Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Korea, North
Flag of Korea, North
Map of Korea, North
Introduction Korea, North
Background:
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-so'ng, 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. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of 1 million. North Korea's long-range missile development, as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces, are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, following revelations that the DPRK was pursuing a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US to freeze and ultimately dismantle its existing plutonium-based program, North Korea expelled monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In January 2003, it declared its withdrawal from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. In mid-2003 Pyongyang announced it had completed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods (to extract weapons-grade plutonium) and was developing a "nuclear deterrent." Since August 2003, North Korea has participated in the Six-Party Talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US designed to resolve the stalemate over its nuclear programs. The fourth round of Six-Party Talks were held in Beijing during July-September 2005. All parties agreed to a Joint Statement of Principles in which, among other things, the six parties unanimously reaffirmed the goal of verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. In the Joint Statement, the DPRK committed to "abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards." The Joint Statement also commits the US and other parties to certain actions as the DPRK denuclearizes. The US offered a security assurance, specifying that it had no nuclear weapons on ROK territory and no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or other weapons. The US and DPRK will take steps to normalize relations, subject to the DPRK's implementing its denuclearization pledge and resolving other longstanding concerns. While the Joint Statement provides a vision of the end-point of the Six-Party process, much work lies ahead to implement the elements of the agreement.
Geography Korea, North
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
Map references:
Asia
Area:
total: 120,540 sq km
land: 120,410 sq km
water: 130 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Mississippi
Land boundaries:
total: 1,673 km
border countries: China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 19 km
Coastline:
2,495 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned
Climate:
temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer
Terrain:
mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m
Natural resources:
coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 22.4%
permanent crops: 1.66%
other: 75.94% (2005)
Irrigated land:
14,600 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall
Environment - current issues:
water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note:
strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
People Korea, North
Population:
23,113,019 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 23.8% (male 2,788,944/female 2,708,331)
15-64 years: 68% (male 7,762,442/female 7,955,522)
65 years and over: 8.2% (male 667,792/female 1,229,988) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 32 years
male: 30.7 years
female: 33.4 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.84% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
15.54 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
7.13 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.54 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 23.29 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 24.97 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.65 years
male: 68.92 years
female: 74.51 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.1 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
NA
Nationality:
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups:
racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
Religions:
traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
Languages:
Korean
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%
Government Korea, North
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
Capital:
name: Pyongyang
geographic coordinates: 39 01 N, 125 45 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 4 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)
municipalites: Kaesong-si (Kaesong), Najin Sonbong-si (Najin), Namp'o-si (Namp'o), P'yongyang-si (Pyongyang)
Independence:
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)
Constitution:
adopted 1948; completely revised 27 December 1972, revised again in April 1992, and September 1998
Legal system:
based on German civil law system with Japanese influences and Communist legal theory; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:
17 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: KIM Jong Il (since July 1994); note - on 3 September 2003, rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) reelected KIM Jong Il chairman of the National Defense Commission, a position accorded nation's "highest administrative authority"; SPA reelected KIM Yong Nam president of its Presidium also with responsibility of representing state and receiving diplomatic credentials; SPA appointed PAK Pong Ju premier
head of government: Premier PAK Pong Ju (since 3 September 2003); Vice Premiers KWAK Pom Gi (since 5 September 1998), JON Sung Hun (since 3 September 2003), RO Tu Chol (since 3 September 2003)
cabinet: Naegak (cabinet) members, except for Minister of People's Armed Forces, are appointed by SPA
elections: last held in September 2003 (next to be held in September 2008)
election results: KIM Jong Il and KIM Yong Nam were only nominees for positions and ran unopposed
Legislative branch:
unicameral Supreme People's Assembly or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui (687 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 3 August 2003 (next to be held in August 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; some seats are held by minor parties
Judicial branch:
Central Court (judges are elected by the Supreme People's Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
major party - Korean Workers' Party or KWP [KIM Jong Il]; minor parties - Chondoist Chongu Party [RYU Mi Yong] (under KWP control), Social Democratic Party [KIM Yong Dae] (under KWP control)
Political pressure groups and leaders:
none
International organization participation:
ARF, FAO, G-77, ICAO, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, IMO, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITU, NAM, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none; North Korea has a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none; note - Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents the US as consular protecting power
Flag description:
three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in white; on the hoist side of the red band is a white disk with a red five-pointed star
Economy Korea, North
Economy - overview:
North Korea, one of the world's most centrally planned and isolated economies, faces desperate economic conditions. Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts. Industrial and power output have declined in parallel. Despite an increased harvest in 2005 because of more stable weather conditions, fertilizer assistance from South Korea, and an extraordinary mobilization of the population to help with agricultural production, the nation has suffered its 11th year of food shortages because of on-going systemic problems, including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, and chronic shortages of tractors and fuel. Massive international food aid deliveries have allowed the people of North Korea to escape mass starvation since famine threatened in 1995, but the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions. Large-scale military spending eats up resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. In 2004, the regime formalized an arrangement whereby private "farmers markets" were allowed to begin selling a wider range of goods. It also permitted some private farming on an experimental basis in an effort to boost agricultural output. In October 2005, the regime reversed some of these policies by forbidding private sales of grains and reinstituting a centralized food rationing system. In December 2005, the regime confirmed that it intended to carry out earlier threats to terminate all international humanitarian assistance operations in the DPRK (calling instead for developmental assistance only) and to restrict the activities of international and non-governmental aid organizations such as the World Food Program. Firm political control remains the Communist government's overriding concern, which will likely inhibit the loosening of economic regulations.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$40 billion
note: North Korea does not publish any reliable National Income Accounts data; the datum shown here is derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP estimates for North Korea that were made by Angus Maddison in a study conducted for the OECD; his figure for 1999 was extrapolated to 2005 using estimated real growth rates for North Korea's GDP and an inflation factor based on the US GDP deflator; the result was rounded to the nearest $10 billion (2005 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
NA
GDP - real growth rate:
1% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,700 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 30%
industry: 34%
services: 36% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
9.6 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 36%
industry and services: 64%
Unemployment rate:
NA%
Population below poverty line:
NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
NA%
Budget:
revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA
Agriculture - products:
rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, pulses; cattle, pigs, pork, eggs
Industries:
military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
NA%
Electricity - production:
18.75 billion kWh (2003)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 29%
hydro: 71%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
17.43 billion kWh (2003)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2003)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2003)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - consumption:
25,000 bbl/day (2003)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:
22,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Exports:
$1.275 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, fishery products
Exports - partners:
China 45.6%, South Korea 20.2%, Japan 12.9% (2004)
Imports:
$2.819 billion c.i.f. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:
petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain
Imports - partners:
China 32.9%, Thailand 10.7%, Japan 4.8% (2004)
Debt - external:
$12 billion (1996 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$NA; note - approximately 350,000 metric tons in food aid, worth approximately $118 million, through the World Food Program appeal in 2004, plus additional aid from bilateral donors and non-governmental organizations
Currency (code):
North Korean won (KPW)
Currency code:
KPW
Exchange rates:
official: North Korean won per US dollar - 170 (December 2004), 150 (December 2002), 2.15 (December 2001); market: North Korean won per US dollar - 300-600 (December 2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Korea, North
Telephones - main lines in use:
980,000 (2003)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
NA
Telephone system:
general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code - 850; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Russian (Indian Ocean region); other international connections through Moscow and Beijing
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 17 (including 11 stations of Korean Central Broadcasting Station), FM 14, shortwave 14 (2003)
Radios:
3.36 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
4 (includes Korean Central Television, Mansudae Television, Korean Educational and Cultural Network, and Kaesong Television targeting South Korea) (2003)
Televisions:
1.2 million (1997)
Internet country code:
.kp
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
NA
Transportation Korea, North
Airports:
77 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 36
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 22
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 3 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 41
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 20
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 7 (2006)
Heliports:
22 (2006)
Pipelines:
oil 154 km (2004)
Railways:
total: 5,214 km
standard gauge: 5,214 km 1.435-m gauge (3,500 km electrified) (2005)
Roadways:
total: 31,200 km
paved: 1,997 km
unpaved: 29,203 km (1999 est.)
Waterways:
2,250 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2006)
Merchant marine:
total: 284 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,117,435 GRT/1,563,258 DWT
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 14, cargo 222, chemical tanker 2, container 3, livestock carrier 4, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 20, refrigerated cargo 5, roll on/roll off 6, vehicle carrier 1
foreign-owned: 84 (British Virgin Islands 1, Denmark 1, Germany 1, Greece 1, India 1, Italy 1, South Korea 1, Lebanon 14, Lithuania 1, Marshall Islands 2, Pakistan 3, Romania 16, Russia 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1, Syria 21, Turkey 4, Ukraine 1, UAE 7, US 4, Yemen 1)
registered in other countries: 3 (Mongolia 3) (2005)
Ports and terminals:
Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam (Hamhung), Kimch'aek, Kosong, Najin, Namp'o, Sinuiju, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Ungsang, Wonsan
Military Korea, North
Military branches:
North Korean People's Army: Ground Force, Navy, Air Force; civil security forces (2005)
Military service age and obligation:
17 years of age (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 17-49: 5,851,801
females age 17-49: 5,850,733 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 17-49: 4,810,831
females age 17-49: 4,853,270 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 194,605
females age 17-49: 187,846 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$5 billion (FY02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
NA
Transnational Issues Korea, North
Disputes - international:
China seeks to stem illegal migration of tens of thousands of North Koreans escaping famine, economic privation, and political oppression; North Korea and China dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in Yalu and Tumen rivers and a section of boundary around Paektu-san (mountain) is indefinite; Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic maritime disputes with South over the Northern Limit Line; North Korea supports South Korea in rejecting Japan's claim to Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima)
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
IDPs: 50,000-250,000 (government repression and famine) (2005)
Illicit drugs:
for years, from the 1970s into the 2000s, citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea (DPRK), many of them diplomatic employees of the government, were apprehended abroad while trafficking in narcotics, including two in Turkey in December 2004; police investigations in Taiwan and Japan in recent years have linked North Korea to large illicit shipments of heroin and methamphetamine, including an attempt by the North Korean merchant ship Pong Su to deliver 150 kg of heroin to Australia in April 2003

This page was last updated on 19 September, 2006