The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is a sovereign state located in the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. The country has been a separate entity from South Korea since the end of World War II and was brought into existence on 9 September 1948.
Following this independence, North Korea has been ruled by three men of the same family. Kim Il-sung was the country’s first supreme leader and remained in office until his death in 1994. His son, Kim Jong-il, ruled thereafter for 17 years and was succeeded in 2011 by his son, Kim Jong-un.
Today, over 25 million citizens live in North Korea, and between 4,000 and 6,000 tourists visit the country annually on guided tours.
Here are some more interesting facts about North Korea.
North Korea Facts
1. Its leader, Kim Jong-un, is not called the president
Kim Il-sung, who was the first leader of North Korea, was named the Eternal Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea four years after his death. Therefore, the current North Korean leader, Kim Jon-un, does not have the title of president. He does, however, have the following titles: the Supreme Leader of the DPRK, Supreme Commander of the Army, and Chairman of the Workers’ Party.
2. The country has mandatory military service for men and women
North Korea has one of the longest compulsory military service periods in the world, an interesting fact about North Korea. Men over the age of 17 are usually drafted and expected to serve until they are 30. Women, on the other hand, are selectively recruited and serve a much shorter time of only up to age 23.
3. North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world
The country’s military has approximately 1.2 million active personnel, with over 6 million serving as reserve soldiers. The active military personnel represent about 6% of the country’s population.
4. Siebold’s Magnolia is the country’s national flower
Also known as mongnan, mokran, or the Korean Mountain Magnolia, the flower was named in honour of Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German doctor and botanist who was known for his studies of plant- and wildlife. North Korea also has two unofficial national flowers – the Kimilsungia (which is named after former leader Kim Il-sung) and Kimjongilia (named after Kim Jong-il), an interesting North Korea fact.
5. North Korea uses Juche years which is different from the rest of the world’s calendars
The Juche calendar’s timeline aligns with the birth year of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic. His birth year, 1912, is considered as Juche 1 in the country’s calendar. The Juche calendar has been used since 9 September 1997 and the current year, 2020, is Juche 109.
6. The country also follows Juche ideology
Juche, which means “self-reliance”, is the officially followed values and ideas in North Korea. These beliefs, developed by Kim Il-sung, are based on the concept that “man is the master of his own destiny” and that a nation can achieve true socialism by becoming independent and powerful.
7. It is one of the world’s leading seafood exporters
A fun fact about North Korea is that about 60% of North Korea’s exports can be attributed to seafood trade, with China being North Korea’s main trading partner. The country is also one of the top 20 countries exporting fishery products in the world.
8. North Korea’s 1st of May Rungrado Stadium is the biggest of its kind in the world
Situated in Rungra Island, Pyongyang, the stadium was officially opened on 1 May 1989. Rungrado Stadium is considered to be the largest stadium in the world and can accommodate up to 114,000 people. Some of the events taking place here include football matches, sporting events and the Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance Arirang.
9. Its Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang is the tallest unoccupied building in the world
The Ryugyong Hotel was originally planned to be a mixed-use development construction that would include a hotel as well. The construction of the now 105-story building started in 1987 but was stopped in 1992 during the North Korean Famine. Currently, the Guinness World Records has listed Ryugyong Hotel as the tallest unoccupied building in the world, an interesting North Korea fact.
10. North Korea has an average literacy rate of 99%
The country is considered one of the most literate nations in the world and offers free education to its citizens. Children attending school would have 11 years of compulsory education, which includes pre-school (one year), primary school (four years) and secondary school (six years). The learning syllabus includes academic as well as political subjects.
11. It has only four television channels that are all state-owned
All television sets in North Korea make use of the PAL 576i analogue signal transmission system and are only compatible with the PAL system, which means they cannot pick up other signals. The current four channels available to North Korean citizens are Korean Central Television, Mansudae Television, Ryongnamsan Television and Sport Television.
12. Internet access in the country is limited
Global Internet access is mostly reserved for high-level officials and only a small number of monitored computers are available at most North Korean universities. The country does have a national intranet though, which is called Kwangmyong, an interesting fact about North Korea. The content for this is provided by the Korea Computer Centre.
Perhaps one of North Korea’s biggest triumphs is that, despite the impact of outside influences before its independence, it has managed to keep its heritage intact. This includes approximately 190 historical sites and artifacts that are recorded in the National Treasures of North Korea and about 1,800 objects included in a Cultural Assets list.
Its historic sites and monuments in Kaesong, as well as the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites too.
These factors align with Juche ideology to affirm North Korea’s cultural uniqueness, which will no doubt be preserved for generations to come.
I hope that this article on North Korea facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!