Geographic and Governmental Profile of North Korea

An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning 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 control. 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 Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic "self-reliance" as a check against outside 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 Il Sung's son, 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. KIM Jong Un was publicly unveiled as his father's successor in September 2010. Following KIM Jong Il's death in December 2011, the regime began to take actions to transfer power to KIM Jong Un and Jong Un has begun to assume his father's former titles and duties. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population. North Korea's history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, long-range missile development, WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community. The regime has marked 2012, the centenary of KIM Il Sung's birth, a banner year; to that end, the country has heightened its focus on developing its economy and improving its people's livelihoods.
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
Continent / Subcontinent
120,538 sq km
120,408 sq km
130 sq km
Area - comparative
slightly smaller than Mississippi
Land boundaries
1,671.5 km
border countries:
China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 17.5 km
2,495 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
exclusive economic zone:
200 nm
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
temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer
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:
permanent crops:
75.94% (2005)
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Irrigated land
14,600 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
77.1 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
9.02 cu km/yr (20%/25%/55%)
per capita:
401 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall
Changbaishan (elev. 2,744 m) (also known as Baitoushan, Baegdu or P'aektu-san), on the Chinese border, is considered historically active
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, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, 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
Country name
conventional long form:
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
conventional short form:
North Korea
local long form:
local short form:
Government type
Communist state one-man dictatorship
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 2 municipalities (si, singular and plural)
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)
Nason-si, P'yongyang-si (Pyongyang)
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday
Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)
adopted 1948; revised several times
Legal system
civil law system based on the Prussian model; system influenced by Japanese traditions and Communist legal theory
International law organization participation
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
17 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
KIM Jong Un (since 17 December 2011) note - the rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) reelected KIM Yong Nam in 2009 president of its Presidium also with responsibility of representing state and receiving diplomatic credentials
head of government:
Premier CHOE Yong Rim (since 7 June 2010); Vice Premiers: HAN Kwang Bok (since 7 June 2010), JO Pyong Ju (since 7 June 2010), JON Ha Chol (since 7 June 2010), KANG Nung Su (since 7 June 2010), KANG Sok Ju (since 23 September 2010), KIM In Sik (since 13 April 2012), KIM Rak Hui (since 7 June 2010), KIM Yong Jin (since 6 January 2012), PAK Su Gil (since 18 September 2009), RI Chol Man (since 13 April 2012), RI Mu Yong (since 31 May 2011), RI Sung Ho (since 13 April 2012), RO Tu Chol (since 3 September 2003)
Naegak (cabinet) members, except for Minister of People's Armed Forces, are appointed by SPA
last election held in September 2003; date of next election NA
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)
last held on 8 March 2009 (next to be held in March 2014)
election results:
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; a token number of seats are reserved for 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
International organization participation
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; the broad red band symbolizes revolutionary traditions; the narrow white bands stands for purity, strength, and dignity; the blue bands signify sovereignty, peace, and friendship; the red star represents socialism
National symbol(s)
red star
National anthem
"Aegukka" (Patriotic Song)
PAK Se Yong/KIM Won Gyun
adopted 1947; both North Korea and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics; the North Korean anthem is also known as "Ach'imun pinnara" (Let Morning Shine)
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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