Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.
— Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 - 1991

North Korea


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's son, the current ruler 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. 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.


North Korea (officially Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK) is a country in East Asia. It occupies the northern half of the Korean Peninsula that lies between Korea Bay and the East Sea, also called the Sea of Japan. It borders China to the north, Russia to the northeast and South Korea to the south.

Tourist travel to North Korea is only possible as part of a guided tour. Independent travel is not permitted. If you are not prepared to accept limitations on your movements and behavior, you should not travel to the DPRK at the present time. On the other hand, travel in the DPRK is, if nothing else, a unique experience.

Read more about North Korea in our North Korea travel guide »

A travel warning has been issued for North Korea

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North Korea

Full name
Democratic People's Republic of Korea

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

Area comparative

slightly smaller than Mississippi

Border countries

China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 19 km


2,495 km


temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer


mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east

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


22,757,275 (July 2010 est.)

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)



Government type

Communist state one-man dictatorship


15 August 1945 (from Japan)

National holiday

Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)

Chief of state

KIM Jong Il (since July 1994); note - on 9 April 2009, rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) reelected KIM Jong Il chairman of the National Defense Commission, a position accorded nation's "highest administrative authority"; 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 Premier HAN Kwang Bok (since 7 June 2010), Vice Premier JO Pyong Ju (since 7 June 2010), Vice Premier JON Ha Chol (since 7 June 2010), Vice Premier KANG Nung Su (since 7 June 2010), Vice Premier KIM Rak Hui (since 7 June 2010), Vice Premier PAK Su Gil (since 18 September 2009), Vice Premier RI Thae Nam (since 7 June 2010); Vice Premier RO Tu Chol (since 3 September 2003)

Internet country code



79 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam (Hamhung), Namp'o, Senbong, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Wonsan

Other countries in the region