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Geography of North Korea

Learn all about the East Asian Country of North Korea


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il

In this frame grab made off undated North Korea's Korean Central Television (KCTV) footage aired on October 11, 2008 North Korean leader Kim Jong Il claps as he inspects a female military unit in North Korea.

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Updated December 16, 2010

Population: 22,757,275 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Pyongyang
Area: 46,540 square miles (120,538 sq km)
Bordering Countries: China, Russia and South Korea
Coastline: 1,550 miles (2,495 km)
Highest Point: Paektu-san at 9,002 feet (2,744 m)

North Korea is a country located in eastern Asian on the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. In November 2010, North Korea made international news after it attacked South Korea.

History of North Korea

It is believed that the Korean Peninsula was first inhabited by migrants from northwestern Asia. In the first century B.C.E., the area was divided into the Shilla Koguryo and Paekche kingdoms and in 668 C.E., the Shilla brought the Korean Peninsula together. In 935 C.E. the Koryo dynasty succeeded the Shilla. In 1392, the Choson dynasty took over the area and remained in control until 1910 when the Japanese annexed the Korean Peninsula.

Once Japan gained control of Korea in 1910 it was mainly controlled from Tokyo and according to the United States Department of State, Japan worked to replace Korean culture with Japanese. Despite attempts by Koreans to resist Japanese control, the region remained under Japan's rule until the end of World War II in 1945. At that time Japan surrendered to the Allies. Shortly thereafter, Korea was divided into North and South Korea at the 38th parallel. The United States was to administer the southern portion, while the Soviet Union took over the area north of the parallel. On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was officially founded and on September 9, 1948 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was established.

Shortly after North Korea was established, hostilities began between it and South Korea. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea which began the Korean War. After the initial attacks in June of 1950, the United Nations established the U.N. Command (UNC) and 16 members nations of the United Nations sent troops to the area. Armistice negotiations then began in 1951 and the Chinese entered the war in support of North Korea.

The Korean War lasted until 1953 and on July 27 of that year North Korea, the Chinese People's Volunteers and the UNC all signed an Armistice Agreement at Panmunjom. At this same time, the Demilitarized Zone was formed.

Government of North Korea

Today North Korea has a communist government that is controlled by the Korean Workers Party. It has an executive branch of government that is composed of a chief of state (Kim Jong Il) and a head of government. North Korea also has a unicameral Supreme People's Assembly for its legislative branch and a Central Court for its judicial branch. The country is divided into nine provinces and two municipalities or special cities (i.e. cities controlled directly by the federal government) for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in North Korea

Because North Korea is a communist nation, its economy is closed and centrally controlled by the government. Today its economy suffers from many severe problems and much of its population lives in poor conditions. The main industries in North Korea according to the CIA World Factbook are military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining of materials like coal, iron ore, limestone, graphite, copper and precious metals, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism. Agriculture is also practiced in the country and although it is limited, the main agricultural products are rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, pulses, cattle, pigs, pork and eggs.

Geography and Climate of North Korea

North Korea is geographically located in eastern Asia on the Korean Peninsula. It is between China and South Korea and has coastlines along the Sea of Japan and Korea Bay. Its topography varies but it consists mainly of hills and mountains that are separated by valleys. The valleys of North Korea are very narrow and deep. In addition North Korea also has wide coastal plains in the west and some in the east. Most of the agriculture in the country takes place on the plains in the west.

The climate of North Korea is considered temperate with hot, humid summers and cold to very cold, dry winters. Most of the country's rainfall comes in the summer as a result of the East Asian Monsoon. North Korea's capital, Pyongyang has an average January low temperature of 13˚F (-11˚C) and an average August high of 84˚F (29˚C).

To learn more about North Korea, read my article called, "Ten Important Things to Know about the Country of North Korea" and visit the Geography and Maps section on North Korea.


Central Intelligence Agency. (8 December 2010). CIA - the World Factbook - North Korea. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html

Infoplease. (n.d.). Korea, North: History, Geography, Government, and Culture -Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107686.html

United States Department of State. (29 September 2010). North Korea. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2792.htm

Wikipedia.org. (11 December 2010). North Korea - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korea

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