50 Fascinating Facts about North Korea

North Korea is a country in East Asia. It is the 97th largest country in the world, and has land borders with China, the Russian Federation and South Korea. It has an estimated population of nearly 25.4 million, governed from its capital and largest city, Pyongyang. Its currency is the North Korean won, which trades at approximately 0.001 of a US dollar. The country's official language is Korean. It has no official religion. The national flag is red bordered by thin white and broad blue bands, with a red star representing Communism.

North Korea Facts

North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK. Its neighbour South Korea's official name is the Republic of Korea, or ROK
The country has coastlines west and east. To the west are the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay; to the east the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea of Korea.
Studies have shown that Korean people are ethnically related to the Japanese and Han Chinese. This makes them distinct from Southeast Asian populations
North Korea occupies the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which is characterized by mountain ranges. North Korea is the most mountainous part of the peninsula.
The name Korea derives from Goryeo, a term dating back to the 5th Century. North Korea defines itself as Chosun to differentiate itself from its southern neighbour.
North and South Korea were separated at the end of World War II by the Soviet Union, part of which is now the Russian Federation, and the USA. It was divided at a line of latitude known as the 38th Parallel.
The two countries are now separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is about two and a half miles wide. This was agreed on in 1953 after the Korean War.
The DMZ is covered by forest and wetlands. It is a very important world biodiversity area, home to 82 endangered species.
North Korea has a labour force of 12.5 million, nearly two thirds of whom work in industry. This is part of a managed economy run entirely from Pyongyang.
Korean families are known as cells, and usually consist of four or five members over two generations. Sons are generally favoured over daughters for their potential earning ability.
Sport in North Korea is quite limited for a number of historic and political reasons. Although the country is largely mountainous, it is very poorly represented in winter sports, including the 2018 Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang in neighbouring South Korea.
The North Korea national football team made the quarter finals of the 1966 World Cup in England. They were eventually beaten 5-3 by Portugal, four of whose goals were scored by the legendary Eusebio. They also qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where they played Brazil
Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was warmly welcomed at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, marking a significant thaw in North – South Korean relations. North Korean cheerleaders also played a large part of the success of the ceremony, and popularity of the Games overall.
Although officially atheist, the North Korean people follow a philosophy based on the works of Confucius, which has been predominant throughout the Korean Peninsula since the 14th Century.
North Korean cuisine is distinctive from that of other Asian nations, including South Korea. This is the result of its exposure to Manchurian influences from the north, as well as the natural produce of the Peninsula as a whole.
Malnutrition is widespread in North Korea, having a marked effect on the health of its people and their life expectancy. Due to restrictions on food production imposed by its own government and the international community, the country has been the victim of famine.
Since its formation in 1948, North Korea has been ruled by the Kim Dynasty, known as Mount Paektu Bloodline. Its current representative, Kim Jong-un, is the grandson of its founder, Kim Il-sung.
North Korea has one major ally, China, with whom it shares most of its northern border. It is regarded as a pariah state by most other countries and is subject to sanctions by the USA.
The North Korean education system is based on an 11 year state run primary and secondary school system. The population of the country is acknowledged to be completely literate.
North Korean music is largely defined by the Kim ideology. This has created official and unofficial forms of music, both of which are performed by female singers with varying support
The most famous pop singer in the country, Hyon Song-wol, is also major figure in the Workers Party, the ruling political party in North Korea.
Tourism is a very small part of the country's economy. Due to government restrictions, only about 5,000 Western travellers per year make the trip.
North Korea's climate varies dramatically between winter and summer. It is vulnerable to Siberian weather systems in the winter, and the East Asian monsoon in the summer.
It is thought that North Korea suffers from severe air pollution in places where heavy industry is predominant. The government passed a law to improve the environment in 1986, after more than three decades of what is believed to have been massive fossil fuel consumption.
Food production in North Korea is confined to coastal provinces in the west of the country. The mountainous terrain elsewhere make agriculture impossible.
The role of women in North Korean society is fundamentally different to that fostered by traditional Korean attitudes. Women are a fully integrated part of the country's workforce and military.
North Korea uses a different form of the Korean language to its southern neighbour. Although based on different dialects within the country, the North considers its language Munhwao, meaning cultured.
Pyongyang, the country's capital city, is known in Korean as the Capital of Willows
North Korea produces ten times as much coal and iron ore as its southern neighbour.
All visitors to North Korea must be escorted on guided tours. There are different rules allowing access to the country for Western, Chinese and South Korean tourists.
After the enforced separation of the country, many people fled the North for the South. This has led to the spread of North Korean cooking, replacing or complementing the more spicy traditions of the southern part of the Peninsula.
Between 1910 and 1945, the entire Korean Peninsula was occupied by Japan. During this time, traditional Korean customs and philosophies were banned, causing lasting antipathy in parts of society. This has been fostered by the Kim Dynasty in North Korea.
North Korea has the world's largest number of military personnel, both active and in reserve. It has the fourth largest active army on the planet.
Although tiny in Western terms, the North Korean film industry is very important to the cultural life of the country. It is described by the government as “The most powerful medium for educating the masses.” North Korean movies are very patriotic, with emphasis on past struggles, such as that against Japanese occupation.
Although widely considered as isolationist, North Korea is in fact a continuation of a Peninsula wide national tradition of self reliance in the face of foreign intervention, combined with Confucian tradition and bureaucracy.
The Olympic sport of Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. The Korean International Taekwondo Tourism Company is one of the few North Korean tourism bureaus.
The traditional alcoholic spirit drink of Korea is Soju. Distilled from barley, rice or wheat, this originated in the south of the Peninsula, but is popular in the North.
The rivers which form North Korea's northern border, the Yalu and Tumen, are age old natural boundaries which have been recognized as defining Korea's identity since around 4,000 BC.
North Korea is recognized in scripts written in Hangul and Hanja; Hangul is the official writing system of both Koreas.
All Korean mountains over 2,000 metres high are located in North Korea.
Paektu-san, or Paektu Mountain, is an active volcano and the highest mountain in North Korea. It is considered by all Koreans to be their spiritual birthplace; the Kim Dynasty takes its nickname from the Mountain.
North Korea is home to many native Korean species of animals and plants. These include the Korean water deer and Korean Spruce. The DMZ is also home to the endangered Amur leopard
Inchon was the site of an assault led by General Douglas MacArthur on behalf of the United Nations in 1950. Its failure led to his dismissal from office by President Truman.
North Korea is one of the nine sovereign states in the world to possess nuclear weapons. Its possession of these is not part of the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which governs the testing and use of these weapons by other countries. India and Pakistan are also not part of the NPT. Israel is an undeclared nuclear power.
Pyongyang hosts the world's largest stadium. The Rungnado 1st of May Stadium, or May Day Stadium, caters for many sporting and cultural events, and holds 114,000 people. It was built for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students on May 1, 1989. May Day is celebrated throughout the world as a celebration of organized labour, hence its adoption by the Kim Dynasty government.
The state ideology of North Korea is “Juche,” which translates as self reliance
North Korea has nine provinces and three cities. Five of the provinces are mainly mountainous, and the three cities are Pyongyang, Namp'o and Rason.
Deep sea fishing by North Korea did not develop until the 1970s. It has grown substantially in the Sea of Japan, where the main catch is pollack, a Korean favourite.
Despite the managed nature of the North Korean economy, an estimated five million of its citizens are participating in private enterprise. About a fifth of the population, the vast majority of these businesses are run by women.
North Korea is ruled by an organization called the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. All political candidates for any position in the country must be a member of the Front.

This country has been largely isolated from the outside world since its creation. This situation was worsened by the Cold War, whose repercussions are still being felt. The fact that the ex Soviet Union and other former Eastern Bloc countries have moved on since 1990 is evidence that change is possible anywhere; and events surrounding the 2018 Winter Olympics have shown that, apart from anything else, Koreans North and South are very much a family, sharing an extraordinary part of the world with an amazing history and culture.


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