North Korea

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Posted by kaori 03/11/2009 @ 03:10

Tags : north korea, asia, world

News headlines
N. Korea Sets Trial Of 2 US Journalists - Washington Post
By Blaine Harden TOKYO, May 14 -- Two American journalists detained in North Korea for nearly two months will be put on trial in early June, the reclusive North Korean government said Thursday. The announcement, coming in the same week as Iran's...
North Korea Indicts US Reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling - AllGov
The two American journalists from Current TV, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were arrested in North Korea on March 17th, are now facing trial in early June. The women have been indicted on charges of illegally entering the country and for committing...
US Envoy Could Make Trip to North Korea - Global Security Newswire
A top Obama administration diplomat today said he intends to look at traveling to North Korea for talks on the isolated nation's controversial nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, May 11). Visiting the North "is something we will be...
Love and Hate for North Korea in Zimbabwe - Daily NK
The delegation, led by Supreme People¡¯s Assembly Chairperson Kim Young Nam and Minister of Trade Ri Ryong Nam, is in Harare for talks with Zimbabwe¡¯s President Robert Mugabe, a long standing North Korean ally. During the meetings between Mugabe and...
N.Korea Cancels Contracts at Joint Industrial Zone - 조선일보(영문판)
North Korea is essentially tearing up the agreements that make the zone run. North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency declared Friday "the nullification of all incumbent regulations and contracts regarding the Kaesong industrial complex....
US indicates willingness to talk to North Korea - CNN
By Charley Keyes WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States on Friday sent another long-range signal to North Korea that it is willing to talk one-on-one if that would restart negotiations on how to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program....
North Korea revokes terms of operation at factory park - Ynetnews
North Korea said on Friday it was cancelling all wage, rent and tax agreements with South Korea at a joint factory park just north of their heavily armed border that has become a focus of friction between the rival states. The notice on the North's...
US journalists face trial in North Korea on June 4 - 한겨레
North Korea has announced plans to hold a trial beginning June 4 for two women journalists from the US currently being detained. “The Central Court of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has decided to try the US journalists on June 4 based on...
Clinton says no concessions to N. Korea to resume talks - WashingtonTV
Washington, 15 May (washingtontv)—US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that Washington would not offer concessions to North Korea, in an effort to secure its return to international talks on its nuclear program....
Clinton Hopeful on Case of American Reporters Held by N.Korea - 조선일보(영문판)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she hopes the June trial date set for two American journalists held by North Korea is a sign they may soon be released. The two young women journalists have been detained since mid-March....

North Korea

Coat of arms of North Korea

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a state in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The border between North Korea and South Korea is called the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The Amnok River is the border between North Korea and China. The Tumen River in the extreme north-east is the border with Russia.

The peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire until it was occupied by Japan following the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It was divided into Russian and U.S. occupied zones in 1945, following World War II. North Korea refused to participate in a United Nations-supervised election held in the south in 1948. This led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones. Both North and South Korea claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula and both were accepted as members of the UN in 1991.

North Korea is a one party state. The country's government styles itself as following the Juche ideology of self-reliance, developed by Kim Il-sung, the country's former leader. Though nominally a socialist republic, it is widely considered by the outside world to be a de facto totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship. The current leader is Kim Jong-il, the late president Kim Il-sung's son.

North Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula, covering an area of 120,540 square kilometres (46,541 sq mi) (roughly the size of the American state Pennsylvania). North Korea shares land borders with People's Republic of China and Russia to the north, and borders South Korea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. To its west are the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay, and to its east lies Japan across the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea). The highest point in North Korea is Paektu-san Mountain at 2,744 metres (9,003 ft). The longest river is the Amnok River which flows for 790 kilometres (491 mi).

North Korea's climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called changma, and winters that can be bitterly cold. On August 7, 2007, the most devastating floods in 40 years caused the North Korean Government to ask for international help. NGOs, such as the Red Cross, asked people to raise funds because they feared a humanitarian catastrophe.

The capital and largest city is Pyongyang; other major cities include Kaesong in the south, Sinuiju in the northwest, Wonsan and Hamhung in the east and Chongjin in the northeast.

North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliant) state with a pronounced cult of personality organized around Kim Il-sung (the founder of North Korea and the country's first and only president) and his son and heir, Kim Jong-il. Following Kim Il-sung's death in 1994, he was not replaced but instead received the designation of "Eternal President", and was entombed in the vast Kumsusan Memorial Palace in central Pyongyang.

Although the active position of president has been abolished in deference to the memory of Kim Il-sung, the de facto head of state is Kim Jong-il, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The legislature of North Korea is the Supreme People's Assembly, currently led by President Kim Yong-nam. The other senior government figure is Premier Kim Yong-il.

North Korea is a single-party state. The governing party is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, a coalition of the Workers' Party of Korea and two other smaller parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party. These parties nominate all candidates for office and hold all seats in the Supreme People's Assembly.

Multiple international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation. North Koreans have been referred to as "some of the world's most brutalized people", due to the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic freedoms. North Korean defectors have testified to the existence of prison and detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates (about 0.85% of the population), and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labour, and forced abortions. There is a national mandated dress code.

The system changed slightly at the end of 1990s, when population growth became very low. In many cases, where capital punishment was de facto, it was replaced by less severe punishments. Bribery became prevalent throughout the country. For example, years ago just listening to South Korean radio could result in capital punishment. However, many North Koreans now illegally wear clothes of South Korean origin, listen to Southern music, watch South Korean videotapes and even receive Southern broadcasts.

Since the ceasefire of the Korean War in 1953 the relations between the North Korean government and South Korea, European Union, Canada, the United States, and Japan have remained tense. Fighting was halted in the ceasefire, but both Koreas are still technically at war. Both North and South Korea signed the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration in 2000, in which both sides made promises to seek out a peaceful reunification. Additionally, on October 4, 2007, the leaders of North and South Korea pledged to hold summit talks to officially declare the war over and reaffirmed the principle of mutual non-aggression.

In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush labelled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" and an "outpost of tyranny". The highest-level contact the government has had with the United States was with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who made a visit to Pyongyang in 2000, but the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. By 2006, approximately 37,000 American soldiers remained in South Korea, with plans to reduce the number to 25,000 by 2008. Kim Jong-il has privately stated his acceptance of U.S. troops on the peninsula, even after a possible reunification. Publicly, North Korea strongly demands the removal of American troops from Korea (see North Korea-United States relations).

North Korea has long maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia. The fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1989, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, resulted in a devastating drop in aid to North Korea from Russia, although China continues to provide substantial assistance. North Korea continues to have strong ties with its socialist southeast Asian allies in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. North Korea has started installing a concrete and barbed wire fence on its northern border, in response to China's wishing to curb refugees fleeing from North Korea. Previously the shared border with China and North Korea had only been lightly patrolled.

As a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the Six-party talks were established to find a peaceful solution to the growing unrest between the two Korean governments, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the United States.

On July 17, 2007, United Nations inspectors verified the shutdown of five North Korean nuclear facilities, according to the February 2007 agreement.

On October 4, 2007, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il signed an 8-point peace agreement, on issues of permanent peace, high-level talks, economic cooperation, renewal of train, highway and air travel, and a joint Olympic cheering squad.

The United States and South Korea had designated the North as a state sponsor of terrorism. The 1983 bombing that killed members of the South Korean government and the 1987 destruction of a South Korean airliner have been attributed to North Korea. The DPRK has also admitted responsibility for the kidnap of 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s: five of whom were returned to Japan in 2002. On October 11, 2008, the United States removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Kim Jong-il is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The Korean People's Army (KPA) is the name for the collective armed personnel of the North Korean military. The army has four branches: Ground Force, Naval Force, Air Force, and the Civil Securities Force.

According to the U.S. Department of State, North Korea has the fourth-largest military in the world, at an estimated 1.21 million armed personnel, with about 20% of men aged 17-54 in the regular armed forces. North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel per capita of any nation in the world, with approximately 40 enlisted soldiers per 1,000 citizens. Military strategy is designed for insertion of agents and sabotage behind enemy lines in wartime, with much of the KPA's forces deployed along the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

On October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. The blast was smaller than expected and U.S. officials suggested that it may have been an unsuccessful test or a partially successful fizzle. North Korea has previously stated that it has produced nuclear weapons and according to U.S. intelligence and military officials it has produced, or has the capability to produce, up to six or seven such devices.

On March 17, 2007, North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks it would begin shut down preparations for its main nuclear facility. This was later confirmed on July 14, 2007 as International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors observed the initial shut-down phases of the currently operating 5 MW Yongbyon nuclear reactor, despite there being no official time line declared. In return, the reclusive nation has received 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil shipped from South Korea. Once the old small nuclear reactor is permanently shut down, North Korea will receive the equivalent of 950,000 tons of fuel oil when the six-nation talks reconvene. Following breakthrough talks held in September 2007, aimed at hastening the end of North Korea's nuclear program, North Korea was to "disable some part of its nuclear facilities" by the end of 2007, according to the US Assistant Secretary of State.

The details of such an agreement are due to be worked out in a session held in the People's Republic of China which will involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. Terms for the agreement have thus far not been disclosed, nor has it been disclosed what offer was made on the United States's part in exchange. North Korea, however, has already been removed from the U.S list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On June 27, 2008, North Korea destroyed a water cooling tower at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon. It has been reported that without the cooling tower, North Korea cannot create plutonium, though The New York Times reported that "the tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild." The implosion is being hailed as a symbolic way of showing that North Korea is committed to ending its nuclear program.

It was reported on January 17, 2009, that North Korea had weaponized around thirty kilograms of plutonium. Also, a U.S. scholar visiting North Korea around that time was informed by Pyongyang that there was enough plutonium to sustain four or five nuclear bombs.

North Korea's isolation policy means that international trade is highly restricted, hampering a significant potential for economic growth. Nonetheless, due to its strategic location in East Asia connecting four major economies and having a cheap, young and skilled workforce, the North Korean economy could grow to 6-7% annually "with the right incentives and reform measures".

Until 1998, the United Nations published HDI and GDP per capita figures for North Korea, which stood at a medium level of human development at 0.766 (ranked 75th) and a GDP per capita of $4,058.

The dominant sector in the North Korean economy is industry (43.1%), followed by services (33.6%) and agriculture (23.6%). Major industries include military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.

North Korea is currently one of the world's top ten producers of fresh fruit and the 15th largest producer of apples in the world. It has substantial natural resources and is the world's 18th largest producer of iron and zinc, having the 22nd largest coal reserves in the world. It is also the 15th largest fluorite producer and 12th largest producer of copper and salt in Asia. Other major natural resources in production include lead, tungsten, graphite, magnesite, gold, pyrites, fluorspar and hydropower.

In the 1990s North Korea faced significant economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, economic mismanagement, serious fertilizer shortages, and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. These resulted in a shortfall of staple grain output of more than 1 million tons from what the country needs to meet internationally-accepted minimum dietary requirements. The North Korean famine known as "Arduous March" resulted in the deaths of between 300,000 and 800,000 North Koreans per year during the three year famine, peaking in 1997, with 2.0 million total being "the highest possible estimate." The deaths were most likely caused by famine-related illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea rather than starvation.

In 2006, Amnesty International reported that a national nutrition survey conducted by the North Korean government, the World Food Programme, and UNICEF found that 7 percent of children were severely malnourished; 37 percent were chronically malnourished; 23.4 percent were underweight; and one in three mothers was malnourished and anaemic as the result of the lingering effect of the famine. The inflation caused by some of the 2002 economic reforms, including the Songun or "Military-first" policy, was cited for creating the increased price of basic foods.

The history of Japanese assistance to North Korea has been marked with unrest; from a large pro-Pyongyang community of North Koreans in Japan to public outrage over the 1998 North Korean missile launch and revelations regarding the abduction of Japanese citizens. In June 1995 an agreement was reached that the two countries would act jointly. South Korea would provide 150,000 MT of grain in unmarked bags, and Japan would provide 150,000 MT gratis and another 150,000 MT on concessional terms. In October 1995 and January 1996, North Korea again approached Japan for assistance. On these two occasions, both of which came at crucial moments in the evolution of the famine, opposition from both South Korea and domestic political sources quashed the deals. Beginning in 1997, the U.S. began shipping food aid to North Korea through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to combat the famine. Shipments peaked in 1999 at nearly 700,000 tons making the U.S. the largest foreign aid donor to the country at the time. Under the Bush Administration, aid was drastically reduced year after year from 350,000 tons in 2001 to 40,000 in 2004. The Bush Administration took criticism for using "food as a weapon" during talks over the North's nuclear weapons program, but insisted the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) criteria were the same for all countries and the situation in North Korea had "improved significantly since its collapse in the mid-1990s." Agricultural production had increased from about 2.7 million metric tons in 1997 to 4.2 million metric tons in 2004.

China and South Korea remain the largest donors of food aid to North Korea. The U.S. objects to this manner of donating food due to lack of oversight. In 2005, China and South Korea combined to provide 1 million tons of food aid, each contributing half. In addition to food aid, China reportedly provides an estimated 80 to 90 percent of North Korea's oil imports at "friendly prices" that are sharply lower than the world market price.

On September 19, 2005, North Korea was promised fuel aid and various other non-food incentives from South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia, and China in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program and rejoining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Providing food in exchange for abandoning weapons programs has historically been avoided by the U.S. so as not to be perceived as "using food as a weapon". Humanitarian aid from North Korea's neighbors has been cut off at times to provoke North Korea to resume boycotted talks, such as South Korea's "postponed consideration" of 500,000 tons of rice for the North in 2006 but the idea of providing food as a clear incentive (as opposed to resuming "general humanitarian aid") has been avoided. There have also been aid disruptions due to widespread theft of railroad cars used by mainland China to deliver food relief.

In July 2002, North Korea started experimenting with capitalism in the Kaesong Industrial Region. A small number of other areas have been designated as Special Administrative Regions, including Sinŭiju along the China-North Korea border. China and South Korea are the biggest trade partners of North Korea, with trade with China increasing 15% to US$1.6 billion in 2005, and trade with South Korea increasing 50% to over 1 billion for the first time in 2005. It is reported that the number of mobile phones in Pyongyang rose from only 3,000 in 2002 to approximately 20,000 during 2004. As of June 2004, however, mobile phones became forbidden again. A small number of capitalistic elements are gradually spreading from the trial area, including a number of advertising billboards along certain highways. Recent visitors have reported that the number of open-air farmers' markets has increased in Kaesong and Pyongyang, as well as along the China-North Korea border, bypassing the food rationing system.

In a 2003 event dubbed the "Pong Su incident", a North Korean cargo ship allegedly attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia was seized by Australian officials, strengthening Australian and United States' suspicions that Pyongyang engages in international drug smuggling. The North Korean government denied any involvement.

Tourism in North Korea is organized by the state owned Tourism Organisation ("Ryohaengsa"). Every group of travelers as well as individual tourist/visitors are permanently accompanied by one or two "guides" who normally speak the mother tongue of the tourist. While tourism has increased over the last few years, tourists from Western countries remain few. The majority of the tourists that do go come from China and Japan. For citizens of the US and South Korea it is practically impossible to obtain a visa for North Korea. Exceptions for US citizens are made for the yearly Arirang Festival.

In the area of the Kŭmgangsan-mountains, the company Hyundai established and operates a special Tourist area. Traveling to this area is also possible for South Koreans and US citizens, but only in organized groups from South Korea. A special administrative region known as the Kŭmgangsan Tourist Region exists for this purpose. This has been cancelled because of a death of a South Korean woman.

The media of North Korea is one of the most strictly controlled in the world. As a result, information is tightly controlled both into and out of North Korea. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press; however, the government prohibits the exercise of these rights in practice. In its 2008 report, Reporters Without Borders classified the media environment in North Korea as 172 out of 173, only above that of Eritrea.

Only news that favors the regime is permitted, whilst news that covers the economic and political problems in the country, or criticisms of the regime from abroad is not allowed. The media upholds the personality cult of Kim Jong-il, regularly reporting on his daily activities.

There is a mix of local built and imported trolleybuses and trams in urban centers in North Korea. Earlier fleets were obtained in Europe and China, but trade embargo has forced North Korea to build their own vehicles. Railways of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Choson Cul Minzuzui Inmingonghoagug is the only rail operator in North Korea. It has a network of 5,200 km of track with 4,500 km in Standard gauge. There is a small narrow gauge railway in operation in Haeju peninsula. The railway fleet consists of a mix of electric and steam locomotives. Cars are mostly made in North Korea using Soviet designs. There are some locomotives from Imperial Japan, the United States and Europe remaining in use.

Water transport on the major rivers and along the coasts plays growing role in freight and passenger traffic. Except for the Yalu and Taedong rivers, most of the inland waterways, totaling 2,253 kilometers, are navigable only by small boats. Coastal traffic is heaviest on the eastern seaboard, whose deeper waters can accommodate larger vessels. The major ports are Nampho on the west coast and Rajin, Chongjin, Wonsan, and Hamhung on the east coast. The country's harbor loading capacity in the 1990s was estimated at almost 35 million tons a year. In the early 1990s, North Korea possessed an oceangoing merchant fleet, largely domestically produced, of sixty-eight ships (of at least 1,000 gross-registered tons), totaling 465,801 gross-registered tons (709,442 metric tons deadweight (DWT)), which includes fifty-eight cargo ships and two tankers. There is a continuing investment in upgrading and expanding port facilities, developing transportation--particularly on the Taedong River--and increasing the share of international cargo by domestic vessels.

North Korea's international air connections are limited. There are regularly scheduled flights from the Sunan International Airport--twenty-four kilometers north of Pyongyang--to Moscow, Khabarovsk, Beijing, Macau, Vladivostok, Bangkok, Shenyang, Shenzhen and charter flights from Sunan to Tokyo as well as to East European countries, the Middle East, and Africa. An agreement to initiate a service between Pyongyang and Tokyo was signed in 1990. Internal flights are available between Pyongyang, Hamhung, Wonsan, and Chongjin. All civil aircraft operated by Air Koryo are thirty-four aircraft in 2008, these were purchased from the Soviet Union and Russia. From 1976 to 1978, four Tu-154 jets were added to the small fleet of propeller-driven An-24s afterwards adding four long range Ilyushin Il-62M, three Ilyushin Il-76MD large cargo aircraft and 2 long range Tupolev Tu-204-300's purchased in 2008.

North Korea's population of roughly 23 million is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous in the world, with very small numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, South Korean, and European expatriate minorities.

According to the CIA World Factbook, North Korea's life expectancy was 72.2 years in 2008, a figure above the world average and higher than its neighbor Russia but slightly below China. Infant mortality stood at 21.86, which is below the world average and lower than more industrialized countries such as Brazil and Romania but slightly higher than China. According to the UNICEF "The State of the world's Children 2003" North Korea appears ranked at the 73rd place, while Brazil and Romania has been ranked at 92nd and 121st place respectly. North Korea's Total fertility rate is relatively low and stood at 2.0 in 2008, comparable to the United States and France. The country maintains a high literacy rate of 99%, comparable to most developed countries.

North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea. There are dialect differences within both Koreas, but the border between North and South does not represent a major linguistic boundary. While prevalent in the South, the adoption of modern terms from foreign languages has been limited in North Korea. Hanja (Chinese characters) are no longer used in North Korea, although still occasionally used in South Korea. Both Koreas share the phonetic writing system called Chosongul in North Korea and Hangul South of the DMZ. The official Romanization differs in the two countries, with North Korea using a slightly modified McCune-Reischauer system, and the South using the Revised Romanization of Korean.

Both Koreas share a Buddhist and Confucian heritage and a recent history of Christian and Cheondoism ("religion of the Heavenly Way") movements. The North Korean constitution states that freedom of religion is permitted. Although North Korea is officially atheist and according to the Western standards of religion - the majority of Korean population could be characterized as irreligious - the cultural influence of such traditional religions as Buddhism and Confucianism still have an effect on North Korean spiritual life.

Nevertheless, Buddhists in North Korea reportedly fared better than other religious groups—particularly Christians, who were said to often face persecution by the authorities, and Buddhists were given limited funding by the government to promote the religion, given that Buddhism played an integral role in traditional Korean culture.

Pyongyang was the center of Christian activity in Korea before the Korean War. Today, four state-sanctioned churches exist, which freedom of religion advocates say are showcases for foreigners. Official government statistics report that there are 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea.

According to a ranking published by Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians in the world. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International also have expressed concerns about religious persecution in North Korea.

Education in North Korea is controlled by the government and is compulsory until the secondary level. Compulsory education lasts eleven years, and encompasses one year of preschool, four years of primary education and six years of secondary education. The North Korean School curricula consists of both academic and political subject matter.

Primary schools are known as people's schools and children attend this school from the age of six to nine. They are later enrolled in either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school, depending on their specialities. They enter secondary school at the age of ten and leave when they are sixteen.

Higher education is not compulsory in North Korea. It is composed of two systems: academic higher education and higher education for continuing education. The academic higher education system includes three kinds of institutions: universities, professional schools, and technical schools. Graduate schools for master and doctoral level studies are attached to universities, and are for students who want to continue their education. There are several universities in North Korea, of which the most famous one is the Kim Il-sung University.

North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world, with a literacy rate of 99% for adults.

Health care and medical treatment is free in North Korea. North Korea spends 3% of its gross domestic product on health care. Its healthcare system has been in a steep decline since the 1990s due to natural disasters, economic problems, and food and energy shortages. Many hospitals and clinics in North Korea lack essential medicines and equipment, running water and electricity.

Almost 100% of the population has access to water and sanitation, but it is not completely potable. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis B are considered to be endemic to the country.

According to 2008 estimates, North Korea had the 117th highest life expectancy of any country in the world, with an average life expectancy of 72.2 years at birth. North Korea has a death rate of 7.29 deaths per 1000 people.

Among other health problems, many North Korean citizens suffer from the after effects of malnutrition, caused by famines related to the failure of its food distribution program and military first policy. A 1998 United Nations (UN) World Food Program report revealed that 60% of children suffered from malnutrition, and 16% percent were acutely malnourished. As a result, those who suffered during the disaster have ongoing health problems.

There is a vast cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and much of North Korea's literature, popular music, theater, and film glorify the two men.

A popular event in North Korea is the Mass Games. The most recent and largest Mass Games was called "Arirang". It was performed six nights a week for two months, and involved over 100,000 performers. Attendees to this event in recent years report that the anti-West sentiments have been toned down compared to previous performances. The Mass Games involve performances of dance, gymnastic, and choreographic routines which celebrate the history of North Korea and the Workers' Party Revolution. The Mass Games are held in Pyongyang at various venues (varying according to the scale of the Games in a particular year) including the May Day Stadium.

Culture is officially protected by the North Korean government. Large buildings committed to culture have been built, such as the People's Palace of Culture or the Grand People's Palace of Studies, both in Pyongyang. Outside the capital, there's a major theatre in Hamhung and in every city there are State-run theatres and stadiums.

Korean culture came under attack during the Japanese rule from 1910-1945. Japan enforced a cultural assimilation policy. Koreans were forced to learn and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system and Shinto religion, and forbidden to write or speak the Korean language in schools, businesses, or public places. In addition, the Japanese altered or destroyed various Korean monuments including Gyeongbok Palace and documents which portrayed the Japanese in a negative light were revised.

In July 2004, the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs became the first site in the country to be included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

Location of North Korea

North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons, and the CIA asserts that it has a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons. North Korea was a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but withdrew in 2003, citing the failure of the United States to fulfill its end of the Agreed Framework, a 1994 agreement between the states to limit North Korea's nuclear ambitions, begin normalization of relations, and help North Korea supply some energy needs through nuclear reactors.

On October 9, 2006, the North Korean government issued an announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test for the first time. Both the United States Geological Survey and Japanese seismological authorities detected an earthquake with a preliminary estimated magnitude of 4.2 on the Richter scale in North Korea, corroborating some aspects of the North Korean claims.

Korea has been a divided country since 1945, when it was liberated from the defeated Japan after World War II. The Korean War was fought from June 25, 1950 until a ceasefire was signed on July 27, 1953. However, since North Korea and South Korea have still not officially made peace, strictly speaking, the war has yet to officially end.

Tensions between North and South have run high on numerous occasions since 1953. The deployment of the U.S. Army's Second Infantry Division on the Korean peninsula and the American military presence at the Korean Demilitarized Zone are publicly regarded by North Korea as an occupying army. In several areas, North Korean and American/South Korean forces operate in extreme proximity to the border, adding to tension. This tension led to the border clash in 1976, which has become known as the Axe Murder Incident.

According to newly declassified documents from the archives of former communist allies of North Korea, Pyongyang first began to pursue nuclear technology as early as 1956, though security concerns in the region and an apparent Soviet dismissal of these concerns in the early 1960s hastened the DPRK’s efforts to acquire the technology to produce nuclear weapons. In the wake of the student-led April 19 movement in 1960 that overthrew Rhee Syngman and the May 16, 1961 military coup d'état that brought General Park Jung-hee to power, North Korea sought an mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union and China.

Yet, Soviet leaders reportedly did not even consider such a pact necessary, despite the military posture of the anti-communist Park Jung-hee regime, as long as the Soviets improved relations with the United States.

Perhaps the two most important factors in North Korea’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and become militarily self-reliant were the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 and the prospect of a US-Japan-ROK alliance following the 1965 establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and Japan. Kim Il Sung reportedly did not trust that the Soviets would live up to the conditions of the mutual defense pact and guarantee North Korea’s security since they betrayed Castro by withdrawing nuclear missiles in an effort improve relations with the United States. Indeed, as a North Korean official explained to Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin in 1965, “the Korean leaders were distrustful of the CPSU and the Soviet government, they could not count on that the Soviet government would keep the obligations related to the defense of Korea it assumed in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, Kim Il said, and therefore they were compelled to keep an army of 700,000 and a police force of 200,000.” In explaining the cause of such mistrust, the official claimed that “the Soviet Union had betrayed Cuba at the time of the Caribbean crisis.” The prospect of a US-Japan-ROK alliance in 1965 further compelled the North Korean leaders to obtain nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Yet, as recently declassified Russian, Hungarian, and East German materials confirm, no communist governments were willing to share the technology with the North Koreans, out of fear that they would share the technology with China.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korean leaders recognized the need for a new security relationship with a major power since Pyongyang could not afford to maintain its military posture. North Korean leaders therefore sought to forge a new relationship with the United States, the only power strong enough to step into the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union. From the early 1990s, throughout the first nuclear crisis, North Korea sought a non-aggression pact with the United States.

The U.S. rejected North Korean calls for bilateral talks concerning a non-aggression pact, and stated that only six-party talks that also include the People's Republic of China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are acceptable. The American stance was that North Korea has violated prior bilateral agreements, thus such forums lacked accountability. Conversely, North Korea refused to speak in the context of six-party talks, stating that it would only accept bilateral talks with the United States. This led to a diplomatic stalemate.

On November 19, 2006 North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper accused South Korea of building up arms in order to attack the country, claiming that "the South Korean military is openly clamoring that the development and introduction of new weapons are to target the North." Pyongyang accused South Korea of conspiring with the United States to attack the isolated and impoverished state, an accusation made frequently by the North and routinely denied by the U.S.

Concern focuses around two reactors at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, both of them small power stations using Magnox techniques. The smaller (5MWe) was completed in 1986 and has since produced possibly 8,000 spent fuel elements. Construction of the 2 larger plants (50MWe in Yongbyon, and 200MWe in Taechong) commenced in 1984 but construction was frozen 1994 in accord with the Agreed Framework. It has also been suggested that small amounts of plutonium could have been produced in a Russian-supplied IRT-2000 heavy water–moderated research reactor completed in 1967, but there are no recorded safeguards violations with respect to this plant.

On March 12, 1993, North Korea said that it planned to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and refused to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites. By 1994, the United States believed that North Korea had enough reprocessed plutonium to produce about 10 bombs with the amount of plutonium increasing. Faced with diplomatic pressure and the threat of American military air strikes against the reactor, North Korea agreed to dismantle its plutonium program as part of the Agreed Framework in which South Korea and the United States would provide North Korea with light water reactors and fuel oil until those reactors could be completed. Because the light water reactors would require enriched uranium to be imported from outside North Korea, the amount of reactor fuel and waste could be more easily tracked, making it more difficult to divert nuclear waste to be reprocessed into plutonium. However, with bureaucratic red tape and political obstacles from the North Korea, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), established to advance the implementation of the Agreed Framework, had failed to build the promised light water reactors because the United States failed to uphold their end of the agreement by providing energy aid, and in late 2002, North Korea returned to using its old reactors.

With the abandonment of its plutonium program, U.S. officials claimed North Korea began an enriched uranium program. Pakistan, through Abdul Qadeer Khan, supplied key technology and information to North Korea in exchange for missile technology around 1997, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf acknowledged in 2005 that Khan had provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea. On May 30, 2008, ABC News reported that Khan, who previously confessed to his involvement with Iran and North Korea, now denies involvement with the spread of nuclear arms to those countries. He claimed in an interview with ABC News that the Pakistani government and President Pervez Musharraf forced him to be a "scapegoat" for the "national interest." He also denied ever traveling to Iran or Libya, and claimed that North Korea's nuclear program was well advanced before his visit.

This program was publicized in October 2002 when the United States asked North Korean officials about the program. Under the Agreed Framework North Korea explicitly agreed to freeze plutonium programs (specifically, its "graphite moderated reactors and related facilities." The agreement also committed North Korea to implement the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which both Koreas committed not to have enrichment or reprocessing facilities. The United States argued North Korea violated its commitment not to have enrichment facilities.

In December 2002, the United States persuaded the KEDO Board to suspend fuel oil shipments, which led to the end of the Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by announcing plans to reactivate a dormant nuclear fuel processing program and power plant north of Pyongyang. North Korea soon thereafter expelled United Nations inspectors and withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 2007 reports emanating from Washington suggested that the 2002 CIA reports that North Korea was developing uranium enrichment technology had overstated or misread the intelligence. U.S. officials were no longer making this a major issue in the six-party talks.

Even though U.S. President George W. Bush had named North Korea as part of an "Axis of Evil" following the September 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. officials stated that the United States was not planning any immediate military action.

American ire at North Korea is further inflamed by allegations of state-sponsored drug smuggling, money laundering, and wide scale counterfeiting.

Diplomatic efforts at resolving the North Korean situation are complicated by the different goals and interests of the nations of the region. While none of the parties desire a North Korea with nuclear weapons, Japan and South Korea are especially concerned about North Korean counter-strikes following possible military action against North Korea. The People's Republic of China and South Korea are also very worried about the economic and social consequences should this situation cause the North Korean government to collapse.

In early 2000 the Zurich-based company ABB was awarded the contract to provide the design and key components for two light-water nuclear reactors to North Korea.

Former South Korean Government sources, as well as some scholars and analysts, have argued that North Korea is using nuclear weapons primarily as a political tool to begin re-establishing normal relations with the U.S., Japan and South Korea, and to end the long-standing economic embargo against North Korea. They point out that the threat of nuclear weapons is the only thing that has brought the U.S., Japan and South Korea into serious negotiations. In a lecture in 1993, Bruce Cumings asserted that based on information gathered by the CIA, the activity around the Yongbyon facility may have been done expressly to draw the attention of U.S. satellites. He also pointed out that the CIA had not claimed North Korea had nuclear weapons, but that they had enough material to create such weapons should they choose to do so.

Further to this argument is the observation that many parties have a vested interest in the claim that North Korea has nuclear weapons. For North Korea, it has been a bargaining tool for opening diplomatic discussions. The nuclear development programme can be manipulated in exchange for foreign aid. Nuclear posturing has also been seen as a threat that could force the re-unification of the Korean peninsula. The Grand National Party, currently the ruling party in South Korea, have stated that they will not return to the Sunshine policy before North Korea gives up their nuclear weapons. South Korean newspapers have warned that North Korea's nuclear arsenal could destroy South Korea's conventional forces, and that the strategic military balance has irrevocably shifted in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test. Finally, the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea has fed South Korea's perceived need for a larger standing army and defence force.

Because it is impossible to be certain of shooting down 100% of incoming ballistic missile warheads, it is preferable to ensure that the weapons cannot be manufactured in the first place. A surgical strike on the reactor generating nuclear weapons material, such as that carried out by the Israelis on the Iraqi reactor complex at Osirak (Operation Opera), may prevent later nuclear attacks, though at the risk of the action being seen as an act of war and retaliated against (albeit with conventional weaponry). Perhaps because of this, both the Clinton and Bush administrations rejected any pre-emptive surgical strike option. Other avenues leading to the same result have failed: during the 2006 negotiations, North Korea rejected the suggestion that it demolish its two larger reactors. Additionally, American interest in the region has waned. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration in the United States has made terrorism the central focus of its foreign policy. Although the U.S. maintains a force of 28,500 troops in South Korea (the second largest in East Asia), it is likely that that deployment would be considerably decreased if the political situation changed significantly in Korea, something expected to negatively affect the U.S. sphere of influence in the region.

On March 17, 2007, North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks that it is preparing to shut down its main nuclear facility. The agreement was reached following a series of six-party talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the U.S, begun in 2003. According to the agreement, a list of its nuclear programs will be submitted and the nuclear facility will be disabled in exchange for fuel aid and normalization talks with the U.S. and Japan. This had been delayed from April due to a dispute with the United States over Banco Delta Asia, but on July 14, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors confirm the shutdown of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

North Korea’s ability to fulfil its own energy needs has been deteriorating since the 1990s. Although North Korea's indigenous nuclear power-generating capacity is essentially insignificant, the two light-water moderated plants, if built, would be an important source of electricity in a nation with scant resources. Donald Rumsfeld demonstrated the severe lack of electricity for the entire nation in a photograph released in October 2006.

During 2008 tensions resurfaced between North Korea and the U.S. due to disagreements over the six-party talks disarmament process. On October 8, 2008, IAEA inspectors were forbidden by the North Korean government to conduct further inspections of the site. However two days later the U.S. removed North Korea from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the Yongbyon deactivation process is expected to resume.

North Korea acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention in 1987, and the Geneva Protocol on January 4, 1989, but has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country is believed to possess a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons. It reportedly acquired the technology necessary to produce tabun and mustard gas as early as the 1950s, and now possesses a full arsenal of nerve agents and other advanced varieties, with the means to launch them in artillery shells. North Korea has expended considerable resources on equipping its army with chemical-protection equipment. South Korea, however, has not felt the need to take such measures.

North Korea's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction to a hypothetical target is somewhat limited by its missile technology. As of 2005, North Korea's total range with its No Dong missiles is 1,300 km, enough to reach South Korea, Japan, and parts of Russia, and China, but not the mainland United States or Europe--although they could potentially reach US islands in the Pacific Ocean such as the Northern Mariana Islands and possibly even the state of Hawaii.

It is not known if this missile is actually capable of carrying the nuclear weapons North Korea has so far developed. The BM-25 is a North Korean designed long-range ballistic missile with range capabilities of up to 1,550 miles (roughly 2,500 km), and could carry a nuclear warhead. North Korea has also developed the Taepodong-1 missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, but it is not yet in full deployment. With the development of the Taepodong-2 missile, with an expected range of 5,000-6,000 km, North Korea could hypothetically deliver a warhead to almost all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the western side of North America.

The Taepodong- 2 missile was tested on July 4, 2005, unsuccessfully. U.S. intelligence estimates that the weapon will not be operational for another 11 years. The Taepodong- 2 could theoretically hit the western United States and other US interests in the Western hemisphere. The current model of the Taepodong- 2 could not carry nuclear warheads to the United States. Former CIA director George Tenet has claimed that, with a light payload, Taepodong-2 could reach western parts of Continental United States, though with low accuracy.

There is also the possibility of nuclear terrorism, that is asymmetrical delivery of nuclear weapons (e.g. by smuggling by a civilian cargo ship/plane, or on a boat).

In 2007 North Korea's Taepodong-X Mobile Ballistic Missile was deployed. This missile's design is based on the USSR's submarine launched R-27, and the estimated Range is 3000-4000km. It is indicated that North Korea's is developing a mobile ICBM to prevent a successful first strike.

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Human rights in North Korea

Coat of Arms of North Korea.svg

The human rights record of North Korea is extremely difficult to fully assess due to the secretive and closed nature of the country. The North Korean government makes it very difficult for foreigners to enter the country and strictly monitors their activities when they do. Aid workers are subject to considerable scrutiny and excluded from places and regions the government does not wish them to enter. Since citizens cannot freely leave the country, it is mainly from stories of refugees and defectors that the nation's human rights record has been constructed. The government's position, expressed through the Korean Central News Agency, is that North Korea has no human rights issue, because its socialist system was chosen by the people and serves them faithfully.

While it is difficult to piece together a clear picture of the situation within the country, it is overwhelmingly clear that the government of North Korea controls virtually all activities within the nation. Citizens are not allowed to freely speak their minds and the government detains those who criticize the regime. The only radio, television, and news organizations that are deemed legal are those operated by the government. The media, as with Kim Il-sung universally praise the administration of Kim Jong-Il, who remains the unelected leader of the country.

A number of human rights organizations and governments have condemned North Korea's human rights record, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, who passed a General Assembly resolution in 2008. In its 2006 country report on North Korea, Freedom House stated that, "North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship and one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Every aspect of social, political, and economic life is tightly controlled by the state. The regime denies North Koreans all basic rights, subjects tens of thousands of political prisoners to brutal conditions, and maintains a largely isolationist foreign policy." North Korea received Freedom House's lowest ratings in both civil liberties and political rights, categorizing it as "Not Free". In 2004, the United States passed the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which censured North Korea and outlined steps the United States should take to ostensibly promote democracy and freedom in North Korea. With the exception of the international abductions issue regarding Japanese, Americans, and South Koreans, which it says has been fully resolved, North Korea strongly denies all reports of human rights violations and accuses the defectors of lying and promoting a pro-US agenda.

The constitution has clauses guaranteeing the freedoms of speech and assembly. In practice other clauses take precedence, including the requirement that citizens follow a socialist way of life. Criticism of the government and its leaders is strictly curtailed and making such statements can be cause for arrest and consignment to one of North Korea's "re-education" camps. The government distributes all radio and television sets; citizens are forbidden to alter them to make it possible to receive broadcasts from other nations, and doing so carries draconian penalties.

There are numerous civic organizations but all of them appear to be operated by the government. All routinely praise the government and perpetuate the personality cults of Kim Jong-il and his deceased father Kim Il-sung. Defectors indicate that the promotion of the cult of personality is one of the primary functions of almost all films, plays, and books produced within the country.

Though the government estimates that there are 10,000 Protestants, 100,000 Buddhists, and 4,000 Catholics worshipping at 500 churches, it is unknown if there are any Catholic priests in the country and some reports indicate that the religious organizations that do exist are primarily meant to facilitate interaction with other nations. It is known that in China near the border with North Korea, a number of Christian organizations have been active, helping refugees and, by many reports, smuggling in Bibles and other religious material.

The government was concerned that faith-based South Korean relief and refugee assistance efforts along the northeast border of China had both humanitarian and political goals, including overthrow of the regime. Defectors cite instances of execution of individuals involved with the Bible smuggling. It is also claimed that North Korean refugees who convert to Christianity in China, and then are later forcibly repatriated into North Korea by Chinese authorities, are routinely sent to prison camps or executed.

There are actually four churches in Pyongyang—two Christian protestant churches, a Catholic church, and a Russian Orthodox church. However, it has been claimed by high-profile North Korean defectors that these churches are façades filled with government workers, and used to convince foreign aid workers and tourists in Pyongyang that North Korea is a free society.

Usually citizens cannot freely travel around the country or go abroad. Only the political elite may own vehicles and the government limits access to fuel and other forms of transportation. (Satellite photos of North Korea show an almost complete lack of vehicles on the roads.) Forced resettlement of citizens and families, especially as punishment for political reasons, is said to be routine.

Only the most politically reliable and healthiest citizens are allowed to live in Pyongyang. Those who are suspected of sedition, or have family members suspected of it, are removed from the city; similar conditions affect those who are physically or mentally disabled in some way. This can be a significant method of coercion as food and housing are said to be much better in the capital city.

North Korea is currently second to last (in front of Eritrea) on the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. The constitution of North Korea provides for freedom of the press, however in practice all media is strictly controlled by the government. The national media dedicates a large portion of its resources toward political propaganda and promoting the personality cult of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. In addition, the media is said to make false claims, and the use of the United States as a scapegoat is common. For instance, the North Korean media claims that the United States started the Korean War, which Soviet archives show to have started with a premeditated invasion from the north.

Radio or television sets which can be bought in North Korea are pre-set to receive only the government frequencies and sealed with a label to prevent tampering with the equipment. It is a serious criminal offense to manipulate the sets and receive radio or television broadcasts from outside North Korea. In a party campaign in 2003 the head of each party cell in neighbourhoods and villages received instructions to verify the seals on all radio sets.

As North and South Korea use different television systems (PAL and NTSC respectively), it is not possible to view broadcasts across the border between the two countries; however, in areas bordering China, it has reportedly been possible to receive television from that country.

North Korea's population is one of the world's most ethnically homogenous and today immigration is almost non-existent. Among the few immigrants that have willingly gone to North Korea are Japanese spouses (generally wives) of Koreans who returned from Japan from 1955 to the early 1980s. These Japanese have been forced to assimilate and for the most part, the returnees overall are reported to have not been fully accepted into North Korean society (with a few exceptions, such as those who became part of the government) and instead ended up on the fringes, including concentration camps mentioned below. Foreigners who visit the country are generally strictly monitored and forbidden to enter certain locations.

On March 22, 2006, the Associated Press reported from South Korea that a North Korean doctor who defected, Ri Kwang-chol, has claimed that babies born with physical defects are rapidly put to death and buried. A United Nations report also mentions how disabled people are allegedly "rounded up" and sent to "special camps." People diagnosed with autism and other related disorders are often persecuted.

The state forcibly drafts girls as young as 14 years to work in the so-called kippŭmjo that includes prostitution teams. The source used is unclear as to whether only adult kippŭmjo are assigned to prostitution or whether there is prostitution of children – other kippŭmjo activities are massaging and half-naked singing and dancing. Many are “ordered to marry guards of Kim Jong-il or national heroes” when they are 25 years old.

The DPRK resumed public executions in October 2007 after they had declined in the years following 2000 amidst international criticism. Prominent executed criminals include officials convicted of drug trafficking and embezzlement.

A South Pyongan province factory chief convicted of making international phone calls from 13 phones he installed in his factory basement was executed by firing squad in front of a crowd of 150,000 people in a stadium. In another instance, 15 people were publicly executed for crossing into China.

Reports from the aid agency "Good Friends" also said that six were killed in the crush as spectators left.

A U.N. General Assembly committee has adopted a draft resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 countries, expressing "very serious concern" at reports of widespread human rights violations in North Korea, including public executions. The DPRK has condemned the draft, saying it was inaccurate and biased, but it was still sent to the 192-member General Assembly for a final vote.

The administration of Kim Jong-il maintains that it does not do any of these things. Many refugees have come forward and recounted stories which describe conditions within the country. The government is accused of employing political prison camps, believed to hold as many as 200,000 inmates, including children whose only crime is having "class enemies" for relatives. There have been widespread reports from North Korean refugees of forced abortion, infanticide, and famine in these prison camps. Extreme physical abuse is common (beatings often result in death).

In 2002, a former party official named Lee Soon Ok gave testimony before a committee of the United States House of Representatives on her own treatment within North Korea's criminal system. She reported extensive torture, including the loss of eight teeth and permanent facial paralysis. She also reported that she was tried in a "kangaroo court" and sentenced to 13 years in a prison camp. She received unusually light treatment because of her background as an accountant. According to her statement, "I testify that most of the 6,000 prisoners who were there when I arrived in 1987 had quietly perished under the harsh prison conditions by the time I was released in 1992." She reported numerous tortures and deaths of individuals in her camp, including the killing of the babies and unborn children of women in the camp upon their arrival. Her testimony is consistent with many other reports.

A 2004 BBC documentary also reported that in one of these camps, North Korea tests chemical weapons on prisoners in a gas chamber. Life in the camps has been covered in several other documentaries, such as The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan.

North Korean propaganda tactics heavily glorify Kim Jong Il and his father, who are referred to as the "Dear Leader" and "The Sunshine Of The 21st Century" respectively. Also many of the North Koreans believe that Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il "created the world" and can "control the weather". Following the death of Kim Il-Sung, Koreans fell to the ground crying and clung to a bronze statue of him in an organized event.

In the aftermath of the Korean War and throughout the 1960s and '70s, the country's state-controlled economy grew at a significant rate and, until the late 1970s, was considered to be stronger than that of the South. The country struggled into the 1990s, primarily due to the loss of strategic trade arrangements with the USSR and strained relations with China - following China's normalization with South Korea in 1992. In addition, North Korea experienced record-breaking floods (1995 and 1996) followed by several years of equally severe drought beginning in 1997. This, compounded with only 18 percent arable land and an inability to import the goods necessary to sustain industry, led to an immense famine and left North Korea in economic shambles. The famine resulted in the death of around 600,000 people.

By 1999, food and development aid reduced famine deaths. In the spring of 2005, the World Food Program reported that famine conditions were in imminent danger of returning to North Korea, and the government was reported to have ordered millions of city-dwellers to the countryside to perform farm labour. In 2005, the agricultural situation showed signs of improvement, rising 5.3% to 4.54 million tons; this was largely the result of increased donations of fertilizers from South Korea. However, the World Food Program stated that this was short of the estimated 6 million tons necessary to adequately feed the population. Nevertheless, North Korea called for food aid to cease, and shipments of food to the country ended on December 31 of that year. In the same period, news sources reported that North Korea continued to raise food prices while reducing food rations.

North Korea's society is highly stratified by class, according to a citizen's family and political background. Refugees International, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Amnesty International have all accused North Korea of discriminating against those in "hostile" classes in the distribution of basic necessities, including food. In some "closed" areas that contained a higher concentration of "hostile" class members, the government appears to have prevented the delivery of significant amounts of food aid.

North Korea maintains a massive military machine and supports an extravagant lifestyle for its leader, Kim Jong-Il. Before the cessation of food shipments at the end of 2005, the World Food Program sought $200 million in emergency food aid for North Korea, an increase from its 2004 request of $171 million. By comparison, its 2002 defense budget was $5.2 billion according to the CIA World Factbook.

In the decades after the Korean War there were reports that North Korea had abducted many foreign nationals, mainly South Koreans and Japanese. For years these were dismissed as conspiracy theories even by many of the regime's critics; however, in September 2002, Kim Jong-Il acknowledged the involvement of North Korean "special institutions" in the kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the late 1970s and early 1980s to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He stated that those responsible had been punished. Five surviving victims were allowed to visit Japan and decided not to return to North Korea. For eight more Japanese abductees, officials claimed deaths caused by accidents or illnesses; Japan says this leaves two still unaccounted for, and says that what the North claimed were the ashes of Megumi Yokota were not hers. In addition, information from American deserter Charles Robert Jenkins indicates that North Korea kidnapped a Thai woman in 1978.

Despite the admission to Prime Minister Koizumi, the North Korean government continues to deny the kidnappings of other foreign nationals and refuses any cooperation to investigate further cases of suspected abductions. However, officials of the South Korean government claim that 486 South Koreans, mostly fishermen, are believed to have been abducted since the end of the Korean War. Advocates and family members have accused the government of doing little or nothing to gain their freedom.

Numerous countries and multilateral organizations have criticized North Korea for its human rights abuses. In each November since 2005, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee has condemned North Korea for its conduct.

The U.S. and Japan have passed laws and created envoys to focus attention to this issue. The U.S. initially passed the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 in October of that year, and reauthorized the law in 2008. It created an office at the State Department focused on North Korean human rights, run originally by Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz and Deputy Special Envoy Christian Whiton.

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Source : Wikipedia