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Officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or more commonly referred to a North Korea, is located in East Asia on the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Its northern neighbour is China, to the north east lies Russia and to the south is South Korea. It is sandwiched between the Korean Bay and the Sea of Japan.

The earliest Korean civilization, called Choson was established in 2333 B.C.E. by Tan-gun. The history of the Korean peninsula however can be traced to the Neolithic Age, when Turkic-Manchurian-Mongols migrated to the area from China. The initial settlements appeared around 6000 B.C.E and were agriculturally oriented. Korea became a vassal state of China in the seventeenth century, and was isolated from external contact until the Sino-Japanese War at the end of 1800s. Japan annexed Korea by 1910, but never won the Korean nationalists, who continued to struggle for independence. By 1945 the peninsula was split into two divided occupied zones, with the northern portion occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern part by the United States. The 1948 elections held under the United Nations supervision, led to the formation of two separate governments (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south). The struggle over sovereignty continues which eventually led to the Korean War in 1950.  While there was a cease-fire in 1953, the two countries are still officially at war as no peace treaty was ever signed.

The government makes strong claims regarding the freedom of religion in North Korea, human rights groups do not agree. Traditionally the country was essentially a Buddhist, but estimates now show that most of the citizens practice no religion. All religious organizations found in the country are state sponsored. Due to the restrictions, there is a lack of immigration to North Korea. Hence, majority of the people in the country are Korean. At any given point in time, only a few hundred foreigners are in the country, and majority of them tend to be tourists.

Travel to North Korea is highly restricted and only allowed as a part of a guided tour, no independent travel is permissible. There are rigorous limitations to independent movement of foreigners within the country, in addition to strict limitation on photography, behavior and freedom of expression. Citizens of South Korea are usually not allowed entry. There have been difficulties in the past with American Israeli and Japanese travelers as well. Restrictions have been lifted on the American citizens as of 2010 however, they are not allowed to travel by train in certain areas or take part in home-stay programs. Journalists or those thought to be related to the profession have to obtain especial clearance.


Fast Facts:

Capital:   Pyongyang

Government:   Family dictatorship, Totalitarianism

Currency:   North Korean Won

Language:   Korean

Area:   120,538 km² (47,000 sq. mi.)

Climate:   Temperate with rain mainly in the summer


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