North Korea , officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea , is a country in East Asia, in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived fromGoryeo, a dynasty which ruled in the Middle Ages. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. North Korea shares a land border withChina 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 andSouth 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 wasdivided 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 republic 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 theKim family. The Workers' Party of Korea, led by a member of the ruling family, holds de facto power in the state and leads theDemocratic 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 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 famineand 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's health care system has been a subject of controversy: the World Health Organization described it as "the envy of the developing world" while Amnesty International claims that it suffers from barely functioning hospitals, poor hygiene and epidemics.
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". The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it as the lowest country in the Democracy Index. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN's commission on human rights in North Korea report of severe restrictions on human rights and crimes against humanity 'without parallel in the modern world'. The government rejects these claim.
Area controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shown in green
and largest city
|Government||Juche single-party state (de jure)|
Single-party totalitarianmilitary dictatorship under
hereditary dictatorship(de facto)
|-||Eternal President||Kim Il-sung|
|-||Eternal WPK General Secretary||Kim Jong-il|
|-||Supreme Leader||Kim Jong-un[a]|
|-||Chairman of the|
|Legislature||Supreme People's Assembly|
|-||Liberation||15 August 1945|
|-||Formal declaration||9 September 1948|
|-||Total||120,540 km2 (98th)|
46,528 sq mi
|-||2013 estimate||24,895,000 (48th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
|Gini (2007)|| 31|
|HDI (2008)|| 0.733|
high · 156th.