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East & Southeast Asia :: Korea, North
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Korea, North
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Location of Korea, North
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Introduction ::Korea, North
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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'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. 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 nuclear weapons test in 2006 and 2009, and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community.
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Geography ::Korea, North
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Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea
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40 00 N, 127 00 E
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total: 120,538 sq km
country comparison to the world: 98
land: 120,408 sq km
water: 130 sq km
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slightly smaller than Mississippi
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total: 1,673 km
border countries: China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 19 km
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2,495 km
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territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned
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temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer
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mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east
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lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m
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coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower
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arable land: 22.4%
permanent crops: 1.66%
other: 75.94% (2005)
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14,600 sq km (2003)
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77.1 cu km (1999)
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total: 9.02 cu km/yr (20%/25%/55%)
per capita: 401 cu m/yr (2000)
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late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall
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water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
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party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
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strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
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People ::Korea, North
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22,665,345 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
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0-14 years: 21.3% (male 2,440,439/female 2,376,557)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 7,776,889/female 7,945,399)
65 years and over: 9.4% (male 820,504/female 1,305,557) (2009 est.)
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total: 33.5 years
male: 32.1 years
female: 34.9 years (2009 est.)
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0.42% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160
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14.82 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 141
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10.52 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 56
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-0.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
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urban population: 63% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.9% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
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total: 51.34 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 49
male: 58.64 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 43.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
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total population: 63.81 years
country comparison to the world: 170
male: 61.23 years
female: 66.53 years (2009 est.)
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1.96 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 136
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NA
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NA
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NA
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noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
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racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
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traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
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Korean
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%
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NA
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Government ::Korea, North
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conventional long form: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
conventional short form: North Korea
local long form: Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk
local short form: Choson
abbreviation: DPRK
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Communist state one-man dictatorship
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name: Pyongyang
geographic coordinates: 39 01 N, 125 45 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 2 municipalities (si, singular and plural)
provinces: Chagang-do (Chagang), Hamgyong-bukto (North Hamgyong), Hamgyong-namdo (South Hamgyong), Hwanghae-bukto (North Hwanghae), Hwanghae-namdo (South Hwanghae), Kangwon-do (Kangwon), P'yongan-bukto (North P'yongan), P'yongan-namdo (South P'yongan), Yanggang-do (Yanggang)
municipalities: Nason-si, P'yongyang-si
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15 August 1945 (from Japan)
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Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)
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adopted 1948; revised several times
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based on Prussian civil law system with Japanese influences and Communist legal theory; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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17 years of age; universal
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chief of state: KIM Jong Il (since July 1994); note - on 9 April 2009, rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) reelected KIM Jong Il chairman of the National Defense Commission, a position accorded nation's "highest administrative authority"; SPA reelected KIM Yong Nam in 2003 president of its Presidium also with responsibility of representing state and receiving diplomatic credentials
head of government: Premier KIM Yong Il (since 11 April 2007); Vice Premier KWAK Pom Gi (since 5 September 1998), Vice Premier O Su Yong (since 13 April 2009), Vice Premier PAK Su Gil (since 18 September 2009), Vice Premier PAK Myong Su (since 4 September 2009), Vice Premier RO Tu Chol (since 3 September 2003)
cabinet: Naegak (cabinet) members, except for Minister of People's Armed Forces, are appointed by SPA
elections: last held in September 2003; date of next election NA
election results: KIM Jong Il and KIM Yong Nam were only nominees for positions and ran unopposed
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unicameral Supreme People's Assembly or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui (687 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 8 March 2009 (next due to be held in March 2014)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; a token number of seats are reserved for minor parties
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Central Court (judges are elected by the Supreme People's Assembly)
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major party - Korean Workers' Party or KWP [KIM Jong Il]; minor parties - Chondoist Chongu Party [RYU Mi Yong] (under KWP control), Social Democratic Party [KIM Yong Dae] (under KWP control)
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none
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ARF, FAO, G-77, ICAO, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, IMO, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, NAM, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
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none; North Korea has a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York
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none; note - Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents the US as consular protecting power
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three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in white; on the hoist side of the red band is a white disk with a red five-pointed star
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Economy ::Korea, North
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North Korea, one of the world's most centrally directed and least open economies, faces chronic economic problems. Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts. Large-scale military spending draws off resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. Industrial and power output have declined in parallel from pre-1990 levels. Severe flooding in the summer of 2007 aggravated chronic food shortages caused by on-going systemic problems including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, and persistent shortages of tractors and fuel. Large-scale international food aid deliveries have allowed the people of North Korea to escape widespread starvation since famine threatened in 1995, but the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions. Since 2002, the government has allowed private "farmers' markets" to begin selling a wider range of goods. It also permitted some private farming - on an experimental basis - in an effort to boost agricultural output. In October 2005, the government tried to reverse some of these policies by forbidding private sales of grains and reinstituting a centralized food rationing system. By December 2005, the government terminated most international humanitarian assistance operations in North Korea (calling instead for developmental assistance only) and restricted the activities of remaining international and non-governmental aid organizations such as the World Food Program. External food aid now comes primarily from China and South Korea in the form of grants and long-term concessional loans. In May 2008, the US agreed to give 500,000 metric tons of food to North Korea via the World Food Program and US nongovernmental organizations; Pyongyang began receiving these shipments in mid-2008. During the October 2007 summit, South Korea also agreed to develop some of North Korea's infrastructure, natural resources, and light industry, but inter-Korean economic cooperation slowed in 2008 as Pyongyang restricted tourism and manufacturing joint ventures in the North, and food aid from South Korea was suspended. Firm political control remains the Communist government's overriding concern, which will likely inhibit the loosening of economic regulations.
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$40 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
note: (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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$26.2 billion (2008 est.)
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3.7% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
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$1,800 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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agriculture: 23.3%
industry: 43.1%
services: 33.6% (2002 est.)
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24.33 million
country comparison to the world: 25
note: estimates vary widely (2007 est.)
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agriculture: 37%
industry and services: 63% (2004 est.)
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NA%
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NA%
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
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revenues: $2.88 billion
expenditures: $2.98 billion (2005)
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NA%
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rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, pulses; cattle, pigs, pork, eggs
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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
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NA%
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20.9 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 71
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17.49 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 70
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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120.7 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
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16,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
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0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
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13,890 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
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0 bbl
country comparison to the world: 192
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 173
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169
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0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 82
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
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0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163
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$1.684 billion (2007)
country comparison to the world: 136
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minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products
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South Korea 45%, China 35%, India 5% (2007 est.)
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$3.055 billion (2007)
country comparison to the world: 139
$2.879 billion (2006)
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petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain
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China 46%, South Korea 34%, Thailand 6%, Russia 4% (2007 est.)
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$12.5 billion (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
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North Korean won (KPW) per US dollar - 140 (2007), 141 (2006), 170 (December 2004), market rate: North Korean won per US dollar - 3,400 (October 2008)
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Communications ::Korea, North
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1.18 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 71
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general assessment: inadequate system; currently mobile cellular telephone services are available in Pyongyang only
domestic: fiber-optic links installed between cities; telephone directories unavailable; mobile cellular service, initiated in 2002, suspended in 2004; Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company, launched mobile service on December 15, 2008 for the Pyongyang area only
international: country code - 850; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intelsat - Indian Ocean, 1 Russian - Indian Ocean region); other international connections through Moscow and Beijing (2008)
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AM 17 (including 11 stations of Korean Central Broadcasting Station; North Korea has a "national intercom" cable radio station wired throughout the country that is a significant source of information for the average North Korean citizen; it is wired into most residences and workplaces and carries news and commentary), FM 14, shortwave 14 (2006)
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4 (includes Korean Central Television, Mansudae Television, Korean Educational and Cultural Network, and Kaesong Television targeting South Korea) (2003)
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.kp
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3 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 227
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Transportation ::Korea, North
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79 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 70
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total: 37
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 22
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 4 (2009)
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total: 42
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 14
under 914 m: 8 (2009)
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22 (2009)
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oil 154 km (2008)
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total: 5,235 km
country comparison to the world: 34
standard gauge: 5,235 km 1.435-m gauge (3,500 km electrified) (2006)
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total: 25,554 km
country comparison to the world: 104
paved: 724 km
unpaved: 24,830 km (2006)
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2,250 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 39
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total: 167
country comparison to the world: 39
by type: bulk carrier 11, cargo 121, carrier 1, chemical tanker 4, container 3, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 19, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 19 (Egypt 1, Greece 1, Lebanon 1, Lithuania 1, Romania 4, Syria 1, UAE 8, Yemen 2)
registered in other countries: 2 (Mongolia 1, Panama 1) (2008)
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Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam (Hamhung), Kimch'aek, Kosong, Najin, Namp'o, Sinuiju, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Ungsang, Wonsan
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Military ::Korea, North
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North Korean People's Army: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force; civil security forces (2005)
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17 years of age (2004)
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males age 16-49: 6,225,747
females age 16-49: 6,188,270 (2008 est.)
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males age 16-49: 4,104,964
females age 16-49: 4,492,374 (2009 est.)
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male: 191,759
female: 184,641 (2009 est.)
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NA
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Transnational Issues ::Korea, North
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risking arrest, imprisonment, and deportation, tens of thousands of North Koreans cross into China to escape famine, economic privation, and political oppression; North Korea and China dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in Yalu and Tumen rivers; Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents in the Yellow Sea with South Korea which claims the Northern Limiting Line as a maritime boundary; North Korea supports South Korea in rejecting Japan's claim to Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima)
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IDPs: undetermined (flooding in mid-2007 and famine during mid-1990s) (2007)
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current situation: North Korea is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation; the most common form of trafficking involves North Korean women and girls who cross the border into China voluntarily; additionally, North Korean women and girls are lured out of North Korea to escape poor social and economic conditions by the promise of food, jobs, and freedom, only to be forced into prostitution, marriage, or exploitative labor arrangements once in China
tier rating: Tier 3 - North Korea does not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government does not acknowledge the existence of human rights abuses in the country or recognize trafficking, either within the country or transnationally; North Korea has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008)
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for years, from the 1970s into the 2000s, citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea (DPRK), many of them diplomatic employees of the government, were apprehended abroad while trafficking in narcotics, including two in Turkey in December 2004; police investigations in Taiwan and Japan in recent years have linked North Korea to large illicit shipments of heroin and methamphetamine, including an attempt by the North Korean merchant ship Pong Su to deliver 150 kg of heroin to Australia in April 2003
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