North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

조선민주주의인민공화국  (Korean)
(English: "The Patriotic Song")
Land controlled by North Korea shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled land shown in light green
Land controlled by North Korea shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled land shown in light green
and largest city
39°2′N 125°45′E / 39°2′N 125°45′E / 39.033; 125.750
Official languagesKorean[1]
Official scriptChosŏn'gŭl[2]
GovernmentUnitary one-party
Kim Jong-un[n 1]
Choe Ryong-hae[n 2]
Choe Ryong-hae
Pak Pong-ju
Kim Jae-ryong
Pak Thae-song
• Eternal Leader of Juche Korea
Kim Il-sung
• Eternal Leader of Juche Korea
Kim Jong-il
LegislatureSupreme People's Assembly
c. 7th century BC
18 BC
12 October 1897
29 August 1910
1 March 1919
11 April 1919
• Liberation/Independence from Japan
15 August 1945
• Soviet administration of Korea north of the 38th parallel
8 February 1946
• Foundation of DPRK
9 September 1948
• Chinese withdrawal
October 1958
27 December 1972
• Admitted to the United Nations
17 September 1991
• Total
120,540 km2 (46,540 sq mi)[4] (97th)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
25,368,620[5] (52nd)
• 2008 census
• Density
212/km2 (549.1/sq mi) (65th)
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
• Total
$40 billion[7]
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2015 estimate
• Total
$25 billion[9][10]
• Per capita
CurrencyKorean People's won (₩) (KPW)
Time zoneUTC+9 (Pyongyang Time[11])
Date format
  • yy, yyyy년 mm월 dd일
  • yy, yyyy/mm/dd (AD–1911 / AD)
Driving sideright
Calling code+850[12]
ISO 3166 codeKP
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
North Korea.svg
"Democratic People's Republic of Korea" in Chosŏn'gŭl (top) and hancha (bottom) scripts.
Korean name
Revised RomanizationJoseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwaguk
McCune–ReischauerChosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
North Korea
South Korean name
North Korean name

North Korea (Korean: 조선; MR: Chosŏn or literally 북조선; MR: Pukchosŏn), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or DPR Korea; Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang the capital and the largest city in the country. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in Chinese) and Tumen rivers[14] and to the south it is bordered by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands.[15]

In 1910, Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan. After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south occupied by the United States. Negotiations on reunification failed, and in 1948, separate governments were formed: the socialist Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea in the south. An invasion initiated by North Korea led to the Korean War (1950–1953). The Korean Armistice Agreement brought about a ceasefire, but no peace treaty was signed.[16]

North Korea officially describes itself as a "self-reliant" socialist state, and formally holds elections,[17] though they have been described by outside observers as sham elections.[18][19] Outside observers also generally view North Korea as a Stalinist totalitarian dictatorship,[28] particularly noting the elaborate cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and his family. The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), led by a member of the ruling family,[29] holds power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be members.[30] Juche, an ideology of national self-reliance, was introduced into the constitution in 1972.[31][32] The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms. Most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are subsidized or state-funded.[33] From 1994 to 1998, North Korea suffered a famine that resulted in the deaths of between 240,000 and 420,000 people,[34] and the population continues to suffer malnutrition. North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy.[35] It is the country with the highest number of military and paramilitary personnel, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve and paramilitary personnel, or approximately 37% of its population. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the fourth largest in the world, after China, the United States and India;[36] consisting of 4.8% of its population. It possesses nuclear weapons.[37][38]

A 2014 UN inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that, "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world".[39] The North Korean regime strongly denies most allegations, accusing international organizations of fabricating human rights abuses as part of a smear campaign with the covert intention of undermining the state, although they admit that there are human rights issues relating to living conditions which the regime is attempting to correct.[40][41][42][43]

In addition to being a member of the United Nations since 1991, the sovereign state is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, G77 and the ASEAN Regional Forum.[44]


The name Korea derives from the name Goryeo (also spelled Koryŏ). The name Goryeo itself was first used by the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo (Koguryŏ) which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time,[45][46][47][48] ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East[49] and parts of Inner Mongolia,[50] under Gwanggaeto the Great.[51] The 10th-century kingdom of Goryeo succeeded Goguryeo,[52][53][54][55] and thus inherited its name, which was pronounced by visiting Persian merchants as "Korea".[56] The modern spelling of Korea first appeared in the late 17th century in the travel writings of the Dutch East India Company's Hendrick Hamel.[57]

After the division of the country into North and South Korea, the two sides used different terms to refer to Korea: Chosun or Joseon (조선) in North Korea, and Hanguk (한국) in South Korea. In 1948, North Korea adopted Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk; About this soundlisten) as its new legal name. In the wider world, because the government controls the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, it is commonly called North Korea to distinguish it from South Korea, which is officially called the Republic of Korea in English. Both governments consider themselves to be the legitimate government of the whole of Korea.[58][59] For this reason, the people do not consider themselves as 'North Koreans' but as Koreans in the same divided country as their compatriots in the South and foreign visitors are discouraged from using the former term.[60]