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Careers, Jobs and Education Resources for: Korea, North

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An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan 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 domination. 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 excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese 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 while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of approximately 1 million. North Korea's history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and long-range missile development - as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces - are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, following revelations that the DPRK was pursuing a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US to freeze and ultimately dismantle its existing plutonium-based program, North Korea expelled monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In January 2003, it declared its withdrawal from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. In mid-2003 Pyongyang announced it had completed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods (to extract weapons-grade plutonium) and was developing a "nuclear deterrent." Beginning in August 2003, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US have participated in the Six-Party Talks aimed at resolving the stalemate over the DPRK's nuclear programs. North Korea pulled out of the talks in November 2005. It test-fired ballistic missiles in July 2006 and conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. North Korea returned to the Six-Party Talks in December 2006 and subsequently signed two agreements on denuclearization. The 13 February 2007 Initial Actions Agreement shut down the North's nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in July 2007. In the 3 October 2007 Second Phase Actions Agreement, Pyongyang pledged to disable those facilities and provide a correct and complete declaration of its nuclear programs. Under the supervision of US nuclear experts, North Korean personnel completed a number of agreed-upon disablement actions at the three core facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex by the end of 2007. North Korea also began the discharge of spent fuel rods in December 2007, but it did not provide a declaration of its nuclear programs by the end of the year. (from the CIA)


Economic Overview

North korea, one of the world's most centrally directed and least open economies, faces chronic economic problems. industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts. industrial and power output have declined in parallel from pre-1990 levels. due in part to severe summer flooding followed by dry weather conditions in the fall of 2006, the nation suffered its 13th year of food shortages because of on-going systemic problems including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, and persistent shortages of tractors and fuel. during the summer of 2007, severe flooding again occurred. 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. large-scale military spending draws off resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. since 2002, the government has formalized an arrangement whereby private "farmers' markets" were allowed to begin selling a wider range of goods. it also permitted some private farming on an experimental basis in an effort to boost agricultural output. in october 2005, the government tried to reverse some of these policies by forbidding private sales of grains and reinstituting a centralized food rationing system. by december 2005, the government terminated most international humanitarian assistance operations in north korea (calling instead for developmental assistance only) and restricted the activities of remaining international and non-governmental aid organizations such as the world food program. external food aid now comes primarily from china and south korea in the form of grants and long-term concessional loans. during the october 2007 summit, south korea also agreed to develop some of north korea's infrastructure and natural resources and light industry. firm political control remains the communist government's overriding concern, which will likely inhibit the loosening of economic regulations.

Environmental Issues

Water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation

Government Type

Communist state one-man dictatorship


23,479,088 (july 2008 est.)


Eastern asia, northern half of the korean peninsula bordering the korea bay and the sea of japan, between china and south korea


Total: 120,540 sq km land: 120,410 sq km water: 130 sq km

Slightly smaller than mississippi

Country Aliases

Conventional long form: democratic people's republic of korea conventional short form: north korea local long form: choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk local short form: choson abbreviation: dprk


Name: pyongyang geographic coordinates: 39 01 n, 125 45 e time difference: utc+9 (14 hours ahead of washington, dc during standard time)

Military Service

17 years of age (2004)

International Disputes

Risking arrest, imprisonment, and deportation, tens of thousands of north koreans cross into china to escape famine, economic privation, and political oppression; north korea and china dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in yalu and tumen rivers; military demarcation line within the 4-km wide demilitarized zone has separated north from south korea since 1953; periodic incidents in the yellow sea with south korea which claims the northern limiting line as a maritime boundary; north korea supports south korea in rejecting japan's claim to liancourt rocks (tok-do/take-shima)

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

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