North Korea (Korean: 조선; MR: Chosŏn or literally 북조선; MR: Pukchosŏn), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or DPR Korea; Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang the capital and the largest city in the country. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in Chinese) and Tumen rivers and to the south it is bordered by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands.
In 1910, Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan. After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south occupied by the United States. Negotiations on reunification failed, and in 1948, separate governments were formed: the socialist Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea in the south. An invasion initiated by North Korea led to the Korean War (1950–1953). The Korean Armistice Agreement brought about a ceasefire, but no peace treaty was signed.
North Korea officially describes itself as a "self-reliant" socialist state, and formally holds elections, though they have been described by outside observers as sham elections. Outside observers also generally view North Korea as a Stalinist totalitarian dictatorship, particularly noting the elaborate cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and his family. The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), led by a member of the ruling family, holds power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be members. Juche, an ideology of national self-reliance, was introduced into the constitution in 1972. The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms. Most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are subsidized or state-funded. From 1994 to 1998, North Korea suffered a famine that resulted in the deaths of between 240,000 and 420,000 people, and the population continues to suffer malnutrition. North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy. It is the country with the highest number of military and paramilitary personnel, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve and paramilitary personnel, or approximately 37% of its population. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the fourth largest in the world, after China, the United States and India; consisting of 4.8% of its population. It possesses nuclear weapons.
A 2014 UN inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that, "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world". The North Korean regime strongly denies most allegations, accusing international organizations of fabricating human rights abuses as part of a smear campaign with the covert intention of undermining the state, although they admit that there are human rights issues relating to living conditions which the regime is attempting to correct. Read more...