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Reports of the time note the presence of hungry workers who roamed the streets, listlessly trying to walk off the effects of near starvation.
But though the famine may have killed many millions, its true extent has never been understood in the West, and it appears never to have been publicly acknowledged by North Korean officials.
The government strictly controlled the distribution of all food, doling out rations to city dwellers and people in the military. Farmers were given a share of their own crop instead.
Rations were determined not by need, but by political power. Elites and those loyal to the government were given more food than the elderly, children and others.
Over the years, however, as the USSR began to crumble, the aid that fed North Koreans faltered and then stopped altogether.
This catchphrase hypothetically celebrated a North Korea that was capable of doing everything itself, but when it came to food, the DPRK was anything but self-reliant.
Analysts think that the juche doctrine was primarily an excuse for the dictator to consolidate power. Collective farms in Kaesong, North Korea, After being ravaged by famine in the s, North Korea again faces serious food shortages.
But when the USSR collapsed, so did access to inexpensive fuel. International experts will be allowed into the dismantled Punggye-ri site, according to reports in South Korea.
Guns and guards to be removed from Korean 'truce village' of Panmunjom. Pope Francis willing to visit North Korea, Vatican official says.
Conditions would have to be met before invitation from Kim Jong-un could be accepted. Trump angry after South Korea signals it may ease North Korea sanctions.
Penalty or metre foot kick? North and South Korea work on unified dictionary. In April , an uprising of the Jeju islanders was violently crushed. The South declared its statehood in May and two months later the ardent anti-communist Syngman Rhee  became its ruler.
Shtykov served as the first Soviet ambassador, while Kim Il-sung became premier. Soviet forces withdrew from the North in , and most American forces withdrew from the South in Ambassador Shtykov suspected Rhee was planning to invade the North and was sympathetic to Kim's goal of Korean unification under socialism.
The two successfully lobbied Joseph Stalin to support a quick war against the South, which culminated in the outbreak of the Korean War.
The military of North Korea invaded the South on 25 June , and swiftly overran most of the country. As they neared the border with China, Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war again.
Fighting ended on 27 July , with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea.
More than one million civilians and soldiers were killed in the war. As a result of the war, almost every substantial building in North Korea was destroyed.
Some have referred to the conflict as a civil war, with other factors involved. A heavily guarded demilitarized zone DMZ still divides the peninsula, and an anti-communist and anti-North Korea sentiment remains in South Korea.
Since the war, the United States has maintained a strong military presence in the South which is depicted by the North Korean government as an imperialist occupation force.
The relative peace between the South and the North following the armistice was interrupted by border skirmishes, celebrity abductions, and assassination attempts.
The North failed in several assassination attempts on South Korean leaders, such as in , and the Rangoon bombing in ; tunnels were found under the DMZ and tensions flared over the axe murder incident at Panmunjom in In , secret, high-level contacts began to be conducted culminating in the July 4th North-South Joint Statement that established principles of working toward peaceful reunification.
The talks ultimately failed because in , South Korea declared its preference that the two Koreas should seek separate memberships in international organizations.
Some scholars believe that the August incident demonstrated independence. Recovery from the war was quick—by industrial production reached levels.
In , relations with Japan had improved somewhat, and North Korea began allowing the repatriation of Japanese citizens in the country.
The same year, North Korea revalued the North Korean won , which held greater value than its South Korean counterpart.
Until the s, economic growth was higher than in South Korea, and North Korean GDP per capita was equal to that of its southern neighbor as late as By the s the economy had begun to stagnate; it started its long decline in and almost completely collapsed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in , when all Soviet aid was suddenly halted.
The North began reestablishing trade relations with China shortly thereafter, but the Chinese could not afford to provide enough food aid to meet demand.
In , as Kim Il-sung's health began deteriorating, Kim Jong-il slowly began taking over various state tasks. Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack in , in the midst of a standoff with the United States over North Korean nuclear weapon development.
North Korea promised to halt its development of nuclear weapons under the Agreed Framework , negotiated with U. Kim Jong-il instituted a policy called Songun , or "military first".
There is much speculation about this policy being used as a strategy to strengthen the military while discouraging coup attempts.
Flooding in the mids exacerbated the economic crisis, severely damaging crops and infrastructure and led to widespread famine which the government proved incapable of curtailing.
In , the government accepted UN food aid. Since the outbreak of the famine, the government has reluctantly tolerated illegal black markets while officially maintaining a state socialist economy.
Corruption flourished and disillusionment with the government spread. The international environment changed with the election of U.
President Barack Obama adopted a policy of "strategic patience", resisting making deals with North Korea for the sake of defusing tension. His youngest son Kim Jong-un was announced as his successor.
Throughout , following Donald Trump's assumption of the US presidency, tensions between the United States and North Korea increased, and there was heightened rhetoric between the two, with Trump threatening 'fire and fury'  and North Korea threatening to launch missiles towards Guam.
In September, at a summit with Moon in Pyongyang, Kim agreed to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities if the United States took reciprocal action.
Early European visitors to Korea remarked that the country resembled "a sea in a heavy gale" because of the many successive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula.
Mount Kumgang in the Taebaek Range , which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty. The coastal plains are wide in the west and discontinuous in the east.
A great majority of the population lives in the plains and lowlands. According to a United Nations Environmental Programme report in , forest covers over 70 percent of the country, mostly on steep slopes.
North Korea experiences a combination of continental climate and an oceanic climate ,   but most of the country experiences a humid continental climate within the Köppen climate classification scheme.
Winters bring clear weather interspersed with snow storms as a result of northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia.
Approximately 60 percent of all precipitation occurs from June to September. North Korea functions as a highly centralized, one-party state.
According to its constitution , it is a self-described revolutionary and socialist state "guided in its activities by the Juche idea and the Songun idea".
According to the Constitution of North Korea there are officially three main branches of government. The first of these is the State Affairs Commission of North Korea , which acts as "the supreme national guidance organ of state sovereignty".
Its members are elected every five years by universal suffrage. Supreme People's Assembly sessions are convened by the SPA Presidium, whose president Kim Yong-nam since represents the state in relations with foreign countries.
Deputies formally elect the President, the vice-presidents and members of the Presidium and take part in the constitutionally appointed activities of the legislature: It is unknown whether it has ever criticized or amended bills placed before it, and the elections are based around a single list of WPK-approved candidates who stand without opposition.
His authority extends over two vice-premiers, 30 ministers , two cabinet commission chairmen, the cabinet chief secretary, the president of the Central Bank , the director of the Central Bureau of Statistics and the president of the Academy of Sciences.
Despite its official title as the 'Democratic People's Republic of Korea' DPRK some observers have described North Korea's political system as an absolute monarchy    or a "hereditary dictatorship".
The Juche ideology is the cornerstone of party works and government operations. It is viewed by the official North Korean line as an embodiment of Kim Il-sung's wisdom, an expression of his leadership, and an idea which provides "a complete answer to any question that arises in the struggle for national liberation".
The roots of Juche were made up of a complex mixture of factors, including the cult of personality centered on Kim Il-sung, the conflict with pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese dissenters, and Korea's centuries-long struggle for independence.
Juche was initially promoted as a "creative application" of Marxism—Leninism , but in the mids, it was described by state propaganda as "the only scientific thought Juche eventually replaced Marxism—Leninism entirely by the s,  and in references to the latter were omitted from the constitution.
It is a three-generation lineage descending from the country's first leader , Kim Il-sung , since Kim developed a cult of personality closely tied to the state philosophy of Juche , which was later passed on to his successors: In this lineage was made explicit when Clause 2 of Article 10 of the new edited Ten Fundamental Principles of the Korean Workers' Party stated that the party and revolution must be carried "eternally" by the "Baekdu bloodline".
According to New Focus International , the cult of personality, particularly surrounding Kim Il-sung, has been crucial for legitimizing the family's hereditary succession,  The control the North Korean government exercises over many aspects of the nation's culture is used to perpetuate the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il-sung,  and Kim Jong-il.
Claims that the dynasty has been deified are contested by North Korea researcher B. In fact, the propaganda apparatus in Pyongyang has generally been careful not to make claims that run directly counter to citizens' experience or common sense.
The song " No Motherland Without You ", sung by the North Korean army choir, was created especially for Kim Jong-il and is one of the most popular tunes in the country.
Kim Il-sung is still officially revered as the nation's " Eternal President ". Defectors have been quoted as saying that North Korean schools deify both father and son.
Critics maintain that Kim Jong-il's personality cult was inherited from his father. Kim Jong-il was often the center of attention throughout ordinary life.
His birthday is one of the most important public holidays in the country. On his 60th birthday based on his official date of birth , mass celebrations occurred throughout the country.
One point of view is that Kim Jong-il's cult of personality was solely out of respect for Kim Il-sung or out of fear of punishment for failure to pay homage,  while North Korean government sources consider it genuine hero worship.
The extent of the cult of personality surrounding Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung was illustrated on 11 June when a year-old North Korean schoolgirl drowned while attempting to rescue portraits of the two from a flood.
As a result of its isolation, North Korea is sometimes known as the " hermit kingdom ", a term that originally referred to the isolationism in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty.
In the late s and the s its foreign policy was thrown into turmoil with the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Suffering an economic crisis, it closed a number of its embassies. At the same time, North Korea sought to build relations with developed free market countries.
As of [update] , North Korea had diplomatic relations with countries and embassies in 47 countries.
As a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program , the Six-Party Talks were established to find a peaceful solution to the growing tension between the two Korean governments, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States.
The talks were discontinued in North Korea was previously designated a state sponsor of terrorism  because of its alleged involvement in the Rangoon bombing and the bombing of a South Korean airliner.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone with South Korea remains the most heavily fortified border in the world. North Korea's policy is to seek reunification without what it sees as outside interference, through a federal structure retaining each side's leadership and systems.
In , the two Koreas agreed in principle to achieve reunification through peaceful means and without foreign interference. It encouraged other countries to engage with the North, which allowed Pyongyang to normalize relations with a number of European Union states and contributed to the establishment of joint North-South economic projects.
North Korea responded by ending all of its previous agreements with the South. Kim also said that he will visit Seoul by the end of the year, this would be the first-ever visit by a North Korean leader to the capital city of the South.
North Korea is widely accused of having perhaps the worst human rights record in the world. Employment is managed by the party on the basis of political reliability, and travel is tightly controlled by the Ministry of People's Security.
Amnesty International reports of severe restrictions on the freedom of association, expression and movement, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment resulting in death, and executions.
The State Security Department extrajudicially apprehends and imprisons those accused of political crimes without due process.
Based on satellite images and defector testimonies, Amnesty International estimates that around , prisoners are held in six large political prison camps,   where they are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery.
Those who are deemed politically rehabilitated may reassume responsible government positions on their release. North Korean defectors  have provided detailed testimonies on the existence of the total control zones where abuses such as torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation , forced labor, and forced abortions have been reported.
According to Human Rights Watch, North Korean women are routinely subjected to sexual violence, unwanted sexual contact, and rape.
Men in positions of power, including police, high-ranking officials, market supervisors, and guards can abuse women at will and are not prosecuted for it.
It happens so often that it is accepted as a routine part of life. Women assume they can't do anything about it.
The only ones with protection are those whose husbands or fathers are themselves in positions of power. The North Korean government rejects the human rights abuse claims, calling them "a smear campaign" and a "human rights racket" aimed at government change.
This practice can never be found in the DPRK boasting of the sound mentality and good morals In fact, it is ridiculous for such gay [ sic ] to sponsor dealing with others' human rights issue.
North Korea has a civil law system based on the Prussian model and influenced by Japanese traditions and communist legal theory.
People's courts are at the lowest level of the system and operate in cities, counties and urban districts, while different kinds of special courts handle cases related to military, railroad or maritime matters.
Judges are theoretically elected by their respective local people's assemblies, but in practice they are appointed by the Workers' Party of Korea. The penal code is based on the principle of nullum crimen sine lege no crime without a law , but remains a tool for political control despite several amendments reducing ideological influence.
It is one of the most powerful state institutions in North Korea and oversees the national police force, investigates criminal cases and manages non-political correctional facilities.
Political camps can be short-term reeducation zones or " kwalliso " total control zones for lifetime detention.
The security apparatus is very extensive,  exerting strict control over residence, travel, employment, clothing, food and family life. It is believed they tightly monitor cellular and digital communications.
The KPA has 1,, active and 8,, reserve and paramilitary troops, making it the largest military institution in the world. The Ministry of People's Armed Forces is subordinated to the latter.
It has approximately one million personnel divided into 80 infantry divisions , 30 artillery brigades , 25 special warfare brigades, 20 mechanized brigades, 10 tank brigades and seven tank regiments.
North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, but the strength of its arsenal is uncertain. In January , estimates of North Korea's nuclear arsenal ranged between 15 and 60 bombs, probably including hydrogen bombs.
According to a South Korean assessment, North Korea possesses a stockpile of chemical weapons estimated to amount to 2,—5, tons, including nerve, blister, blood, and vomiting agents, as well as the ability to cultivate and produce biological weapons including anthrax , smallpox , and cholera.
The military faces some issues limiting its conventional capabilities, including obsolete equipment, insufficient fuel supplies and a shortage of digital command and control assets due to other countries being banned from selling weapons to it by the UN sanctions.
To compensate for these deficiencies, the KPA has deployed a wide range of asymmetric warfare technologies like anti-personnel blinding lasers,  GPS jammers,  midget submarines and human torpedoes ,  stealth paint,  electromagnetic pulse bombs,  and cyberwarfare units.
Much of the equipment is engineered and produced by a domestic defense industry. Weapons are manufactured in roughly 1, underground defense industry plants scattered throughout the country, most of them located in Chagang Province.
With the exception of a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese , North Korea's 25,,  people are ethnically homogeneous.
International donors led by the United States initiated shipments of food through the World Food Program in to combat the famine. Bush Administration ,  the situation gradually improved: The famine had a significant impact on the population growth rate, which declined to 0.
Marriage is virtually universal and divorce is extremely rare. North Korea had a life expectancy of In , cardiovascular disease as a single disease group was reported as the largest cause of death in North Korea.
A free universal insurance system is in place. Every individual has a lifetime health card which contains a full medical record.
The census listed the entire population as literate. Most graduates from the compulsory program do not attend university but begin their obligatory military service or proceed to work in farms or factories instead.
The study of natural sciences is greatly emphasized while social sciences are neglected. North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea, although some dialectal differences exist within both Koreas.
There are no known official statistics of religions in North Korea. According to Religious Intelligence, The influence of Buddhism and Confucianism still has an effect on cultural life.
The Open Doors mission, a Protestant-group based in the United States and founded during the Cold War-era, claims the most severe persecution of Christians in the world occurs in North Korea.
According to North Korean documents and refugee testimonies,  all North Koreans are sorted into groups according to their Songbun , an ascribed status system based on a citizen's assessed loyalty to the government.
Based on their own behavior and the political, social, and economic background of their family for three generations as well as behavior by relatives within that range, Songbun is allegedly used to determine whether an individual is trusted with responsibility, given opportunities,  or even receives adequate food.
Songbun allegedly affects access to educational and employment opportunities and particularly whether a person is eligible to join North Korea's ruling party.
While some analysts believe private commerce recently changed the Songbun system to some extent,  most North Korean refugees say it remains a commanding presence in everyday life.
North Korea has maintained one of the most closed and centralized economies in the world since the s.
Extensive Soviet and Chinese support allowed North Korea to rapidly recover from the Korean War and register very high growth rates.
Systematic inefficiency began to arise around , when the economy shifted from the extensive to the intensive development stage.
The shortage of skilled labor, energy, arable land and transportation significantly impeded long-term growth and resulted in consistent failure to meet planning objectives.
The loss of Eastern Bloc trading partners and a series of natural disasters throughout the s caused severe hardships, including widespread famine.
By , the situation improved owing to a massive international food assistance effort, but the economy continues to suffer from food shortages, dilapidated infrastructure and a critically low energy supply.
North Korea has the structural profile of a relatively industrialized country  where nearly half of the Gross Domestic Product is generated by industry  and human development is at medium levels.
The economy is heavily nationalized. Rice, corn, soybeans and potatoes are some of the primary crops. Foreign trade surpassed pre-crisis levels in and continues to expand.
North Korea's energy infrastructure is obsolete and in disrepair. Power shortages are chronic and would not be alleviated even by electricity imports because the poorly maintained grid causes significant losses during transmission.
North Korea also strives to develop its own civilian nuclear program. These efforts are under much international dispute due to their military applications and concerns about safety.
Transport infrastructure includes railways, highways, water and air routes, but rail transport is by far the most widespread. Road transport is very limited — only kilometers of the 25, kilometer road network are paved,  and maintenance on most roads is poor.
North Korean institutes are strong in these fields of research, although their engineers require additional training and laboratories need equipment upgrades.
Under its "constructing a powerful knowledge economy " slogan, the state has launched a project to concentrate education, scientific research and production into a number of "high-tech development zones".
International sanctions remain a significant obstacle to their development. On 7 February , North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket, supposedly to place a satellite into orbit.
Critics believe that the real purpose of the launch was to test a ballistic missile. The launch was strongly condemned by the UN Security Council.
Usage of communication technology is controlled by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. An adequate nationwide fiber-optic telephone system with 1.
Internet access itself is limited to a handful of elite users and scientists. Instead, North Korea has a walled garden intranet system called Kwangmyong ,  which is maintained and monitored by the Korea Computer Center.
A dump of the data discovered was shared on GitHub. Despite a historically strong Chinese influence, Korean culture has shaped its own unique identity.
Koreans were forced to learn and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and Shinto religion, and were forbidden to write or speak the Korean language in schools, businesses, or public places.
After the peninsula was divided in , two distinct cultures formed out of the common Korean heritage. North Koreans have little exposure to foreign influence.
Korean heritage is protected and maintained by the state. Visual arts are generally produced in the aesthetics of Socialist realism.
Most aspects of art have been dominated by Mansudae Art Studio since its establishment in It employs around 1, artists in what is likely the biggest art factory in the world where paintings, murals , posters and monuments are designed and produced.
There are 63 burial mounds in the tomb group, with clear murals preserved. It is believed that these murals also influenced the Japanese Kita Tora burial mound.
The government emphasized optimistic folk-based tunes and revolutionary music throughout most of the 20th century. All publishing houses are owned by the government or the WPK because they are considered an important tool for propaganda and agitation.
Kim Il-sung's personal works are considered "classical masterpieces" while the ones created under his instruction are labeled "models of Juche literature".
Science fiction is considered a secondary genre because it somewhat departs from the traditional standards of detailed descriptions and metaphors of the leader.
The exotic settings of the stories give authors more freedom to depict cyberwarfare , violence , sexual abuse and crime , which are absent in other genres.
Sci-fi works glorify technology and promote the Juche concept of anthropocentric existence through depictions of robotics , space exploration and immortality.
Government policies towards film are no different than those applied to other arts—motion pictures serve to fulfill the targets of "social education".
Viewers only see films that feature their favorite actors. North Korean media are under some of the strictest government control in the world. Freedom of the press in was th out of countries in Reporters Without Borders ' annual Press Freedom Index.
All 12 major newspapers and 20 periodicals, including Rodong Sinmun , are published in the capital. There are three state-owned TV stations.
Two of them broadcast only on weekends and the Korean Central Television is on air every day in the evenings. Bias in reporting on North Korea has occurred in international media as a result of the country's isolation.
Stories like Kim Jong-un undergoing surgery to look like his grandfather, executing his ex-girlfriend or feeding his uncle to a pack of hungry dogs have been circulated by foreign media as truth despite the lack of a credible source.
Monitored heavily by government officials, the media is strictly used to reinforce ideals approved by the government. Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political change.
Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula , it has gone through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.
In a traditional meal, they accompany both side dishes panch'an and main courses like juk , pulgogi or noodles.
Soju liquor is the best-known traditional Korean spirit. North Korea's most famous restaurant, Okryu-gwan , located in Pyongyang, is known for its raengmyeon cold noodles.
Most schools have daily practice in association football , basketball , table tennis , gymnastics , boxing and others.
In December , former American basketball professional Dennis Rodman visited North Korea to help train the national team after he developed a friendship with Kim Jong-un.
North Korea's first appearance in the Olympics came in The Olympics saw its summer games debut and five medals, including one gold.
With the exception of the boycotted Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics , North Korean athletes have won medals in all summer games since then.
The Arirang Festival has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the biggest choreographic event in the world.
The event is an artistic representation of the country's history and pays homage to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
This article is about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. For the Republic of Korea, see South Korea. For other uses, see Korea and Korean Peninsula.
Sovereign state in East Asia. Area controlled by the North Korean state are shown in dark green; North Korean-claimed but uncontrolled regions are shown in light green.
Korea under Japanese rule. Division of Korea and History of North Korea. Geography of North Korea. Administrative divisions of North Korea.
Yellow Sea Korea West Sea. Sea of Japan Korea East Sea. Largest cities or towns in North Korea Census . Kim dynasty North Korea and North Korean cult of personality.
Foreign relations of North Korea. Inter-Korean relations and Korean reunification. Human rights in North Korea.