North Korea

 

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.

 

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
People:
Population: 24,589,122 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 22.4% (male 2,766,006/female 2,700,378)

15-64 years: 68.6% (male 8,345,737/female 8,423,482)

65 years and over: 9.1% (male 738,693/female 1,483,196) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: conventional long form: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

conventional short form: North Korea

local long form: Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk

local short form: Choson

abbreviation: DPRK

Government type: Communist state one-man dictatorship
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 1.18 million (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: adequate system; nationwide fibre-optic network; mobile-cellular service expanding beyond Pyongyang

domestic: fibre-optic links installed down to the county level; telephone directories unavailable; GSM mobile-cellular service initiated in 2002 but suspended in 2004; Orascom Telecom Holding, an Egyptian company, launched W-CDMA mobile service on December 15, 2008 for the Pyongyang area and has expanded service to several large cities

international: country code – 850; satellite earth stations – 2 (1 Intelsat – Indian Ocean, 1 Russian – Indian Ocean region); other international connections through Moscow and Beijing (2009)

Transportation:
Airports: 81 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 39

over 3,047 m: 3

2,438 to 3,047 m: 22

1,524 to 2,437 m: 8

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 4 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: North Korean People’s Army: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force; civil security forces (2005)
Military service age and obligation: 17 years of age (2004)

Economy:

North Korea, one of the world’s most centrally directed and least open economies, faces chronic economic problems. Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts. Industrial and power outputs have declined in parallel from pre-1990 levels. Due in part to severe summer flooding followed by dry weather conditions in the fall of 2006, the nation suffered its 13th year of food shortages because of on-going systemic problems including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, and persistent shortages of tractors and fuel. During the summer of 2007, severe flooding again occurred. Large-scale international food aid deliveries have allowed the people of North Korea to escape widespread starvation since famine threatened in 1995, but the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions.

Transnational Issues:

Risking arrest, imprisonment, and deportation, tens of thousands of North Koreans cross into China to escape famine, economic privation, and political oppression; North Korea and China dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in Yalu and Tumen rivers; Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents in the Yellow Sea with South Korea which claims the Northern Limiting Line as a maritime boundary; North Korea supports South Korea in rejecting Japan’s claim to Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima)