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Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Fact sheet on DPRK.

Pyongyang, capital of DPRK
Revised in March 2014


Capital:                 Pyongyang
Area:                    120.540 km2
Population:            24.7 mill. (2013 est.)
Annual increase in population: 0,53 % (2013 est.)
Language:             Korean
Time difference:    +7/+ 8 (summertime/wintertime)

Economic indicators

Currency:            North Korean won (KPW)
Exchange rate:    1 USD = 127.994 KPW


President of parliament:  Kim Yong-nam
Head of government:      General secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea,  
                                     Kim Jong-un
Foreign minister:             Park Ui-Chun
Minister for Finance:        Pak Su Gil


Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a centralized, closed and totalitarian society. All activity is controlled by the Workers’ Party in cooperation with the military. Access to reliable information is limited - even on higher levels in the (political) system. Despite this fact, inhabitants are no longer unaware about the factual situation in the country and the outside world.
The Workers’ Party authority is legitimized through a unique form of communism, “Juche”, which the founder of the country and first president, Kim Il-sung, was the originator of. This ideology outlines three dominant principles: political independence, economic self-sustenance, self-reliance in foreign policy. Following Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, the governance of the country became unclear. Though, in 1998 it was confirmed that his son, Kim Jong-il, would succeed his father. Kim Il-sung was posthumous announced as “president for time and eternity”.
At the first party conference since 1966, conducted in October 2010, Kim Jong-il´s third son, Kim Jong-un, was appointed four-star general and vice-president of the Workers Party’s National Defence Commission. With this election, Kim Jong-un was in line to succeed his father, who had experienced poor health since a rumoured stroke in August 2008. In December 2011 Kim Jong-il died, and was replaced by his son. Kim Jong-un is presently general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and Chairman of the influential National Defence Commission.


In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, the DPRK economy was reduced by half. The economy was further hit in the middle of the 90’s due to of series of natural disasters and poor harvests. Since then, DPRK has suffered with serious structural shortage of food and with extensive health problems in the population.
Part of the DPRK population is either mal- or undernourished. Due to an ineffective and poorly equipped agricultural sector and a deficiency of trade with the outside world, the country is reliant on foreign aid. The health-sector is similarly very dependent on international aid to supply even the most basic services to the population. In the last couple of years, speculation of possible market reforms has flourished, but there are still no positive signs of any deviations. On the contrary, a black market economy is seemingly more widespread and more accepted than ever as it is increasingly difficult for the regime to fulfil even its basic services to the population, including in terms of providing daily food rations.

Foreign Policy including Trade

Summits between South Korea and DPRK in 2000 and in 2007 created expectations of reconciliation, and in the long term, reunification. Concretely, this was manifested with the establishment of Kaesong, a joint industrial zone, and the Mt. Kumgang as visit resort just north of the DMZ, of which only the joint industrial zone is still in operation.
When the conservative South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, took office in February 2008, the unconditional humanitarian aid was suspended and the different joint-venture projects were reduced drastically. Since spring 2009, DPRK has escalated provocations towards South Korea with launches of missiles, nuclear tests and direct military confrontations. In March 2010 a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean corvette, Cheonan. 46 crewmembers died. On the 23 of November 2010, North Korea launched an artillery attack on the island Yeonpyeong, located close to the north-south maritime border. The attack resulted in the death of four South Koreans, including two civilians.
Since the United Nation’s (UN) denouncement of the DPRK missile launch in spring 2009, North Korea has refused to participate in the so-called Six-party-talks that besides DPRK and South Korea include USA, China, Japan and Russia. The Six-party-talks had been carried out since 2003 with the objective to bargain a peaceful resolution to the DPRK nuclear weapons program.
DPRK continued their provocations in 2012 and 2013. In December 2012 North Korea tested a long-distance missile with a potential reach of the American west coast. The majority of the international society has continuously condemned the DPRK provocations through multilateral (UN) and bilateral sanctions. A third nuclear test was conducted in February 2013. The effect of this is that DPRK today is subject to the world’s most rigorous sanctions.
The common industrial complex in Kaesong was functioning until April 2013 where DPRK suspended the work in the complex. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose and DPRK rhetoric intensified throughout the spring, intensified by newly elected President Park Geun-hye’s principled trustpolitik towards DPRK requiring progress on the Korean Peninsula to be based on mutual and gradual trust building. Kaesong was reopened in September 2013 and planned family reunions were cancelled in 2013 only to be held in February 2014 for the first time since 2010.