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North Korea Country Guide

Explore North Korea in Asia

Travel warning information is updated daily: The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's advisory service suggests to reconsider your need to travel to this country. Take this advice seriously - check with your local authorities whether your exact destination is safe.

North Korea with the capital city Pyongyang is located in Asia (Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan). It covers some 120,541 square kilometres (slightly smaller than Mississippi) with 22,912,177 citizens.

Interactive map of North Korea

The terrain features mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys having coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east. The average density of population is approximately 190 per km². The notable climate conditions in North Korea can be described as temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer. Potential natural disasters are late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding or occasional typhoons during the early fall.

To reach someone in North Korea dial +850 prior to a number. There are 1,180,000 installed telephones. The cellular networks commonly support frequencies of 900 Mhz. Websites registered in this country end with the top level domain ".kp". If you want to bring electric equipment on your trip (e.g. laptop power supply), note the local power outlet of 110/220V - 50/60Hz.

About the flag and history of North Korea

Three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in white; on the hoist side of the red band is a white disk with a red five-pointed star; the broad red band symbolizes revolutionary traditions; the narrow white bands stands for purity, strength, and dignity; the blue bands signify sovereignty, peace, and friendship; the red star represents socialism.

An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning 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 control. 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 outside 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 Il Sung''s son, 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. KIM Jong Un was publicly unveiled as his father''s successor in September 2010. Following KIM Jong Il''s death in December 2011, the regime began to take actions to transfer power to KIM Jong Un and KIM has now assumed many his father''s former titles and duties. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population. The DPRK began to ease restrictions to allow semi-private markets, starting in 2002, but then sought to roll back the scale of economic reforms in 2005 and 2009. North Korea''s history of regional military provocations; proliferation of military-related items; long-range missile development; WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009, and 2013; and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community.

Geography Quick-Facts

Summary Continent: Asia
Neighbours: China, South Korea, Russia
Capital: Pyongyang
Size 120,540 square kilometers (km² or sqkm) or 46,541 square miles (mi² or sqmi)
slightly smaller than Mississippi
Population 22,912,177
Currency Name: Won, Currency Code: KPW
Country Top Level Domain (cTLD) .kp
Telephone Country Prefix +850
Mobile Phone Connections 0
Landline Phone Connections 1,180,000

Country Position in World Rankings

Information about single country attributes and how these compare against the rest of the world. The information below is compiled with data from 2013. As such, it may differ a bit to the Information above in the text (which is from 2010).


Value name Value World Rank
Area 120,538 (sq km) 99

People and Society

Value name Value World Rank
Population 24,720,407 49
Population growth rate 0.53 (%) 148
Birth rate 14.49 (births/1,000 population) 137
Death rate 9.15 (deaths/1,000 population) 64
Net migration rate -0.04 (migrant(s)/1,000 population) 110
Maternal mortality rate 81.00 (deaths/100,000 live births) 82
Infant mortality rate 25.34 (deaths/1,000 live births) 76
Life expectancy at birth 69.51 (years) 155
Total fertility rate 1.99 (children born/woman) 131
Health expenditures 2.00 (% of GDP) 189
Obesity - adult prevalence rate 3.90 (%) 173
Children under the age of 5 years underweight 20.60 (%) 31


Value name Value World Rank
GDP (purchasing power parity) 40,000,000,000 104
GDP - real growth rate 0.80 (%) 167
GDP - per capita (PPP) 1,800 197
Labor force 12,200,000 44
Taxes and other revenues 11.4 (% of GDP) 205
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) -0.40 (% of GDP) 52
Exports 4,707,000,000 115
Imports 4,000,000,000 137
Debt - external 12,500,000,000 92


Value name Value World Rank
Electricity - production 20,450,000,000 (kWh) 72
Electricity - consumption 17,120,000,000 (kWh) 72
Electricity - installed generating capacity 9500000 (kW) 58
Electricity - from fossil fuels 47.4 (% of total installed capacity) 161
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 52.6 (% of total installed capacity) 39
Crude oil - imports 8,432 (bbl/day) 78
Refined petroleum products - production 9,133 (bbl/day) 107
Refined petroleum products - consumption 15,070 (bbl/day) 144
Refined petroleum products - imports 7,967 (bbl/day) 136
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 63,690,000 (Mt) 52


Value name Value World Rank
Telephones - main lines in use 1,180,000 72
Telephones - mobile cellular 1,000,000 155
Internet hosts 8 227


Value name Value World Rank
Airports 81 71
Railways 5,242 (km) 33
Roadways 25,554 (km) 101
Waterways 2,250 (km) 38
Merchant marine 158 37

Data based on CIA facts book 2010 & 2013, wikipedia, national statistical offices and their census releases

List of current world heritage sites

Name Since
Complex of Koguryo Tombs
The property includes several group and individual tombs - totalling about 30 individual tombs - from the later period of the Koguryo Kingdom, one of the strongest kingdoms in nowadays northeast China and half of the Korean peninsula between the 3rd ...
Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong
Situated in Kaesong city, in the south of the country, the site consists of 12 separate components, which together testify to the history and culture of the Koryo Dynasty from the 10th to 14th centuries. The geomantic layout of the former capital cit ...