North Korea


History of the North Korea

North Korea Flag

Once a unified country with an independent monarchy, Korea came under strong Japanese influence in the latter part of the 19th century (see Republic of Korea section for more details of pre-1945 history). Japanese forces occupied the country in 1905 and formally annexed it five years later, deposing the emperor in the process. Korea remained under Japanese control until the end of World War II when the Japanese were driven out by Soviet and US forces. In a manner similar to post-war Germany, Korea was divided into military occupation zones along the 38th parallel (line of latitude). The former Soviet Union withdrew from the North in 1948, having overseen the creation of a Democratic People's Republic and ensured the pre-eminence of the communist Korean Workers' Party (KWP) in the country's political life.

North Korea officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK is a country in East Asia occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula that lies between Korea Bay and the East Sea (Sea of Japan). It borders China to the north, Russia to the north east 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 severe limitations on your movements, behavior, and freedom of expression, you should not travel to North Korea.

In North Korea, the vast majority of people are Korean. Because of the lack of immigration, North Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations on earth. At any one time, there are a few hundred foreigners to be found; however, most of them are tourists.

Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (commonly known as North Korea) and the largest city in the country. Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River and, according to preliminary results from the 2008 population census, has a population of 3,255,388.[The city was split from the South P'yŏngan province in 1946. It is administered as a directly governed city on the same level as provincial governments, not a special city as Seoul in South Korea.

Island groups of the North Korea

North Korea Map North Korea Map - Click for larger view

North Korea is located in east Asia on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea shares a border with three countries, including China along the Amnok River, a border with Russia along the Tumen River, and South Korea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Yellow Sea and the Korea Bay are off the west coast and the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea) is off the east coast.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea shares borders in the north with China, in the east with the Sea of Japan, in the west with the Yellow Sea, and in the south with the demilitarised zone (separating it from the Republic of Korea). Most of the land consists of hills and low mountains and only a small area is cultivable. Intensive water and soil conservation programs, including land reclamation from the sea, are given high priority. The eastern coast is rocky and steep with mountains rising from the water and this area contains most of the waterways.

Korea (Dem Rep)'s capital, Pyongyang, was completely rebuilt after the Korean War as a city of wide avenues, neatly designed parks and enormous marble public buildings, leading to its alternative name of the 'youthful city'. The Palace of Culture, the Grand Theater, the Juche Tower and the Ongrui Restaurant epitomise the Korean variant of Communist architecture. The Gates of Pyongyang and the Arch of Triumph (built in honor of Kim II Sung's 70th birthday) are particularly impressive, while Morangborg Park and Taesongsan Recreation Ground (with its fairground attractions) offer relaxation. For the (mainly communist) 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, a 150,000-seat stadium was built in Pyongyang. Mangyongdae, Kim II Sung's birthplace, is a national shrine. His family's thatched cottage, now a museum, overlooks the Taedong River and the capital.

People & Culture

The contemporary culture of North Korea is based on traditional Korean culture, but developed since the establishment of North Korea in 1948. Juche's ideology asserts Korea's cultural distinctiveness and creativity as well as the productive powers of the working masses.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, usually known as North Korea, is a state that occupies the northern half of the Korean peninsula. North Korea is a new state, founded in 1948 as a result of the postcolonial settlement handed down by the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR). The United States and the USSR replaced the Japanese in 1945 and divided the peninsula into the American south and the Soviet north. For much of its short history, North Korea was regarded as a Soviet satellite state. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, North Korea's unique socialism has stood out in the post-Cold War world.

Little is known about North Korea in the United States, or in the world for that matter; except for the rare but striking news story about its international terrorism, the nuclear arms threat, and the devastating famine of recent years, nothing substantial is known about North Korea. This is due to the nation's strict closed-country policy: not many outsiders have visited there and not many North Koreans have traveled to the outside world.

North Korea shares borders with China and Russia to the north and the military demarcation line with South Korea in the south. The total area measures 46,540 square miles (120,540 square kilometers), with land boundaries of 1,037 miles (1,673 kilometers), and a coastline of 1,547 miles (2,495 kilometers). It is divided into 14 percent arable land, 2 percent permanent cropland, and 61 percent forest- and woodland. The country's terrain is mostly covered with hills and mountains. The highest point is Mount Paektu, which rises to 9,003 feet (2,744 meters).

Music in North Korea is heavily influenced by the political situation there. The composition and performance of all music in North Korea is controlled by the state. Taejung kayo After the division of Korea in 1945 and the establishment of North Korea in 1948, revolutionary song-writing traditions were channeled into support for the state, eventually becoming a style of patriotic song called taejung kayo in the 1980s combining classical Western symphonic music and Korean traditional musical forms. The songs are generally sung by female performers with accompanying bands or choirs accompanied by a large orchestra (either Western style or a hybrid of western and traditional) or concert band. North Korean music follows the principles of Juche (self-reliance) ideology. The characteristic marchlike, upbeat music of North Korea is carefully composed, rarely individually performed, and its lyrics and imagery have a clear optimistic, socialist content. Much music is composed for movies, and the works of the Korean composer Isang Yun (1917-1995), who spent much of his life in Germany, are popular in North Korea.

Korean traditional dance originated in ancient shamanistic rituals thousands of years ago. By the time of the later Korean kingdoms, Goryeo and Joseon, in the 2nd millennium CE, Korean traditional dance benefited from regular support of the royal court, numerous academies, and even an official ministry of the government. A number of different dances gained permanent high status, including the Hermit dance, the Ghost dance, Buchae Chum (the fan dance), Seung Mu (the Monk dance), the Oudong (Entertainer) dance and others, despite the fact that many had humble origins. For example, the Fan dance is believed to have originated with shamans performing nature rites with leaves but evolved into one of the most highly refined Korean dances.

A popular sporting event in North Korea is the annual Arirang Festival, held at Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on April 15 of every year, in celebration of the birthdate of Kim il-Sung. The main attraction of Arirang is the mass gymnastics display, a vast performance featuring tens of thousands of performers, including card-turning mosaic performers who occupy seats in the stands directly across from spectators for the "backdrop" display. Often, performers (including card-turners) outnumber the spectators during these displays.

Weather and Climate

North Korea has a continental climate with four distinct seasons. Long winters bring very cold and clear weather with sometimes snow storms as a result of northern winds that blow from Siberia. The daily average high and low temperatures for P'yongyang (Capital of North Korea) in January are -3 degrees Celsius (26.6° Fahrenheit) and -13 degrees Celsius (8,5° Fahrenheit). Average snowfall is approximately thirty-seven days during the winter.

Summer tends to be short, hot, humid, and rainy because of the southern monsoon winds that bring moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The monthly average high and low temperatures for P'yongyang in August are 29 degrees Celsius (84° Fahrenheit) and 20 degrees Celsius (68° Fahrenheit). On average, approximately 60 percent of all precipitation (rainfall) occurs from June to September. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons marked by mild temperatures and variable winds and bring the most pleasant weather to visit North Korea.

Public Holidays

North Korea Public Holidays
Labor Day May 01
Children's Day Jun 06
Victory Day (1953) July 27
Liberation Day (1945) Aug 15
Day of Songun Aug 25
Han'gawi Holiday Sep 08
National Day (1948) Sep 09
KWP Foundation Day (1945) Oct 10
Dongji Dec 20
Kim Jong-suk's Birthday Dec 24
Constitution Day Dec 27
New Year's Eve Dec 31

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for North Korea, exercise normal security precautions.