macrohistory & world report

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

North Korea and neighboring states

North Korea, its capital Pyongyang and neighboring states, China, Russia and South Korea

World Factbook as of October 2014: "Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment, shortages of spare parts, and poor maintenance. Large-scale military spending draws off resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. Industrial and power output have stagnated for years at a fraction of pre-1990 levels. Frequent weather-related crop failures aggravated chronic food shortages caused by on-going systemic problems, including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, poor soil quality, insufficient fertilization, and persistent shortages of tractors and fuel. Large-scale international food aid deliveries have allowed the people of North Korea to escape widespread starvation since famine threatened in 1995, but the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions."

Economic growth rate
2012: 1.3%
2009: 4%
2008: minus 0.4%

Labor force in agriculture
2008: 35%

Exports commodities
Minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products

Export partners
2009: China 46.5%, South Korea 40.8%, Bangladesh 1.4%

Export/import ratio
2010: exports $2,557 billion, imports $3.439 billion

In 2008, North Korea received $2.177 million in foreign aid.

North Korea has the fifth-largest army in the world and the highest percentage of military personnel per capita of any nation in the world.

Health expenditures
2009: 2% of GDP


Living in an urban area
2010: 60%

Ethnic groups
Racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese

Traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
World Factbook note: "autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom"

Net Migration rate
2011: Net loss of 0.04 persons per 1,000 population per year


Between China and South Korea. More mountainous than South Korea. Slightly smaller than Mississippi, equivalent to 347 by 347 kilometers, or roughly 217 by 217 miles.


(As of May 2014) Chief of state: Kim Jong-un (supreme leader) since 17 December 2011. Head of government: Pak Png-ju (premier) since 1 April 2013) Workers' Party of Korea.

Chief of State elected by the legislature: the Supreme People's Assembly (687 seats with members elected by popular vote to five-year terms). The Korean Workers' Party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition.

Capital: Pyongyang.

Recent History

Independence from Japan: 15 August 1945.

October 12, 2010: In the Soviet Union and China, Communist Party politics allowed men like Deng Xiaoping and Mikhail Gorbachev to rise to positions of power. Both men had aversions to the cult of personality that had risen earlier in their countries. Today in North Korea a young man with a blank face, Kim Jong-un, is groomed for what amounts to dynastic succession as the inheritor of the cult of personality that began with his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

December 24, 2011: Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-il, died on the 17th. Today his son, Kim Jong-un, has been named the "Great Successor." The Korean Central News Agency describes him as "a great person born of heaven," The ruling Workers' Party Workers' proclaims, "We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong Un our supreme commander, our leader. Today he is declared "supreme commander" of the armed forces.

The World Factbook

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.