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Facts on North Korea

One of the world's most secretive nations

South Korea
North Korea

(CNN) -- North Korea is one of the world's most authoritarian and secretive nations, with an economy in dire straits after decades of mismanagement.

Following World War II, the Korean peninsula was split, with the north coming under Communist domination and the south portion eyeing Western ways.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was established as an authoritarian socialist government in 1948.

Kim Jong Il has led North Korea since 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, the country's first leader.

The North relies heavily on international aid to feed its people and fuel resources for its one million-man army.


The Supreme People's Assembly serves as the country's legislative branch and the Central Court serves as the judicial branch.

The Korean Workers' Party controls the country.

North Korea has a permanent mission to the United Nations, but no diplomatic representation in the United States.


Population: 22.5 million (July 2003 estimate)

Capital: Pyongyang

Major language: Korean

Ethnic groups: Racially homogenous although there is a small Chinese community and some ethnic Japanese.

Life expectancy: 70.79 years

Religious groups: Traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way).

GDP: $22.26 billion (2002 estimate)

Natural resources include coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, and hydropower.


The Korean People's Army encompasses the army, navy and air force and has 1.08 million active personnel and 4.7 million in reserves.

Military expenditures account for 31.3 percent of GDP expenditures, making North Korea --- dollar for dollar --- the world's most militaristic state.

Nearly one out of every four citizens serves in some military capacity.

North Korea is said to have an extensive chemical weapons program. A report by the Federation of American Scientists says that North Korea has chemical stockpiles of at least 180-250 tons of reserve-weaponized agents.

North Korea also reportedly has a biological weapons program based at the National Defense Research Institute and Medical Academy. This program is not as extensive as the chemical weapons program.

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