea a nuclear power?

Yes, North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests and is believed to possess nuclear weapons.

What is the relationship between North Korea and South Korea?

North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war, as the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The relationship between the two countries is tense and complex.

Is it possible to visit North Korea as a tourist?

Yes, it is possible to visit North Korea as a tourist, but it is heavily restricted and controlled. Tourists are only allowed to visit certain approved locations and are accompanied by government-appointed guides at all times.

Population Density of North Korea

Population Density of North Korea

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. With a population of approximately 25 million people, North Korea is one of the most densely populated countries in the world....

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