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South Korea vs. North Korea

Introduction

South KoreaNorth Korea
Background

An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the US in 1945. After World War II, a democratic government (Republic of Korea, ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a communist-style government was installed in the north (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside ROK soldiers to defend South Korea from a DPRK invasion supported by communist China and the Soviet Union. A 1953 armistice split the Peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime, from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea in 1979.

South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former ROK Army general ROH Tae-woo winning a close race. In 1993, KIM Young-sam (1993-98) became the first civilian president of South Korea's new democratic era. President KIM Dae-jung (1998-2003) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his contributions to South Korean democracy and his "Sunshine" policy of engagement with North Korea. President PARK Geun-hye, daughter of former ROK President PARK Chung-hee, took office in February 2013 as South Korea's first female leader. In December 2016, the National Assembly passed an impeachment motion against President PARK over her alleged involvement in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, immediately suspending her presidential authorities. The impeachment was upheld in March 2017, triggering an early presidential election in May 2017 won by MOON Jae-in. South Korea hosted the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February 2018, in which North Korea also participated. Discord with North Korea has permeated inter-Korean relations for much of the past decade, highlighted by the North's attacks on a South Korean ship and island in 2010, the exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ in 2015, and multiple nuclear and missile tests in 2016 and 2017. North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, dispatch of a senior delegation to Seoul, and three inter-Korean summits in 2018 appear to have ushered in a temporary period of respite, buoyed by the historic US-DPRK summits in 2018 and 2019.

 

An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored communist control. After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK) in the southern portion by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President KIM Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic "self-reliance" as a check against outside influence. The DPRK demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang's control. KIM Il Sung's son, KIM Jong Il, was officially designated as his father's successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM's death in 1994. Under KIM Jong Il's rein, the DPRK continued developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. KIM Jong Un was publicly unveiled as his father's successor in 2010. Following KIM Jong Il's death in 2011, KIM Jong Un quickly assumed power and has since occupied the regime's highest political and military posts. 

After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has faced chronic food shortages and economic stagnation. In recent years, the North's domestic agricultural production has increased, but still falls far short of producing sufficient food to provide for its entire population. The DPRK began to ease restrictions to allow semi-private markets, starting in 2002, but has made few other efforts to meet its goal of improving the overall standard of living. North Korea's history of provocative regional military; proliferation of military-related items; long-range missile development; WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017; and large conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community and have limited the DPRK's international engagement, particularly economically. In 2013, the DPRK declared a policy of simultaneous development of its nuclear weapons program and economy. In late 2017, KIM Jong Un declared the North's nuclear weapons development complete. In 2018, KIM announced a pivot towards diplomacy, including a re-prioritization of economic development, a pause in missile testing beginning in late 2017, and a refrain from anti-US rhetoric starting in June 2018. Since 2018, KIM has participated in four meetings with Chinese President XI Jinping, three with ROK President MOON Jae-in, and three with US President TRUMP. Since 2019, North Korea has continued developing its ballistic missile program and issued statements condemning the US.

Geography

South KoreaNorth Korea
LocationEastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow SeaEastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea
Geographic coordinates37 00 N, 127 30 E40 00 N, 127 00 E
Map referencesAsiaAsia
Areatotal: 99,720 sq km

land: 96,920 sq km

water: 2,800 sq km
total: 120,538 sq km

land: 120,408 sq km

water: 130 sq km
Area - comparativeslightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indianaslightly larger than Virginia; slightly smaller than Mississippi
Land boundariestotal: 237 km

border countries (1): North Korea 237 km
total: 1,607 km

border countries (3): China 1352 km, South Korea 237 km, Russia 18 km
Coastline2,413 km2,495 km
Maritime claimsterritorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: not specified
territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned
Climatetemperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winterstemperate, with rainfall concentrated in summer; long, bitter winters
Terrainmostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and southmostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; wide coastal plains in west, discontinuous in east
Elevation extremeshighest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

mean elevation: 282 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

mean elevation: 600 m
Natural resourcescoal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potentialcoal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, precious metals, hydropower
Land useagricultural land: 18.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 63.9% (2018 est.)

other: 18% (2018 est.)
agricultural land: 21.8% (2018 est.)

arable land: 19.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 46% (2018 est.)

other: 32.2% (2018 est.)
Irrigated land7,780 sq km (2012)14,600 sq km (2012)
Natural hazards

occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest

volcanism: Halla (1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries

late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall

volcanism: Changbaishan (2,744 m) (also known as Baitoushan, Baegdu or P'aektu-san), on the Chinese border, is considered historically active

Environment - current issuesair pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing; solid waste disposal; transboundary pollutionwater pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Law of the Sea
Geography - notestrategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coastsstrategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
Total renewable water resources69.7 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)77.15 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)
Population distributionwith approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populatedpopulation concentrated in the plains and lowlands; least populated regions are the mountainous provinces adjacent to the Chinese border; largest concentrations are in the western provinces, particularly the municipal district of Pyongyang, and around Hungnam and Wonsan in the east

Demographics

South KoreaNorth Korea
Population51,715,162 (July 2021 est.)25,831,360 (July 2021 est.)
Age structure0-14 years: 12.02% (male 3,191,584/female 3,025,029)

15-24 years: 10.75% (male 2,900,013/female 2,658,057)

25-54 years: 44.83% (male 12,106,860/female 11,077,642)

55-64 years: 15.66% (male 3,958,718/female 4,142,322)

65 years and over: 16.74% (male 3,766,138/female 4,888,799) (2021 est.)
0-14 years: 20.33% (male 2,680,145/female 2,571,334)

15-24 years: 14.39% (male 1,873,814/female 1,842,269)

25-54 years: 43.77% (male 5,671,900/female 5,633,861)

55-64 years: 11.77% (male 1,454,000/female 1,585,830)

65 years and over: 9.75% (male 878,176/female 1,640,031) (2021 est.)
Median agetotal: 43.2 years

male: 41.6 years

female: 45 years (2020 est.)
total: 34.6 years

male: 33.2 years

female: 36.2 years (2020 est.)
Population growth rate0.26% (2021 est.)0.49% (2021 est.)
Birth rate6.89 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)14.35 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)
Death rate6.96 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)9.39 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)
Net migration rate2.65 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)-0.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)
Sex ratioat birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.1 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.08 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female

total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
Infant mortality ratetotal: 2.91 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 3.12 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)
total: 22.42 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 25.2 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 19.47 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)
Life expectancy at birthtotal population: 82.78 years

male: 79.66 years

female: 86.06 years (2021 est.)
total population: 71.65 years

male: 67.79 years

female: 75.74 years (2021 est.)
Total fertility rate1.09 children born/woman (2021 est.)1.91 children born/woman (2021 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rateNANA
Nationalitynoun: Korean(s)

adjective: Korean
noun: Korean(s)

adjective: Korean
Ethnic groupshomogeneousracially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDSNANA
ReligionsProtestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9% (2015 est.)

note: many people also carry on at least some Confucian traditions and practices
traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)

note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
HIV/AIDS - deathsNANA
LanguagesKorean, English (widely taught in elementary, junior high, and high school)

major-language sample(s):
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The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.
Korean

major-language sample(s):
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The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.
Literacydefinition: age 15 and over can read and write (2019)

total population: 98% (2019)

male: 99.2%

female: 96.6%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 100%

male: 100%

female: 100% (2015)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)total: 17 years

male: 17 years

female: 16 years (2018)
total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 11 years (2015)
Education expenditures4.3% of GDP (2016)NA
Urbanizationurban population: 81.4% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.31% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)
urban population: 62.6% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.85% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)
Drinking water sourceimproved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
improved: urban: 97.2% of population

rural: 90.2% of population

total: 94.5% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.8% of population

rural: 9.8% of population

total: 5.5% of population (2017 est.)
Sanitation facility accessimproved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
improved: urban: 91.9% of population

rural: 72.3% of population

total: 84.5% of population

unimproved: urban: 8.1% of population

rural: 27.7% of population

total: 15.5% of population (2017 est.)
Major cities - population9.968 million SEOUL (capital), 3.466 million Busan, 2.818 million Incheon, 2.191 million Daegu (Taegu), 1.569 million Daejon (Taejon), 1.524 million Gwangju (Kwangju) (2021)3.108 million PYONGYANG (capital) (2021)
Maternal mortality rate11 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)89 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight0.7% (2010)9.3% (2017)
Physicians density2.36 physicians/1,000 population (2017)3.68 physicians/1,000 population (2017)
Hospital bed density12.3 beds/1,000 population (2017)13.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate4.7% (2016)6.8% (2016)
Contraceptive prevalence rate82.3% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 20-49
70.2% (2017)
Dependency ratiostotal dependency ratio: 39.5

youth dependency ratio: 17.5

elderly dependency ratio: 22

potential support ratio: 4.5 (2020 est.)
total dependency ratio: 41.2

youth dependency ratio: 28

elderly dependency ratio: 13.2

potential support ratio: 7.6 (2020 est.)

Government

South KoreaNorth Korea
Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Korea

conventional short form: South Korea

local long form: Taehan-min'guk

local short form: Han'guk

abbreviation: ROK

etymology: derived from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century A.D.; the South Korean name "Han'guk" derives from the long form, "Taehan-min'guk," which is itself a derivation from "Daehan-je'guk," which means "the Great Empire of the Han"; "Han" refers to the "Sam'han" or the "Three Han Kingdoms" (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla from the Three Kingdoms Era, 1st-7th centuries A.D.)
conventional long form: Democratic People's Republic of Korea

conventional short form: North Korea

local long form: Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk

local short form: Choson

abbreviation: DPRK

etymology: derived from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century A.D.; the North Korean name "Choson" means "[Land of the] Morning Calm"
Government typepresidential republicdictatorship, single-party state; official state ideology of "Juche" or "national self-reliance"
Capitalname: Seoul; note - Sejong, located some 120 km (75 mi) south of Seoul, is serving as an administrative capital for segments of the South Korean Government

geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E

time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name originates from the Korean word meaning "capital city" and which is believed to be derived from Seorabeol, the name of the capital of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Silla
name: Pyongyang

geographic coordinates: 39 01 N, 125 45 E

time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

note: on 5 May 2018, North Korea reverted to UTC+9, the same time zone as South Korea

etymology: the name translates as "flat land" in Korean
Administrative divisions

9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city (teugbyeolsi), and 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeoljachisi)

provinces: Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeonggi, Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)

metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejeon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan

special city: Seoul

special self-governing city: Sejong

9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 3 cities (si, singular and plural)

provinces: Chagang, Hambuk (North Hamgyong), Hamnam (South Hamgyong), Hwangbuk (North Hwanghae), Hwangnam (South Hwanghae), Kangwon, P'yongbuk (North Pyongan), P'yongnam (South Pyongan), Ryanggang

major cities: Nampo, P'yongyang, Rason



note: Nampo is sometimes designated as a metropolitan city, P'yongyang as a directly controlled city, and Rason as a city

Independence15 August 1945 (from Japan)15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holidayLiberation Day, 15 August (1945)Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)
Constitutionhistory: several previous; latest passed by National Assembly 12 October 1987, approved in referendum 28 October 1987, effective 25 February 1988

amendments: proposed by the president or by majority support of the National Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership, approval in a referendum by more than one half of the votes by more than one half of eligible voters, and promulgation by the president; amended several times, last in 1987
history: previous 1948, 1972; latest adopted 1998 (during KIM Jong Il era)

amendments: proposed by the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA); passage requires more than two-thirds majority vote of the total SPA membership; revised several times, last in 2019
Legal systemmixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thoughtcivil law system based on the Prussian model; system influenced by Japanese traditions and Communist legal theory
Suffrage18years of age; universal; note - the voting age was lowered from 19 to 18 beginning with the 2020 national election17 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branchchief of state: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017); the president is both chief of state and head of government; Prime Minister KIM Boo-kyum (since 14 May 2021) serves as the principal executive assistant to the president, similar to the role of a vice president

head of government: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017)

cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a single 5-year term; election last held on 9 May 2017 (next to be held in March 2022); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly

election results: MOON Jae-in elected president; percent of vote - MOON Jae-in (DP) 41.1%, HONG Joon-pyo (LKP) 25.5%, AHN Cheol-soo (PP) 21.4%, other 12%
chief of state: Supreme People's Assembly President CHOE Ryong Hae (since 11 April 2019); note - functions as the technical head of state and performs related duties, such as receiving ambassadors' credentials

head of government: State Affairs Commission Chairman KIM Jong Un (since 17 December 2011); note - functions as the commander-in-chief and chief executive

cabinet: Cabinet or Naegak members appointed by the Supreme People's Assembly except the Minister of People's Armed Forces

elections/appointments: chief of state and premier indirectly elected by the Supreme People's Assembly; election last held on 10 March 2019 (next election March 2024)

election results: KIM Jong In reelected unopposed

note: the Korean Workers' Party continues to list deceased leaders KIM Il Sung and KIM Jong Il as Eternal President and Eternal General Secretary respectively
Legislative branchdescription: unicameral National Assembly or Kuk Hoe (300 seats statutory); 253 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 47 directly elected in a single national constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 15 April 2020 (next to be held in April 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DP/TCP 180, UFP/FKP 103, JP 6, ODP 3, PP 3, independent 5; composition - men 249, women 51, percent of women 17%
description: unicameral Supreme People's Assembly or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui (687 seats; members directly elected by majority vote in 2 rounds if needed to serve 5-year terms); note - the Korean Workers' Party selects all candidates

elections: last held on 10 March 2019 (next to be held March 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - KWP 607, KSDP 50, Chondoist Chongu Party 22, General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) 5, religious associations 3; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; composition - men 575, women 112, percent of women 16.3%

note: KWP, KSDP, Chondoist Chongu Party, and Chongryon are under the KWP's control; a token number of seats reserved for minor parties
Judicial branchhighest courts: Supreme Court (consists of a chief justice and 13 justices); Constitutional Court (consists of a court head and 8 justices)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly; other justices appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the chief justice and consent of the National Assembly; position of the chief justice is a 6-year nonrenewable term; other justices serve 6-year renewable terms; Constitutional Court justices appointed - 3 by the president, 3 by the National Assembly, and 3 by the Supreme Court chief justice; court head serves until retirement at age 70, while other justices serve 6-year renewable terms with mandatory retirement at age 65

subordinate courts: High Courts; District Courts; Branch Courts (organized under the District Courts); specialized courts for family and administrative issues
highest courts: Supreme Court or Central Court (consists of one judge and 2 "People's Assessors" or, for some cases, 3 judges)

judge selection and term of office: judges elected by the Supreme People's Assembly for 5-year terms

subordinate courts: lower provincial courts as determined by the Supreme People's Assembly
Political parties and leadersBareun Mirae Party or BMP [SOHN Hak-kyu] (merger of Bareun Party and People's Party)
Democratic Party or DP [LEE Nak-yon; resigned March 2021] (renamed from Minjoo Party of Korea or MPK in October 2016; formerly New Politics Alliance for Democracy or NPAD, which was a merger of the Democratic Party or DP (formerly DUP) [KIM Han-gil] and the New Political Vision Party or NPVP [AHN Cheol-soo] in March 2014)
Justice Party or JP [SIM Sang-jung]
Minjung Party or MP (formed from the merger of the New People's Party (formerly the New People's Political Party or NPP) and the People's United Party or PUP)
Open Democratic Pary or ODP [LEE Keun-shik] (formed in early 2020)
Our Republic Party [CHO Won-jin and HONG Moon-jong] (formerly Korean Patriots' Party or KPP)
Party for Democracy and Peace or PDP [CHUNG Dong-young]
People Party or PP [AHN Cheol-soo] (formed in February 2020)
Together Citizens' Party [WOO Hee-jong, ChOI Bae-geun] (formed in early 2020 in alliance with the Democratic Party)
United Future Party or UFP (formed in early 2020 by the merger of Liberty Korea Party, New Conservative Party, Onward for Future 4.0, and several other minor parties; it has a sister relationship with the Future Korea Party
major parties:
Korean Workers' Party or KWP [KIM Jong Un, general secretary]
General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon)
minor parties:
Chondoist Chongu Party (under KWP control)
Social Democratic Party or KSDP [KIM Yong Dae] (under KWP control)
International organization participationADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, Arctic Council (observer), ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZCARF, FAO, G-77, ICAO, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, IMO, IMSO, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, NAM, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the USchief of mission: Ambassador LEE Soo-hyuck (since 6 January 2020)

chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600

FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595

email address and website:
generalusa@mofa.go.kr

https://overseas.mofa.go.kr/us-en/index.do

consulate(s) general: Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (TX), Hagatna (Guam), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC
chief of mission: none; North Korea has a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York
Diplomatic representation from the USchief of mission: Ambassador (vacant);  Chargé d’Affaires Christopher DEL CORSO (since 16 July 2021)

embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul

mailing address: 9600 Seoul Place, Washington, DC  20521-9600

telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114

FAX: [82] (2) 397-4101

email address and website:
seoulinfoACS@state.gov

https://kr.usembassy.gov/

consulate(s): Busan
embassy: none; the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents the US as consular protecting power
Flag descriptionwhite with a red (top) and blue yin-yang symbol in the center; there is a different black trigram from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes) in each corner of the white field; the South Korean national flag is called Taegukki; white is a traditional Korean color and represents peace and purity; the blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin, while the red symbolizes the opposite positive forces of the yang; each trigram (kwae) denotes one of the four universal elements, which together express the principle of movement and harmonythree horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in white; on the hoist side of the red band is a white disk with a red five-pointed star; the broad red band symbolizes revolutionary traditions; the narrow white bands stand for purity, strength, and dignity; the blue bands signify sovereignty, peace, and friendship; the red star represents socialism
National anthemname: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)

lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay

note: adopted 1948, well-known by 1910; both North Korea's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics
name: "Aegukka" (Patriotic Song)

lyrics/music: PAK Se Yong/KIM Won Gyun

note: adopted 1947; both North Korea's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics; the North Korean anthem is also known as "Ach'imun pinnara" (Let Morning Shine)
International law organization participationhas not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdictionhas not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICC
National symbol(s)taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Siberian tiger; national colors: red, white, blue, blackred star, chollima (winged horse); national colors: red, white, blue
Citizenshipcitizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Korea

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of North Korea

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: unknown

Economy

South KoreaNorth Korea
Economy - overview

After emerging from the 1950-53 war with North Korea, South Korea emerged as one of the 20th century’s most remarkable economic success stories, becoming a developed, globally connected, high-technology society within decades. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorest countries in the world. In 2004, South Korea's GDP surpassed one trillion dollars.

Beginning in the 1960s under President PARK Chung-hee, the government promoted the import of raw materials and technology, encouraged saving and investment over consumption, kept wages low, and directed resources to export-oriented industries that remain important to the economy to this day. Growth surged under these policies, and frequently reached double-digits in the 1960s and 1970s. Growth gradually moderated in the 1990s as the economy matured, but remained strong enough to propel South Korea into the ranks of the advanced economies of the OECD by 1997. These policies also led to the emergence of family-owned chaebol conglomerates such as Daewoo, Hyundai, and Samsung, which retained their dominant positions even as the government loosened its grip on the economy amid the political changes of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 hit South Korea’s companies hard because of their excessive reliance on short-term borrowing, and GDP ultimately plunged by 7% in 1998. South Korea tackled difficult economic reforms following the crisis, including restructuring some chaebols, increasing labor market flexibility, and opening up to more foreign investment and imports. These steps lead to a relatively rapid economic recovery. South Korea also began expanding its network of free trade agreements to help bolster exports, and has since implemented 16 free trade agreements covering 58 countries—including the United State and China—that collectively cover more than three-quarters of global GDP.

In 2017, the election of President MOON Jae-in brought a surge in consumer confidence, in part, because of his successful efforts to increase wages and government spending. These factors combined with an uptick in export growth to drive real GDP growth to more than 3%, despite disruptions in South Korea’s trade with China over the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea.

In 2018 and beyond, South Korea will contend with gradually slowing economic growth - in the 2-3% range - not uncommon for advanced economies. This could be partially offset by efforts to address challenges arising from its rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, continued dominance of the chaebols, and heavy reliance on exports rather than domestic consumption. Socioeconomic problems also persist, and include rising inequality, poverty among the elderly, high youth unemployment, long working hours, low worker productivity, and corruption.

North Korea, one of the world's most centrally directed and least open economies, faces chronic economic problems. Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of decades of mismanagement, underinvestment, shortages of spare parts, and poor maintenance. Corruption and resource misallocation, including show projects, large-scale military spending, and development of its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, severely draws off resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. Industrial and power outputs have stagnated for years at a fraction of pre-1990 levels. Frequent weather-related crop failures aggravated chronic food shortages caused by on-going systemic problems, including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, poor soil quality, insufficient fertilization, and persistent shortages of tractors and fuel.

 

The mid 1990s through mid-2000s were marked by severe famine and widespread starvation. Significant food aid was provided by the international community through 2009. Since that time, food assistance has declined significantly. In the last few years, domestic corn and rice production has improved, although domestic production does not fully satisfy demand. A large portion of the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions. Since 2002, the government has allowed semi-private markets to begin selling a wider range of goods, allowing North Koreans to partially make up for diminished public distribution system rations. It also implemented changes in the management process of communal farms in an effort to boost agricultural output.

 

In December 2009, North Korea carried out a redenomination of its currency, capping the amount of North Korean won that could be exchanged for the new notes, and limiting the exchange to a one-week window. A concurrent crackdown on markets and foreign currency use yielded severe shortages and inflation, forcing Pyongyang to ease the restrictions by February 2010. In response to the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, South Korea’s government cut off most aid, trade, and bilateral cooperation activities. In February 2016, South Korea ceased its remaining bilateral economic activity by closing the Kaesong Industrial Complex in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test a month earlier. This nuclear test and another in September 2016 resulted in two United Nations Security Council Resolutions that targeted North Korea’s foreign currency earnings, particularly coal and other mineral exports. Throughout 2017, North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile tests led to a tightening of UN sanctions, resulting in full sectoral bans on DPRK exports and drastically limited key imports. Over the last decade, China has been North Korea’s primary trading partner.

 

The North Korean Government continues to stress its goal of improving the overall standard of living, but has taken few steps to make that goal a reality for its populace. In 2016, the regime used two mass mobilizations — one totaling 70 days and another 200 days — to spur the population to increase production and complete construction projects quickly. The regime released a five-year economic development strategy in May 2016 that outlined plans for promoting growth across sectors. Firm political control remains the government’s overriding concern, which likely will inhibit formal changes to North Korea’s current economic system.

GDP (purchasing power parity)$2,211,315,000,000 (2019 est.)

$2,167,119,000,000 (2018 est.)

$2,105,893,000,000 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars
$40 billion (2015 est.)

$40 billion (2014 est.)

$40 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars
North Korea does not publish reliable National Income Accounts data; the data shown are derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP estimates that were made by Angus MADDISON in a study conducted for the OECD; his figure for 1999 was extrapolated to 2015 using estimated real growth rates for North Korea's GDP and an inflation factor based on the US GDP deflator; the results were rounded to the nearest $10 billion.
GDP - real growth rate2.04% (2019 est.)

2.91% (2018 est.)

3.16% (2017 est.)
-1.1% (2015 est.)

1% (2014 est.)

1.1% (2013 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$42,765 (2019 est.)

$41,993 (2018 est.)

$41,001 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars
$1,700 (2015 est.)

$1,800 (2014 est.)

$1,800 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars
GDP - composition by sectoragriculture: 2.2% (2017 est.)

industry: 39.3% (2017 est.)

services: 58.3% (2017 est.)
agriculture: 22.5% (2017 est.)

industry: 47.6% (2017 est.)

services: 29.9% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line14.4% (2016 est.)NA
Household income or consumption by percentage sharelowest 10%: 6.8%

highest 10%: 48.5% (2015 est.)
lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA
Inflation rate (consumer prices)0.3% (2019 est.)

1.4% (2018 est.)

1.9% (2017 est.)

NA

Labor force26.839 million (2020 est.)14 million (2014 est.)

note: estimates vary widely
Labor force - by occupationagriculture: 4.8%

industry: 24.6%

services: 70.6% (2017 est.)
agriculture: 37%

industry: 63% (2008 est.)
Unemployment rate3.76% (2019 est.)

3.85% (2018 est.)
25.6% (2013 est.)

25.5% (2012 est.)
Budgetrevenues: 357.1 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 335.8 billion (2017 est.)
revenues: 3.2 billion (2007 est.)

expenditures: 3.3 billion (2007 est.)
Industrieselectronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steelmilitary products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism
Industrial production growth rate4.6% (2017 est.)1% (2017 est.)
Agriculture - productsrice, vegetables, cabbages, milk, onions, pork, poultry, eggs, tangerines/mandarins, potatoesrice, maize, vegetables, apples, potatoes, cabbages, fruit, sweet potatoes, beans, soybeans
Exports$683.996 billion (2019 est.)

$672.442 billion (2018 est.)

$646.728 billion (2017 est.)
$222 million (2018)

$4.582 billion (2017 est.)

$2.908 billion (2015 est.)
Exports - commoditiesintegrated circuits, cars and vehicle parts, refined petroleum, ships, office machinery (2019)watch components, fake hair, iron alloys, instructional models, tungsten (2019)
Exports - partnersChina 25%, United States 14%, Vietnam 9%, Hong Kong 6%, Japan 5% (2019)China 67%, Suriname 6% (2019)
Imports$599.705 billion (2019 est.)

$603.535 billion (2018 est.)

$593.371 billion (2017 est.)
$2.32 billion (2018 est.)

$3.86 billion (2016 est.)
Imports - commoditiescrude petroleum, integrated circuits, natural gas, refined petroleum, coal (2019)clothing and apparel, soybean oil, rice, wheat products, clocks/watches (2019)
Imports - partnersChina 22%, United States 12%, Japan 9% (2019)China 96% (2019)
Debt - external$457.745 billion (2019 est.)

$435.98 billion (2018 est.)
$5 billion (2013 est.)
Exchange ratesSouth Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -

1,084.65 (2020 est.)

1,189.9 (2019 est.)

1,119.8 (2018 est.)

1,130.95 (2014 est.)

1,052.96 (2013 est.)
North Korean won (KPW) per US dollar (average market rate)

135 (2017 est.)

130 (2016 est.)

130 (2015 est.)

98.5 (2013 est.)

155.5 (2012 est.)
Fiscal yearcalendar yearcalendar year
GDP (official exchange rate)$1,646,604,000,000 (2019 est.)$28 billion (2013 est.)
Taxes and other revenues23.2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)11.4% (of GDP) (2007 est.)

note: excludes earnings from state-operated enterprises
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)1.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)-0.4% (of GDP) (2007 est.)
GDP - composition, by end usehousehold consumption: 48.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 31.1% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 43.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.7% (2017 est.)
household consumption: NA (2014 est.)

government consumption: NA (2014 est.)

investment in fixed capital: NA (2014 est.)

investment in inventories: NA (2014 est.)

exports of goods and services: 5.9% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -11.1% (2016 est.)
Gross national saving34.8% of GDP (2019 est.)

35.9% of GDP (2018 est.)

37% of GDP (2017 est.)

NA

Energy

South KoreaNorth Korea
Electricity - production526 billion kWh (2016 est.)16.57 billion kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity - consumption507.6 billion kWh (2016 est.)13.89 billion kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity - exports0 kWh (2016 est.)0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity - imports0 kWh (2016 est.)0 kWh (2016 est.)
Oil - production0 bbl/day (2018 est.)0 bbl/day (2018 est.)
Oil - imports3.057 million bbl/day (2017 est.)10,640 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Oil - exports0 bbl/day (2017 est.)0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Oil - proved reservesNA (1 January 2017 est.)0 bbl (1 January 2018 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves7.079 billion cu m (1 January 2018 est.)0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
Natural gas - production339.8 million cu m (2017 est.)0 cu m (2017 est.)
Natural gas - consumption45.28 billion cu m (2017 est.)0 cu m (2017 est.)
Natural gas - exports0 cu m (2017 est.)0 cu m (2017 est.)
Natural gas - imports48.65 billion cu m (2017 est.)0 cu m (2017 est.)
Electricity - installed generating capacity111.2 million kW (2016 est.)10.01 million kW (2016 est.)
Electricity - from fossil fuels70% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)45% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants2% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)55% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
Electricity - from nuclear fuels21% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
Electricity - from other renewable sources8% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
Refined petroleum products - production3.302 million bbl/day (2017 est.)11,270 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Refined petroleum products - consumption2.584 million bbl/day (2017 est.)18,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)
Refined petroleum products - exports1.396 million bbl/day (2017 est.)0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Refined petroleum products - imports908,800 bbl/day (2017 est.)8,260 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Electricity accesselectrification - total population: 100% (2020)electrification - total population: 26% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 36% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 11% (2019)

Telecommunications

South KoreaNorth Korea
Telephones - main lines in usetotal subscriptions: 24,727,415

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 48.07 (2019 est.)
total subscriptions: 1,183,806

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4.64 (2019 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellulartotal subscriptions: 68,892,541

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 133.93 (2019 est.)
total subscriptions: 3,821,857

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14.98 (2019 est.)
Internet country code.kr.kp
Telecommunication systemsgeneral assessment:

excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies; exceedingly high mobile, mobile broadband, and fixed broadband penetration; strong support from government for initiatives; tech-savvy population has catapulted the nation into one of the world's most active telecommunication markets; all mobile operators offer 5G networks; Chinese telecom Huawei partnered with operators including launch of Seoul TechCity; import of integrated circuits, broadcasting equipment, and phones from China; government and private partnership on national e-commerce and smart city development (2021)

(2020)

domestic: fixed-line 48 per 100 and mobile-cellular services 135 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce (2019)

international: country code - 82; landing points for EAC-C2C, FEA, SeaMeWe-3, TPE, APCN-2, APG, FLAG North Asia Loop/REACH North Asia Loop, KJCN, NCP, and SJC2 submarine cables providing links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and US; satellite earth stations - 66 (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

general assessment: underdeveloped yet growing market dependent on 3G; nationwide fiber-optic network; some mobile-cellular service beyond Pyongyang; remote areas on manual switchboards; though currently under sanction, dependent on foreign investment (primarily Chinese) for equipment and infrastructure; low broadband penetration; international communication restricted and domestic use monitored by state (2021) (2020)

domestic: fiber-optic links installed down to the county level; telephone directories unavailable; mobile service launched in late 2008 for the Pyongyang area and considerable progress in expanding to other parts of the country since; fixed-lines are 5 per 100 and mobile-cellular 15 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 850; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intelsat - Indian Ocean, 1 Russian - Indian Ocean region); other international connections through Moscow and Beijing

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments
Broadcast mediamultiple national TV networks with 2 of the 3 largest networks publicly operated; the largest privately owned network, Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS), has ties with other commercial TV networks; cable and satellite TV subscription services available; publicly operated radio broadcast networks and many privately owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stationsno independent media; radios and TVs are pre-tuned to government stations; 4 government-owned TV stations; the Korean Workers' Party owns and operates the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, and the state-run Voice of Korea operates an external broadcast service; the government prohibits listening to and jams foreign broadcasts (2019)

Transportation

South KoreaNorth Korea
Railwaystotal: 3,979 km (2016)

standard gauge: 3,979 km 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified) (2016)
total: 7,435 km (2014)

standard gauge: 7,435 km 1.435-m gauge (5,400 km electrified) (2014)

note: figures are approximate; some narrow-gauge railway also exists
Roadwaystotal: 100,428 km (2016)

paved: 92,795 km (includes 4,193 km of expressways) (2016)

unpaved: 7,633 km (2016)
total: 25,554 km (2006)

paved: 724 km (2006)

unpaved: 24,830 km (2006)
Waterways1,600 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2011)2,250 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2011)
Pipelines3790 km gas, 16 km oil, 889 km refined products (2017)6 km oil (2013)
Ports and terminalsmajor seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu

container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (21,992,001), Incheon (3,091,955), Kwangyang (2,378,337) (2019)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu
major seaport(s): Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam, Namp'o, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Wonsan
Merchant marinetotal: 1,889

by type: bulk carrier 88, container ship 84, general cargo 357, oil tanker 187, other 1,173 (2020)
total: 261

by type: bulk carrier 8, container ship 5, general cargo 187, oil tanker 32, other 29 (2020)
Airportstotal: 111 (2013)total: 82 (2013)
Airports - with paved runwaystotal: 71 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 4 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 19 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 12 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 13 (2017)

under 914 m: 23 (2017)
total: 39 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 3 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 22 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 8 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2017)

under 914 m: 4 (2017)
Airports - with unpaved runwaystotal: 40 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)

under 914 m: 38 (2013)
total: 43 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 17 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 15 (2013)

under 914 m: 8 (2013)
Heliports466 (2013)23 (2013)
National air transport systemnumber of registered air carriers: 14 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 424

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 88,157,579 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 11,929,560,000 mt-km (2018)
number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 4

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 103,560 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 250,000 mt-km (2018)
Civil aircraft registration country code prefixHLP

Military

South KoreaNorth Korea
Military branchesArmed Forces of the Republic of Korea: Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Navy (ROKN, includes Marine Corps, ROKMC), Air Force (ROKAF); Military reserves include Mobilization Reserve Forces (First Combat Forces) and Homeland Defense Forces (Regional Combat Forces); Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Korea Coast Guard (2021)Korean People's Army (KPA): KPA Ground Forces, KPA Navy, KPA Air Force (includes air defense), KPA Strategic Forces (missile forces); Security Guard Command (protects the Kim family, other senior leadership figures, and government facilities); Ministry of Public Security: Border Guards, civil security forces (2021)
Military service age and obligation18-28 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum conscript service obligation varies by service- 21 months (Army, Marines), 23 months (Navy), 24 months (Air Force); 18-26 years of age for voluntary military service; women, in service since 1950, are able to serve in all branches, including as officers (2020)

note:  South Korea intends to reduce the length of military service to 18 – 22 months by 2022
17 years of age for compulsory male and female military service; service obligation 10 years for men, to age 23 for women (reportedly reduced in 2021 to 8 years for men and 5 years for women) (2021)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP2.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.7% of GDP (2019)

2.6% of GDP (2018)

2.6% of GDP (2017)

2.6% of GDP (2016)
in 2019, it was assessed that North Korea spent between 22% and 24% of GDP (between US$3.7 billion and US$4.2bn in 2017 dollars) annually on the military between 2007 and 2017

Transnational Issues

South KoreaNorth Korea
Disputes - international

Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limit Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954

risking arrest, imprisonment, and deportation, tens of thousands of North Koreans cross into China to escape famine, economic privation, and political oppression; North Korea and China dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in Yalu and Tumen Rivers; Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents in the Yellow Sea with South Korea which claims the Northern Limiting Line as a maritime boundary; North Korea supports South Korea in rejecting Japan's claim to Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima)

Refugees and internally displaced personsstateless persons: 203 (2020)IDPs: undetermined (2021)

Source: CIA Factbook