The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is an Asian country situated in the northern section of the Korean Peninsula – Pyongyang is the nation’s capital and largest city. North Korea is bordered by China and Russia to the north and northwest, and South Korea to the south, across it is bordered to the south across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Both North and South Korea claim governance of the whole peninsula and associated islands.
North Korea characterises itself as a self-reliant socialist state. Kim Il-sung and his family essentially lead the entire country in what has been described as a Stalinist dictatorship – the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), which is led by a member of Kim Il-sung’s family, leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland.
All means of production in the country are controlled by the state, as well as public services like healthcare, education and housing. North Korea prioritises its military above all else, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve and paramilitary personnel throughout the nation. It’s army of 1.21 million is the fourth largest in the world, and it has well-documented nuclear capability.
North Korea is a member of the United Nations, though it repeatedly and grossly violates human rights to an unprecedented degree, an accusation that its leaders constantly deny.
The North Korean Government
North Korea is a one-party state that is guided by the Juche and Songun ideologies of self-reliance and military prioritisation. The country has a fixed constitution as well as the ‘Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System’ which sets standards for governance and the behaviour of the North Korean people. The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) comprises 3,000,000 members and essentially controls North Korean politics. Its two satellite organizations are the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party.
The Constitution of North Korea lays out three main branches of government. First, the State Affairs Commission of North Korea deliberates and determines the work of defence building of the State, including major North Korean governmental policies – it also exists to carry out the instructions of Kim Jong-Un.
The government also features a unicameral Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) with 687 members, each of whom are elected every five years. Sessions of the Supreme People's Assembly are overseen by the Presidium (Kim Yong-nam), who represents North Korea to foreign countries. Deputies are responsible for electing the President, the vice-presidents and all members of the Presidium – they also take part in the passing of laws, discussing domestic and foreign policies, appointing cabinet members, and reviewing and approving the state economic strategy. All elections to the assembly are based on a list of WPK-approved candidates who always run unopposed.
The Cabinet of North Korea is the seat of executive power in the government, and is led by Premier Pak Pong-ju, who represents the government, operating independently. He oversees two vice-premiers, 30 ministers, two cabinet commission chairmen, the cabinet chief secretary, the president of the Central Bank, the director of the Central Bureau of Statistics, and the president of the Academy of Sciences.
The Supreme Leader of North Korea is Kim Jong-un of the Kim dynasty. He is Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. His grandfather Kim Il-sung retains the title of "Eternal President", while his father Kim Jong-il is “Eternal General Secretary.” Due to the hereditary nature of its leadership system, North Korea has become widely regarded as an absolute monarchy, or a hereditary dictatorship.
Since 2015, North Korea has had diplomatic relationships with 166 countries and embrassies in 47 countries around the world – it was, however, not officially recognised by a number of countries, including Argentina, Botswana, France, Estonia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, and the United States (by 2017, only France and Estonia still do not recognise North Korea). Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos remain strong allies of North Korea.
Six-Party Talks between the two Korean governments, the United States, Russia, China and Japan were established to find a peaceful solution to mounting tensions around North Koreas developing nuclear weapons program, but were abandoned in 2009.