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North Korea

Map of North Korea



Location: Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and Russia
Area: slightly smaller than Mississippi State, U.S.A.
Total area: 120,540 sq km land area: 120,410 sq km
Climate: temperate with four seasons with rainfall concentrated in summer, cold with heavy snows in Winter
Terrain: mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east
Natural resources: coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower



Population: 23,486,550 (July 1995 est.)

  • 0-14 years: 30% (female 3,402,672; male 3,540,313)
  • 15-64 years: 66% (female 7,840,465; male 7,741,155)
  • 65 years and over: 4% (female 622,250; male 339,695)
  • (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.78% (1995 est.)


  • noun: Korean(s)
  • adjective: Korean

Ethnic divisions: racially homogeneous


Buddhism and Confucianism, some Christianity and syncretic Chondogyo. note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom

Languages: Korean


  • age 15 and over can read and write Korean (1990 est.)
  • total population: 99% (male: 99% female: 99%)

 Labor force: 9.615 million

  • by occupation: agricultural 36%, nonagricultural 64%
  • note: shortage of skilled and unskilled labor (mid-1987 est.)




  • conventional long form: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • conventional short form: North Korea
  • local long form: Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk
  • local short form: the North Koreans generally use the term "Choson" to refer to their country

Abbreviation: DPRK

Type: Communist state; Stalinist dictatorship

Capital: P'yongyang

Independence: 9 September 1948

note: 15 August 1945, date of independence from the Japanese and celebrated in North Korea as National Liberation Day

National holiday: DPRK Foundation Day, 9 September (1948)


adopted 1948, completely revised 27 December 1972, revised again in April 1992


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




More than 90% of this command economy is socialized; agricultural land is collectivized; and state-owned industry produces 95% of manufactured goods. State control of economic affairs is unusually tight even for a Communist country because of the small size and homogeneity of the society and the strict rule of KIM Il-song in the past and now his son, KIM Chong-il. Economic growth during the period 1984-88 averaged 2%-3%, but output declined by 3%-5% annually during 1989-92 because of systemic problems and disruptions in socialist-style economic relations with the former USSR and China. In 1992, output dropped sharply, by perhaps 7%-9%, as the economy felt the cumulative effect of the reduction in outside support. The leadership insisted on maintaining its high level of military outlays from a shrinking economic pie. Moreover, a serious drawdown in inventories and critical shortages in the energy sector have led to increasing interruptions in industrial production. Abundant mineral resources and hydropower have formed the basis of industrial development since World War II. Output of the extractive industries includes coal, iron ore, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals. Manufacturing is centered on heavy industry, including military industry, with light industry lagging far behind. Despite the use of improved seed varieties, expansion of irrigation, and the heavy use of fertilizers, North Korea has not yet become self-sufficient in food production. Indeed, a shortage of arable lands, several years of poor harvests, and a cumbersome distribution system have resulted in chronic food shortages. The collapse of Communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 has disrupted important technological links. North Korea remains far behind South Korea in economic development and living standards. GDP is stagnant.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $21.3 billion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: 0% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $920 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%

Unemployment rate: NA%

Exports: $1.02 billion (f.o.b., 1993 est.)

  • commodities: minerals, metallurgical products, agricultural and fishery products, manufactures (including armaments)
  • partners: China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Germany, Hong Kong

Imports: $1.64 billion (f.o.b., 1993 est.)

  • commodities: petroleum, grain, coking coal, machinery and equipment, consumer goods
  • partners: China, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore

Currency: 1 North Korean won (Wn) = 100 chon

Exchange rates:

North Korean won (Wn) per US$1 - 2.15 (May 1994), 2.13 (May 1992), 2.14 (September 1991), 2.1 (January 1990), 2.3 (December 1989)

North Korea
South Korea

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