North Korea covers the entire northern part of the Korean peninsula. The country is considered one of the last communist bastions on earth. It is governed strictly by dictators and is considered the most restrictive political system of our time.
Geographically, North Korea borders China (North), Russia (Northeast) and South Korea. The western border is the Yellow Sea, the eastern the Japanese Sea. The inner border with South Korea is called the “demilitarized zone”. North and South Korea are divided countries.
Overview of North Korea’s history
The division began after the Second World War with the division of Korea into an American and a Soviet zone. In 1948, two independent states emerged from these zones, the fate of which is reminiscent of divided Germany. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 then sealed the sad division of the Korean peninsula.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its population is isolated from all western influences. The dictatorial state is repeatedly in the public eye because of its nuclear weapons program and military threats (use of nuclear weapons). South Korea does not want to be provoked by the threatening gestures of its communist neighbor.
The defense ministry in Seoul expressed the view in April 2013 that Pyongyang was unable to use nuclear missiles (see source ).
North Korea is accused by supranational organizations of serious human rights violations. Every twentieth citizen of North Korea is a member of the military. The country traditionally maintains friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China, which, however, are also marred by the constant military provocations of North Korea.
North Korea facts and figures
According to findjobdescriptions, the capital of North Korea is Pyongyang, the national language is Korean. The state form of Korea is officially a People’s Republic, but in fact the dictatorship of a family clan consisting of around 200 families. Eternal President is Kim Il-Sung (died July 8, 1994). Supreme leader is his descendant Kim Jong-Un, who is also head of government and chairman of the national defense commission. North Korea’s total area is 120,538 km² and has a population of around 24 million – with an annual increase of around 0.38 percent. The gross domestic product per capita is $ 1,152. The country’s culture is shaped by the glorification of leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Military parades are the order of the day.
Travel information for North Korea
It is not possible for foreign individual tourists to travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Only group trips that are closely monitored by the security service are permitted. All visits are subject to approval. Contacts with locals are not possible. There is only a very simple tourist infrastructure in North Korea. The state tourism organization Ryohaengsa is responsible for the approval of visits. In 2011 around 6,000 western European tourists visited the country. The import of mobile phones is prohibited; they must be handed in on entry.
North Korea’s economy
North Korea is governed by a strictly centralized planned economy that is geared towards self-sufficiency (“Chuch’e ideology”). All industries are state owned. The loss of trading partners in the former communist Eastern bloc has contributed significantly to the collapse of the North Korean economy.
Due to unpaid loans, guarantees from North Korean banks are not recognized internationally, which makes foreign trade difficult. The country’s population relies on food aid from foreign organizations. The United Nations cut its food aid after North Korea refused to end its nuclear weapons program. North Korea does not provide detailed information on its economy.
Kaesong Special Economic Zone
A unique joint project between the two dissimilar brothers exists about ten kilometers from the border with South Korea: 53,000 North Korean workers work for over 100 South Korean companies in the special economic zone in Kaseong. Textiles, household appliances and auto parts are produced there. The industrial complex was established in November 2002. The taxes and license names generated in Kaesong are an important source of income for North Korea. North Korean workers in Kaesong get an average wage of $ 130 a month. In Kaesong there is also a branch of the Japanese supermarket chain “Family Mart.”
The demilitarized zone between North and South Korea
The border town of Panmunjom is only 50 kilometers from South Korea’s capital Seoul. Here the Cold War is really lived. There are military barracks on the border line, inside there are North and South Korean soldiers who are facing each other with a fixed gaze. A horrible sight. You can also visit an infiltration tunnel dug from North Korea to South Korea.
At one lookout point you have a wide view across the border into North Korea. Photography is prohibited at the border and is strictly controlled. Tourists can visit this border region on guided group tours that can be booked in the capital, Seoul.
But the uninhabited zone between the two worlds harbors a real paradise: the no man’s land is an impressive nature reserve, one of the most untouched ecosystems on earth. A unique variety of flora and fauna thrives in this area, untouched by all human hands. The entire area is 250 kilometers long, four kilometers wide and has a total area of 992 km².
Bilateral relations between Germany and North Korea
There have been official political relations between Germany and North Korea since March 2001. Before that, the Federal Republic operated a so-called “liaison office” that emerged from the former embassy of the GDR. After German reunification, this office was continued by the Federal Republic, initially as an advocacy group, with Sweden acting as a protective power. At the same time, North Korea converted its embassy in East Berlin into an “Office for the Protection of the Interests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” under the protective power of the PRC.
Bilateral relations are subject to sanctions from the United Nations and the European Union. Current political relations are shaped by the conflicts between North Korea and the western world, especially the military threats of recent years. North Korea does not contain any development aid from Germany, but humanitarian aid measures and deliveries keep occurring.
Deutsche Welthungerhilfe in particular is active in the north of Korea. There are no visits from government officials or other public figures. An exception was the visit to Germany by the Minister of Sport Pak Myong-Chol, who traveled to Germany in the summer of 2011 to open the Women’s World Cup.
Exchange programs between Germany and North Korea
Koreans are very interested in culture and like classical music and literature. A lecturer from DAAD – the German Academic Exchange Service – works at Pyongyang Kim Il Sung University.
The program led to research stays by North Korean academics in Germany. Due to the sanctions of the UN no engineers and scientists are allowed to travel to Germany.