Korea is a land in eastern Asia that is split into two countries—North Korea and South Korea. North Korea’s full name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It has a Communist government. In Communist countries, the government owns all or most of the land, factories, and banks. It makes all the rules. Communists believe that everyone is equal under this kind of government.
North Korea lies at the northern end of the Korean Peninsula, a long narrow piece of land that juts into the sea from mainland China. It has seas on two sides—the Sea of Japan to the east, and the Yellow Sea to the west. To the north the country has a long land border with China and a short one with Russia. To the south is the Republic of Korea, usually called South Korea. The land border between the two countries is guarded by troops from both sides.
In the eastern part of North Korea, narrow plains are separated by low hills. The center of the country is a region of mountains and forests. The highest mountain is Paektu Mountain, 9,003 feet (2,744 meters) high. North Korea’s longest river, the Yalu, flows westward from this mountain into the Yellow Sea. Most of North Korea’s farms and industries are found on the plains and rolling hills of the western region. The capital city, Pyongyang, is also located there.
The people of North Korea are almost all Koreans. The ancestors of today’s Koreans may have come from China about 5,000 years ago. About half the words in the Korean language come from Chinese. The alphabet used by North Koreans has 24 letters. South Koreans use the same alphabet, but they also use some Chinese symbols in their writing.
Most city dwellers in North Korea work in factories. Families usually live in small apartments. Few people live in houses or own cars. Many farmers live on collective farms. These farmers share the work and the crops. There are also some state farms, run by the government.
Most Koreans eat rice for their main meal. They may add fish or vegetables such as beans, but they do not eat meat often. A popular dish is kimchi, a spicy mixture of Chinese cabbage, white radishes, and other vegetables.
The government in North Korea discourages religion. It also forbids any writing or art that does not agree with Communist ideas.Schoolchildren must work for the state during part of their summer vacation.
Resources and products
North Korea mines coal to power the stations that produce much of its electricity. The rest of its energy comes from water power.
Rice is the chief farm crop. Other major crops include barley, corn, potatoes, and wheat. Fishing is important, too.
North Korean factories produce cement, chemicals, cloth, iron and steel, machinery, metals, and processed foods. Most of the country’s trade is with China, Japan, and Russia. The government controls nearly all the factories. It also runs the nation’s transportation systems, schools, colleges, hospitals, and welfare organizations.
Korea was divided into North Korea and South Korea in 1948. [The early history of North Korea and South Korea and the reasons for their division are described in the History section of the article Korea, South.] Kim Il-sung became leader of Communist North Korea in 1948.
The Communists took over farms and factories, radio, television, and newspapers. They developed industries and built up large military forces. In 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea. This was the start of the Korean War, which ended in 1953.
The war was followed by many years of suspicion, spying, and outbreaks of fighting between North Korea and South Korea. Plans to make Korea one country again made little progress. In 1991, North and South Korea agreed not to use military force against one another.
Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea as a dictator from 1948 until he died in 1994. He was looked up to as a leader who could do no wrong. After Kim died, his son Kim Jong-il became the national leader. Kim Jong-il ruled until his death in 2011.Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was announced as his successor.
North Korea has very little contact with other countries. Its people have stayed poor under Communist rule.