North Korea is an East Asian nation located in the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang is both the capital and the biggest city in North Korea. The nation is bordered to the north and northwest by China and Russia, respectively, along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in China) and Tumen rivers. South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea) borders the nation to the south, with the highly guarded Korean Demilitarized Zone dividing the two. The Korean state’s roots may be traced back to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms thriving in the first century BC. Korea derives its name from the Kingdom of Goguryeo, sometimes spelt Kory, which was one of East Asia’s most powerful dynasties. With the creation of the Hangul alphabet by Sejong the Great in 1446, Korea during the Later Silla and Balhae dynasties experienced almost a millennium of relative tranquillity under long-lasting dynasties throughout the 7th century.
Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910 and remained so until the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II in 1945, when it was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel by the United States and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets occupying the north and the Americans occupying the south. Negotiations for reunification fell down, and in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south established two distinct administrations. The Korean War (1950–53) was precipitated by an invasion launched by North Korea. The Korean Armistice Agreement induced a cease-fire, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed. In 1991, both nations were admitted to the United Nations. The DPRK legally defines itself as a self-sufficient socialist state and conducts elections. It is seen as a totalitarian government by critics. Several media sources have labeled it Stalinist, citing the extensive personality cult around Kim Il-sung and his family.
Human rights abuses in North Korea have been classified as a distinct category with no counterpart in the modern world, according to international agencies. The Workers’ Party of Korea, headed by a member of the ruling family, governs the country and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, of which all political officials must be members. North Korea has progressively drifted away from the global communist movement. Juche, an ideology of national self-sufficiency, was included into the constitution in 1972 as a “creative application of Marxism–Leninism.” The state owns the means of production via state-run businesses and collectivized farms. The majority of services, including as healthcare, education, housing, and food production, are subsidized or financed by the government.
North Korea had a famine from 1994 to 1998, killing between 0.24 and 3.5 million people, and the nation continues to struggle with food production. North Korea adheres to the Songun, or “military-first” strategy. With a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary troops, it is the nation with the most military and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the world’s fourth biggest, behind only China, the United States, and India. It is armed with nuclear weapons. North Korea is an atheist state with no official religion and a prohibition on public religion.