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North Korea Facts

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What is the capital of North Korea?
The capital of North Korea is Pyongyang, its largest city. With more than 3 million residents, it is the default center of activity in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula.

What is the total population of North Korea?
Current estimates place the population at around 24.5 million people.

How big is North Korea?
North Korea takes up approximately 120,540 square kilometers, or about 46,540 square miles.

What countries border North Korea?
North Korea is bordered by China and South Korea, as well as a small portion of Russia. The border it shares with South Korea is referred to as the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Lat Long40 00 N, 127 00 E
Area120,540 km2 (46,528 sq mi)
Population24,983,205 (July 2015 est.)
Largest CityPyongyang
Official LanguagesKorean
Major ReligionIrreligion (64.3%) , Korean Shamanism (16%), Cheondoism (13.5%), Buddhism (4.5%), Christianity (1.7%)
National Day9. September 1948
Form of GovernmentHereditary Juche single-party state
PresidentKim Yong-nam (Chairman of the Assembly Presidium)
Vice PresidentKim Jong-un ( Supreme leader)
Prime MinisterPak Pong-ju ( Premier)
CurrencyNorth Korean Won (KPW)
GDP$40 billion (2011 Est.)
Calling Code850
Time Zone(UTC+9)

What is the Korean Demilitarized Zone?
The border between North and South Korea, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, is the most heavily guarded border in the world. Because there has never been a peace treaty, the Korean War that took place between North and South Korea has never officially ended, and soldiers on both sides of the Korean DMZ are constantly on the lookout for an attack. Although full-scale war has yet to break out again, the Korean DMZ is the site of numerous incidents between the two nations. Both North Korea and South Korea firmly believe that one day they will defeat the other and reunify the Korean Peninsula, and so relations along the border remain highly tense.

What is the form of government in North Korea?
North Korea (full name: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is widely believed to be a communist dictatorship under the control of Chairman, General Secretary, and Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un. Others hold positions of power within the government, but in practice Kim Jong-un wields complete control over North Korea. Although he is the current leader, Kim Jong-un is not the president of North Korea, as the title of “Eternal President of the Republic” was given to his deceased grandfather, Kim Il-sung after his death in 1994.

Who was Kim Il-sung?
Kim Il-sung, often referred to as “Great Leader” by the North Korean government, was appointed by Soviet leaders to head the Communist
Party in North Korea after the Japanese were ejected following their defeat in World War II. This was a tenuous time in Korea’s history, characterized by the simultaneous establishment of puppet regimes in the North and the South by the Soviet Union and the United States, respectively. The Korean War that followed did not resolve the separation, and the two countries remain official enemies to this day. Kim Il-sung was given full control over the regime and proceeded to build an elaborate cult of personality around himself as the one and only leader of the nation. Even though he died in 1994, he is still systematically worshipped by most North Koreans.

What is the national religion in North Korea?
North Korea was traditionally a mostly Buddhist country, but much was changed during the upheavals in the earlier half of the twentieth century. Today, North Korea claims to grant its citizens religious freedom, although many human rights groups dispute this, as all the religious organizations in the country are sponsored by the state. Currently, it is estimated that the majority of North Koreans practice no religion, although some have theorized that the popular political principles of juche and songun have religious aspects to them.

What are juche and songun?
Juche is a political theory revolving around the idea that a communist country should be independent and completely self-reliant. It was invented and championed by Kim Il-sung and remains one of the most important guiding principles of the North Korean people, although outsiders have criticized it as a simple ideology meant only to distinguish Kim Il-sung from other communist leaders such as Mao Zedong. Songun is often held up as Kim Jong-il’s attempt to define his own philosophy, and it describes the idea that the military of North Korea should be taken care of before any of the other needs of its citizens. While songun is thoroughly put into practice, many have pointed out that juche is praised but not actually followed, as North Korea is heavily reliant on foreign aid in the wake of the Arduous March.

What is the Arduous March?
The Arduous March, also called the March of Tribulation, is a severe famine that debilitated North Korea in the early 1990s and remains an ongoing problem. It was caused by unfortunate circumstances (floods and droughts) but was exacerbated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been one of North Korea’s most important economic suppliers. Many of the true outcomes of this famine are not known, but it is estimated that millions have died and countless citizens will suffer long-term health effects. North Korea has accepted varying levels of food aid from international sources since 1995.

Last Updated : April 15, 2017

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