The Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla Kingdoms emerged as the dominant forces in the region, known as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. These kingdoms were united in 676, controlled by Silla until 935 when it was overtaken by the Goryeo Dynasty. Goryeo ruled the peninsula, but in the 13th century, it became controlled by the powerful Mongol Empire until that collapsed, and Goryeo became the Joseon Dynasty.
The Joseon Dynasty persisted through many centuries, with some conflict with China and Japan. Beginning in the 17th century, the Joseon Dynasty began to depend on China and began to become isolated from the rest of the world. Trade between Joseon and other nations was mostly stopped, though Joseon signed treaties with the US and Japan in the late 1800s.
In 1897, Joseon became the Korean Empire, and Japan occupied Korea beginning in 1910. Under Japanese control, the people of Korea were pushed to adopt Japanese culture and language and forced to fight for Japan in World War II, but the oppression of the people of Korea led to violent revolts. At the end of WWII, Japan was required to give up control of Korea, and the peninsula was then divided into two. The northern portion was controlled by the Soviet Union while the United States took control of the south until 1948 and 1949, respectively.
A provisional government was established in the north in 1946, and ruled by Kim Il-sung. The northern territory and the southern territory were at odds, both claiming the other as part of their government leading to the Korean War in 1950. North Korea received support from China, while South Korea was supported by the United States. In 1953, an armistice was signed between the warring nations, and the demilitarized zone remains the border between the north and south. Despite the armistice, relations between the two entities remain hostile. Rule of North Korea has remained in the same family line, with Kim Jong-il taking control and upon his death, his son, Kim Jong-un as the leader.
North Korea borders China to the north and northwest, Russia in the northeast, and South Korea to the south.
- Pyongyang (capital)
North Korea is situated in East Asia on the Korean Peninsula. Along the western coast of the country lies the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay, while the eastern coast is situated on the Sea of Japan (also called the East Sea of Korea). Along the northern border with Russia flows the Amnok River, while other important rivers are the Daedong River and Duman River. The coastal region of Korea features over 3,500 islands.
The terrain of North Korea features mountains, like the Rangrim Range, Kangnam Range, and Taebaek Range. There are also volcanoes, like Baekdu Mountain, the country's highest peak, which stands 2,744 meters (9,003 feet) above sea level.
Points of Interest
Parts of North Korea can be experienced by visitors to the country, while much of the country remains off limits. Sightseeing in North Korea includes museums and war memorials, official monuments to the Great Leader, and the Demilitarized Zone. Pyongyang's Juche Tower is a notable monument, which offers city views.
Another city to visit is Kaesong, along the Demilitarized Zone, which features monuments such as the Nam Gate, a historic town center, and Sonjuk Bridge. Other sites that may open to visitors include Chilbosan, the Seven Treasures Mountain, which features land formations that can be seen via train. There are also hiking opportunities in the mountains, like Myogyangsan and Paektusan.
Transport into North Korea is limited and requires special tourist visas, which are best obtained via tour companies. The main airport in North Korea is Sunan International Airport outside of Pyongyang, with service to destinations in China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Russia. Trains are available from certain Beijing to Pyongyang and also rail service to Russia, though there are restrictions on who may enter the country. Some boats and buses are also available, though limited.
Visitors to the country are required to remain with their guide, who controls transportation and travel arrangements. Tourists in Pyongyang can get around using the subway system, which is inexpensive and efficient, but has limited destinations. There are also some taxis around town.
Last Updated : July 28, 2015
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