Country in NE Asia, W of Japan and N of South Korea, SE of Chinese Manchuria, and S of Far E Russian Siberia. After World War II, there was to be a united Korea, but Soviet forces had occupied the north peninsula, and Americans the south with a dividing line at the 38th parallel. In 1948, the Republic of South Korea was declared in the south and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea in the north. In 1950, North Korea invaded and American and UN troops counterattacked and pushed the North Koreans back north. The Korean War lasted until 1953, as Chinese and North Korean forces battled American and UN troops. A demilitarized zone was set up on the border allow the 38th parallel. The capital city is P’yongyang.
North Korea was ruled from 1948 by Kim Il-sung who created a Stalinist state dominated by a personality cult centered on himself. Kim fostered a state ideology called Juche, which promotes sacrifice and self-reliance in the name of the North Korean state. North Korea has been one of the world’s most isolated states due to its closed borders, state support of terrorism, and national research efforts toward weapons of mass destruction. Kim died in 1994, and was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il. Under the younger Kim, North Korea has had some opening of relations with South Korea and there was a North-South summit in 2000. North Korea has also tried to improve relations with Japan, admitting the kidnapping of Japanese citizens for training spies. There has also been limited visits to the North by families in the South who had been divided since the war.
North Korea’s Juche policies of militarization and heavy industrial development have been disastrous in terms of the country’s economic development. In the late 1990s drought conditions created food shortages such that many died of starvation and many more crossed illegally into China in search of food. North Korea has pursued a policy of nuclear weapons brinkmanship in order to extort food aid and electrical power from South Korea, Japan, China, the United States, and Russia. In 2005 North Korea announced to the world that it has nuclear weapons.