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February 2004

North Korea

North Korea

North Korea, located in Eastern Asia, is bordered by the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan. The current population of North Korea is 22 million. North Korea was founded on May 1, 1948, after the Korean War (1950-53). Koreans are racially and linguistically homogeneous. Although there are no indigenous minorities in North Korea, there is a small Chinese community (about 50,000) and some 1,800 Japanese wives who accompanied the roughly 93,000 Koreans returning to the North from Japan during 1959-62.

Following World War II, Korea was split, with the northern half coming under Communist domination and the southern portion becoming Western-oriented. KIM Chong-il has ruled North Korea since his father and the country's founder, president KIM Il-song, died in 1994. The North relies heavily on international food aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of about 1 million. North Korea's long-range missile development and research into nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, North Korea repudiated a 1994 agreement that shut down its nuclear reactors and expelled UN monitors, further raising fears it may produce nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea is located on the west coast, on the Taegong River. About 80% of North Korea's terrain consists of moderately high mountain ranges and partially forested mountains and hills separated by deep, narrow valleys and small, cultivated plains. The most rugged areas are the north and east coasts. Although most North Korean citizens live in cities and work in factories, agriculture remains a rather high percentage (25%) of total GNP, (60%) is made up of mining and manufacturing and the remaining (15 %) of services and other.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 8/2003; 10/2000; 1998