North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), more commonly known as North Korea, is an East Asian country situated on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its border is shared predominantly with the People's Republic of China. Russia shares an 18.3 kilometre (11.4 mi) border along the Tumen River in the far northeast corner of the country. To the south, it is bordered by South Korea, with which it formed one territorial unit known as Korea until 1945.

Its government defines itself as a Communist-led democratic multi-party state of the Juche political ideology, although it is thought to function as a dictatorship in practice. The government's Juche ideology demands absolute loyalty from the citizenry. It uses a centrally-planned system to implement its economic and social policies. Its ideological stance on issues such as the mass line, the role of intellectuals, and the source of revolutionary fervor mark North Korea's government as different from the Leninist Soviet Union or Maoist China.

In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided by the Soviet Union north of the 38th parallel and by the United States south of the 38th parallel. The Korean people were not consulted by either power prior to this division. While virtually all Koreans welcomed liberation from Japanese imperial rule, they objected to the reimposition of foreign rule over the peninsula. The Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of separate governments in the north and south, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea.

Growing tensions between the governments in the north and south and border skirmishes eventually led to a civil war called the Korean War. On June 25, 1950 the (North) Korean People's Army attacked across the 38th Parallel in a move to reunify the peninsula 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 Volunteers signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement. The DMZ has separated the North and South ever since.

North Korea was led by Kim Il-sung from 1948 until his death on July 8, 1994. He delegated most domestic matters to his son, Kim Jong-il, toward the end of his life. Three years after his father's death, on October 8, 1997, Kim Jong-il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party. In 1998, the legislature reconfirmed him as Chairman of the National Defence Commission and declared that position as the "highest office of state." International relations generally improved, and there was a historic North-South summit between the two Koreas in June 2000. However, tensions with the United States have increased recently as North Korea resumed the development of a nuclear weapons program and, on July 5, 2006, conducted a series of missile tests, as well as an underground nuclear test on October 9, 2006. The United Nations called an emergency meeting to respond to the nuclear test.

In the 1970s the country's economy grew at a significant rate and, until 1975, was considered to be stronger than that in the South. However, under Kim Jong-il's rule in the mid-to-late 1990s, the country's economy declined significantly, and food shortages developed in many areas. According to aid groups, millions of people in rural areas starved to death due to famine, exacerbated by a collapse in the food distribution system. Large numbers of North Koreans illegally entered the People's Republic of China in search of food. Hwang Jang-yop, International Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party, defected to South Korea in 1997.

In August of 2006, the DPRK declared the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War "null and void."

North Korea is widely considered to be one of the few remaining Communist states. The government is dominated by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), to which 80 percent of government officials belong. The official ideology of the KWP is known as Juche (self-reliance), a political philosophy first developed by Kim Il-Sung and then expanded upon by his son, the current leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-il. Although the KWP replaced mentions of Marxism-Leninism in the North Korean constitution with Juche in 1977, the constitution retains mentions of Socialism and Communism and Kim Jeong Il and the Korean Workers Party continue to claim to be Marxist-Leninist. Many Communists outside North Korea deny that the KWP is still a communist organisation or that North Korea is still socialist. Minor political parties also participate in elections, although in practice present no opposition. The exact power structure of the country is debated by outside observers. North Korea has been characterized by a professor at the American Strategic Studies Institute as "highly repressive, heavily militarized, strongly resistant to reform, and ruled by a dynastic dictatorship that adheres to a hybrid ideology. While distinctive, North Korea is an orthodox communist party-state best classified as an eroding totalitarian regime." The Premier is the head of government, although many observers consider that effective power lies with Kim Jong-il, head of the KWP and the military. Kim holds several official titles, the most important being General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. Kim is not the Head of State or the Head of Government, positions held by Kim Yong Nam and Pak Pong-ju respectively. Kim Jong-il is accorded the honorific "Great Leader" as part of a personality cult and is referred to as such by some of his western supporters. The phrase "Dear Leader" was formerly used for Kim Jong-il.

In English-language news sources from North Korea, the term "Great Leader" is very rarely used except when quoting someone refering to him affectionately as such ("comrade" and "general secretary" are used more frequently). Kim Jong Il's western supporters in the Korean Friendship Association however, frequently refer to Kim Jong Il as "Dear Leader" or "Great Leader."

The 1998 constitution refers to the late Kim Il-sung as the "eternal president of the republic," as the post of president was abolished after his death. The constitution gives many of the functions normally accorded to a head of state to the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, whose president, currently Kim Yong Nam (no relation to Kim Jong Il) "represents the State" and receives credentials from foreign ambassadors. The government of the republic is led by the Prime Minister, currently Pak Pong-ju and a cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC), the government's top policymaking body. The CPC is headed by the President, a post which was abolished after Kim Il-sung's death, who also nominates the other committee members. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the Cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). The SAC is headed by a Premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.

The parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly (Choego Inmin Hoeui), is the highest organ of state power. Its 687 members are elected every five years by popular vote. In every district voters are offered only one candidate. The People's Assembly usually holds two annual meetings, each lasting a few days, during which it elects a standing committee. The Assembly is viewed by the west as typically ratifing decisions made by the ruling KWP. A standing committee elected by the Assembly performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session.

According to Western estimates, North Korea has the fifth-largest military in the world, with the largest percentage of citizens enlisted (49.03 active troops per thousand citizens). The North has an estimated 1.08 million armed personnel, compared with about 686,000 South Korean troops (and 3.5 million paramilitary forces) plus 29,000 US troops in South Korea. Military spending is about $5 billion USD. The North has perhaps the world's second-largest special operations force (55,000), designed for insertion behind enemy lines in wartime. While the North has an adequate fleet of submarines, its surface fleet has a very limited capability.

As of 1992, the North Korean Air Force comprised about 1,620 aircraft and 70,000 personnel, with roughly twice the number of aircraft as the South. Most of its aircraft are obsolete Soviet and Chinese models, but it has been modernizing since the 1980s. Aircraft holdings include 150 MiG-21s, 30 MiG-29s, 60 MiG-23s, and 40 Q-5 Fantans. Since the 1980s, the air force has expanded its inventory of helicopters from 40 to 275. This inventory includes Mi-2/HOPLITEs, Mi-4/HOUNDs, and Mi-8/HIPs. In 1985, the DPRK circumvented U.S. export controls to buy 87 U.S.-manufactured civilian model Hughes helicopters, which are more advanced than the Russian models and have probably been armed with guns and rockets. North Korea does not manufacture its own aircraft, but it does produce spare parts. The overall assessment is that the air force "has a marginal capability for defending North Korean airspace and a limited ability to conduct air operations against South Korea."

The North Korean Government reported it conducted a successful test of a nuclear weapon on October 9th, 2006. See section titled "Missiles, nuclear weapons program, and the six-party talks" below for more detail.

The foreign relations of the DPRK with the United States are often regarded as relatively tense and unpredictable. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the North Korean government has been at odds with the United States, Japan and South Korea, with which it is still technically at war. Since 2000 its relations with the US have greatly deteriorated, and it was called a part of the "axis of evil" and an "outpost of tyranny" by US President George W. Bush. North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with the US at present, and the United States maintains economic sanctions against the DPRK under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

North Korea has maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia, but the fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a significant drop in communist aid to North Korea from Russia, although China continues to provide substantial assistance.

Although still technically at war, both the North and South Korean government proclaim that they are seeking eventual reunification as a goal, however there is still significant hostility between the citizens of North and South Korea. North Korea's policy is to seek reunification without what it sees as outside interference, through a federal structure retaining each side's leadership and systems. Both North and South Korea signed the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration in which both sides made promises to seek out a peaceful reunification.

As of June 2006 Venezuela has strengthened its ties with North Korea.

The DPRK continues to have strong ties with its socialist Asian allies in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

North Korea is a member of several multilateral organizations. It became a member of the United Nations in September 1991. North Korea also belongs to the Food and Agriculture Organization; the International Civil Aviation Organization; the International Postal Union; the UN Conference on Trade and Development; the ITU; the UN Development Programme; the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the World Health Organization; the World Intellectual Property Organization; the World Meteorological Organization; the International Maritime Organization; the International Committee of the Red Cross; and the Nonaligned Movement.

The highest level contact with the American government was Madeleine Albright's 2000 visit to Pyongyang. However, the US and the DPRK have not had formal diplomatic relations and technically remain at war as the armistice never resulted in a peace treaty. Nearly 30,000 American soldiers remain in South Korea, a military presence that the North Koreans consider aggressive and a means of preventing north/south reconciliation.

China was given 20 minutes notice of the test, and China subsequently warned Japan, Russia, and the United States. The seismic activity is disputed; the United States Geological Survey measured it as 4.2 on the Richter scale, while South Korean scientists placed it as 3.58. According to the Korean Central News Agency "no radioactive material leaked from that test site".

North Korea has in the past stated that it has produced nuclear weapons and according to many intelligence and military officials it has produced, or has the capability to produce, up to six or seven such devices. It also has a certain quantity of Rodong-1 and 2, Scud, and the long-range Taepodong-1 and 2 missiles. It has test-fired each of these missiles more than once, despite the Six-party talks, initiated in 2003. The Six-party talks have been the diplomatic route used to resolve the concern brought about by North Korea's nuclear weapons program. These talks are a series of meetings with six participating states - the People's Republic of China, South Korea, North Korea, the United States of America, the Russian Federation and Japan and were a result of North Korea withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003. The aim of these talks is to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns raised by the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

According to Richard Saccone, an expert on Korea, in April 2006 : "After decades of hostile exchanges and months of stalled negotiations about its nuclear weapons, North Korea quietly put forward a positive signal that it is prepared to talk."

North Korea is not a signatory of the Missile Technology Control Regime and states that it has the sovereign right to test its missiles and pursue its weapons program. The DPRK's stance on the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration with Japan is that the agreement is now void due to Japan's failure to normalize relations with the regime. US sanctions following the six-party talks are also cited by North Korea as a reason to continue missile tests and other aspects of its weapons program.

North Korea announced on October 3, 2006, that it was going to test its first nuclear weapon regardless of the world situation, blaming 'hostile US policy' as the reason for the need for such a deterrent. However, it pledged a no-first-strike policy and to nuclear disarmament only when there is worldwide elimination of such nuclear weapons. On October 9, 2006, the state claimed to have conducted its first underground nuclear test successfully. The response from the international community was for the most part condemnation. The UN and NATO quickly held meetings to decide how to react to this situation.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation, severely restricting most freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of movement, both inside the country and abroad.

North Korean exiles have testified as to the existence of detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder and forced labour. Japanese television aired what it said was footage of a prison camp. In some of the camps, US officials and former inmates say the annual mortality rate approaches 20% to 25%. An estimated two million civilians have been killed by the government A former prison guard and army intelligence officer said that in one camp, chemical weapons were tested on prisoners in a gas chamber. According to a former prisoner, pregnant women inside the camps are often forced to have abortions or the newborn child is killed. A recent TIME magazine article documents a young woman's forced abortion in a prison camp and subsequent escape from North Korea. The government of North Korea refuses to admit independent human rights observers to the state.

North Korea is on the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea shares land borders with China and Russia to the north, and with South Korea to the south. To its west are the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay, and to its east is the Sea of Japan (which North Korea names the East Sea of Korea). Japan lies east of the peninsula across the Sea of Japan.

The highest point in Korea is the Paektu-san at 2,744 metres (9,003 ft), and major rivers include the Tumen and the Yalu.

The local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called changma, and winters that can be bitterly cold on occasion. The DPRK's capital and largest city is P'yŏngyang; other major cities include Kaesŏng in the south, Sinŭiju in the northwest, Wŏnsan and Hamhŭng in the east and Ch'ŏngjin in the northeast.

North Korea's socialist economy has been relatively stagnant since the 1970s. Publicly owned industry produces nearly all manufactured goods. The government focuses on heavy military industry, with an estimated 13% of the nation's GDP being spent on the military as of 2005. By comparison, neighboring South Korea spent 2.5% on its military. The government does not release economic data.

In the 1990s North Korea faced significant economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, political mismanagement, serious fertilizer shortages, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. These resulted in a shortfall of staple grain output of more than 1 million tons from what the country needs to meet internationally-accepted minimum requirements. The resulting famine killed between 600,000 and 3.5 million people in the DPRK during the 1990s. By 1999, foreign aid reduced the number of famine deaths, but North Korea's continuing nuclear program led to a decline in international food and development aid. In the spring of 2005, the World Food Program reported that famine conditions were in imminent danger of returning to North Korea, and the government was reported to have mobilized millions of city-dwellers to help rice farmers. Recent evidence suggests serious food shortages continue. In spite of the massive food donations from other countries, over 22 percent of the population of North Korea is classified as malnourished.

North Korea has previously received international food and fuel aid from China, South Korea, and the United States in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. In June 2005, the U.S. announced that it would give 50,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea. The United States gave North Korea 50,000 tons in 2004 and 100,000 tons in 2003. On 19 September 2005, North Korea was promised food and fuel aid (among other things) from South Korea, the U.S.A., Japan, Russia, and the PRC in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program and rejoining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China is currently the world's third largest food donor, with most of its donations destined for North Korea. Approximately 92% of 577,000 tonnes of food aid donated by China in 2005 was to North Korea, making up 49% of the food aid North Korea receives. South Korea was the second biggest donor in 2005, contributing 36% on top of China's 49%.

In July 2002, North Korea started experimenting with capitalism in the Kaesŏng Industrial Region. A small number of other areas have been designated as Special Administrative Regions, including Sinŭiju along the China-North Korea border. Mainland China and South Korea are the biggest trade partners of North Korea, with trade with China increasing 38% to $1.02 billion in 2003, and trade with South Korea increasing 12% to $724 million in 2003. It is reported that the number of mobile phones in P'yŏngyang rose from only 3,000 in 2002 to approximately 20,000 during 2004. As of June 2004, however, mobile phones became forbidden again. A small amount of capitalistic elements are gradually spreading from the trial area, including a number of advertising billboards along certain highways. Recent visitors have reported that the number of open-air farmers' markets has increased in Kaesong, P'yŏngyang, as well as along the China-North Korea border, bypassing the food rationing system.

According to the Ministry of Unification of South Korea, the GDP grew by 6.2% in 1999, but only 1.3% in 2000, 3.2 % in 2001, 1.2% in 2002 and 1.8 % in 2003.

In a 2003 event dubbed the "Pong Su incident", a North Korean cargo ship allegedly attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia was seized by Australian officials, strengthening Australian and United States suspicions that Pyongyang engages in international drug smuggling. The North Korean government denied any involvement.

North Korea's estimated population of 23,000,000 is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous places in the world, with very small numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European expatriate minorities.

Religious activities are heavily suppressed by the officially atheist state, especially Protestantism, which is seen as closely connected to the U.S.A.

North Korea shares with South Korea a Buddhist and Confucianist heritage and recent history of Christian and Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way") movements. Pyongyang was the centre of Christian activity in Korea before the Korean War. Today two state-sanctioned churches exist, which religious freedom advocates alleged are mere show-cases for foreigners. There are an estimated 4,000 Catholics and about 9,000 Protestants in North Korea.

According to a ranking published Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians worldwide.

North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea. There are dialect differences within both parts of Korea, but the border between North and South does not represent a major linguistic boundary. The adoption of modern terms from foreign languages has been limited in North Korea, while prevalent in the South. Other small differences have arisen, primarily in the words used for recent innovations.

Hanja (Chinese characters) are no longer used in North Korea, although still used in South Korea in some contexts. Both Koreas share the hangul writing system.

The official Romanisation differs in the two countries, with North Korea using the McCune-Reischauer romanisation of Korean, and the South using the revised romanisation.

There is a vast personality cult around Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and much of North Korea's literature, popular music, theatre, and film glorify the two men.

In July 2004, the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs was the first site in North Korea to be included into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

A popular event in North Korea is the Mass Games. The most recent and largest Mass Games was called "Arirang". It was performed six nights a week for two months, and involved over 100,000 performers. The Mass Games involve performances of dance, gymnastic, and choreographic routines which celebrate the history of North Korea and the Workers’ Party Revolution. The Mass Games are held in Pyongyang at various venues (varying according to the scale of the Games in a particular year) including the May Day Grand Theatre.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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