Background: 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, the current ruler 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. In 2010, KIM Jong Il began the process of preparing the way for his youngest son, KIM Jong Un, to succeed him in power. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population. 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 and 2009, and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community. The regime has marked 2012, the centenary of KIM Il Sung's birth, a banner year; to that end, the country has been focused on development of the economy.
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 99%; male: 99%; female: 99%;
GDP (purchasing power parity): $40 billion (2009 est.); $40 billion (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars;North Korea does not publish reliable National Income Accounts data; the data shown here are derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP estimates for North Korea that were made by Angus MADDISON in a study conducted for the OECD; his figure for 1999 was extrapolated to 2009 using estimated real growth rates for North Korea's GDP and an inflation factor based on the US GDP deflator; the results were rounded to the nearest $10 billion.;
GDP (official exchange rate): $28 billion (2009 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: -0.9% (2009 est.); 3.7% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $1,800 (2009 est.); $1,900 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 20.9%; industry: 46.9%; services: 32.1% (2002 est.);
Population below poverty line: NA%;
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%; highest 10%: NA%;
Labor force: 12.2 million;
note: estimates vary widely (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 35%; industry and services: 65% (2008 est.);
Unemployment rate: NA%;
Budget: revenues: $3.2 billion; expenditures: $3.3 billion (2007 est.);
Industries: military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism;
Industrial production growth rate: NA%;
Electricity - production: 22.5 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 18.8 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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North Korea conducted its fourth hydrogen bomb test last week, and reactions from around the world have ranged from outrage and alarm to dismissiveness.
North Korea's blustering comes as no surprise, but what does the U.S. response mean for geostrategic maneuvering in the Asia-Pacific region.
While the rest of the world remains in the dark about North Korea, China may be the only country with any kind of influence during the current transfer of power.
Though not without its snags, a proposed Russian pipeline would supply South Korea natural gas via North Korea, possibly thawing some of the icy tensions in the region.