South Korea vs. North Korea


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-based 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 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.
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 will host the Winter Olympic Games in February 2018. 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.
"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. 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 now taken on most of his father's former titles and duties. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has faced chronic food shortages. 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 regional military provocations; proliferation of military-related items; long-range missile development; WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017; and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community and have limited the DPRK’s international engagement, particularly economically. The regime abides by a policy calling for the simultaneous development of its nuclear weapons program and its economy.


South KoreaNorth Korea
LocationEastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Eastern 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 E
40 00 N, 127 00 E
Map referencesAsia
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 Indiana
slightly 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 1,352 km, South Korea 237 km, Russia 18 km
Coastline2,413 km
2,495 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 winters
temperate, with rainfall concentrated in summer; long, bitter winters
Terrainmostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; wide coastal plains in west, discontinuous in east
Elevation extremesmean elevation: 282 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
mean elevation: 600 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m
Natural resourcescoal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, precious metals, hydropower
Land useagricultural land: 18.1%
arable land 15.3%; permanent crops 2.2%; permanent pasture 0.6%
forest: 63.9%
other: 18% (2011 est.)
agricultural land: 21.8%
arable land 19.5%; permanent crops 1.9%; permanent pasture 0.4%
forest: 46%
other: 32.2% (2011 est.)
Irrigated land7,780 sq km (2012)
14,600 sq km (2012)
Natural hazardsoccasional 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
water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - notestrategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coasts
strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
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 populated
population 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


South KoreaNorth Korea
Population51,181,299 (July 2017 est.)
25,248,140 (July 2017 est.)
Age structure0-14 years: 13.21% (male 3,484,398/female 3,276,984)
15-24 years: 12.66% (male 3,415,998/female 3,065,144)
25-54 years: 45.52% (male 11,992,462/female 11,303,726)
55-64 years: 14.49% (male 3,660,888/female 3,756,947)
65 years and over: 14.12% (male 3,080,601/female 4,144,151) (2017 est.)
0-14 years: 20.78% (male 2,670,884/female 2,576,846)
15-24 years: 15.59% (male 1,982,045/female 1,955,220)
25-54 years: 44.28% (male 5,608,520/female 5,572,000)
55-64 years: 9.77% (male 1,166,680/female 1,301,201)
65 years and over: 9.56% (male 826,735/female 1,588,009) (2017 est.)
Median agetotal: 41.8 years
male: 40.2 years
female: 43.4 years (2017 est.)
total: 34 years
male: 32.5 years
female: 35.6 years (2017 est.)
Population growth rate0.48% (2017 est.)
0.53% (2017 est.)
Birth rate8.3 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
14.6 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Death rate6 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Net migration rate2.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Sex ratioat birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.12 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
Infant mortality ratetotal: 3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)
total: 22.1 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 24.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)
Life expectancy at birthtotal population: 82.5 years
male: 79.3 years
female: 85.8 years (2017 est.)
total population: 70.7 years
male: 66.9 years
female: 74.8 years (2017 est.)
Total fertility rate1.26 children born/woman (2017 est.)
1.95 children born/woman (2017 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rateNA
Nationalitynoun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groupshomogeneous
racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
ReligionsProtestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9%
note: many people practice Confucianism, regardless of their religion or not having a religious affiliation (2015 est.)
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 - deathsNA
LanguagesKorean, English (widely taught in junior high and high school)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)total: 17 years
male: 17 years
female: 16 years (2013)
total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2015)
Education expenditures4.6% of GDP (2012)
Urbanizationurban population: 82.7% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 0.55% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
urban population: 61.2% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Drinking water sourceimproved:
urban: 99.7% of population
rural: 87.9% of population
total: 97.8% of population
urban: 0.3% of population
rural: 12.1% of population
total: 2.2% of population (2012 est.)
urban: 99.9% of population
rural: 99.4% of population
total: 99.7% of population
urban: 0.1% of population
rural: 0.6% of population
total: 0.3% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility accessimproved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
urban: 87.9% of population
rural: 72.5% of population
total: 81.9% of population
urban: 12.1% of population
rural: 27.5% of population
total: 18.1% of population (2015 est.)
Major cities - populationSEOUL (capital) 9.774 million; Busan (Pusan) 3.216 million; Incheon (Inch'on) 2.685 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.244 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.564 million; Gwangju (Kwangju) 1.536 million (2015)
PYONGYANG (capital) 2.863 million (2015)
Maternal mortality rate11 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
82 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight0.7% (2010)
15.2% (2012)
Physicians density2.23 physicians/1,000 population (2014)
2.78 physicians/1,000 population (2011)
Hospital bed density10.3 beds/1,000 population (2009)
13.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate4.7% (2016)
6.8% (2016)
Contraceptive prevalence rate80%
note: percent of women aged 15-44 (2009)
note: percent of women aged 20-49 (2014)
Dependency ratiostotal dependency ratio: 36.7
youth dependency ratio: 19
elderly dependency ratio: 17.7
potential support ratio: 5.6 (2015 est.)
total dependency ratio: 44.5
youth dependency ratio: 30.5
elderly dependency ratio: 14
potential support ratio: 7.1 (2015 est.)


South KoreaNorth Korea
Country name"conventional 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"" means ""Land of the Han,"" where ""han"" may have its origins in the native root for ""great [leader]"" (similar to the title ""khan"")
"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 republic
"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 being developed as a new capital
geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
name: Pyongyang
geographic coordinates: 39 01 N, 125 45 E
time difference: UTC+8.5 (13.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
note: on 15 August 2015, North Korea reverted to UTC+8.5, a time zone that had been observed during pre-colonial times
Administrative divisions9 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 2 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), Ranggang
cities: Namp'o, P'yongyang, Rason
note: Namp'o is sometimes designated as a metropolitan city, P'yongyang as a capital city, and Rason as a special 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)
Constitutioneffective 17 July 1948; amended many times, last in 1987 (2017)
previous 1948, 1972; latest adopted 1998; revised 2009, 2012, 2013 (2016)
Legal systemmixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
civil law system based on the Prussian model; system influenced by Japanese traditions and Communist legal theory
Suffrage19 years of age; universal
17 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branchchief of state: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017); note - President PARK Geun-hye (since 25 February 2013) was impeached by the National Assembly on 9 December 2016; PARK's impeachment was upheld by the Constitutional Court and she was removed from office on 9 March 2017
head of government: Prime Minister LEE Nak-yon (since 1 June 2017); Deputy Prime Ministers KIM Dong-yeon (since 9 June 2017), KIM Sang-kon (since 4 July 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 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 12.0%
chief of state: Supreme People's Assembly President KIM Yong Nam (since 5 September 1998); 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 9 March 2014 (next election NA)
election results: KIM Jong Un 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; 246 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 54 directly elected in a single national constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 13 April 2016 (next to be held in 2020)
election results: percent of vote by party - NFP 33.5%, PP 26.7%, MPK 25.5%, JP 7.2%, other 7.1%; seats by party - MPK 123, NFP 122, PP 38, JP 6, independent 11
note: as of January 2018, seats by party - DP 121, LKP 118, PP 39, BP 9, JP 6, MP 1, Patriotic Party 1, independent 2, vacant 3
description: unicameral Supreme People's Assembly or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui (687 seats; members directly elected by absolute majority vote to serve 5-year terms); note - the Korean Workers' Party selects all candidates
elections: last held on 9 March 2014 (next to be held in March 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - KWP 607, KSDF 50, Chondoist Chongu Party 22, Chongryon 5, religious associations 3; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; KWP, KSDP, Chondoist Chongu Party, and Chongryon are part of the DFRF; a token number of seats are reserved for minor parties
Judicial branchhighest court(s): Supreme Court of South Korea (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 non-renewable 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 court(s): 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 Party or BP [YOO Seong-min] (split from the NFP)
Democratic Party or DP [CHOO Mi-ae] (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-jeong]
Liberty Korea Party or LKP [HONG Joon-pyo] (formerly the New Frontier Party (NFP) or Saenuri and before that the Grand National Party [HONG Joon-Pyo])
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)
Patriotic Party
People's Party or PP [AHN Cheol-soo]
Saenuri Party [CHUNG Kwang-Taek) (split from Liberty Korea Party in April 2017)
major parties: Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland or DFRF
Korean Workers' Party or KWP [KIM Jong Un]
General Association of Korean Residents in Japan or Chongryon
minor parties: Chondoist Chongu Party (under KWP control)
Social Democratic Party or KSDP [KIM Yong Dae] (under KWP control)
Political pressure groups and leadersChristian Council of Korea
Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice
Federation of Korean Trade Unions
Korea Women's Association United
Korea Women's Hotline
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Korean Veterans' Association
Lawyers for a Democratic Society
National Council of Churches in Korea
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
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, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the USchief of mission: Ambassador CHO Yoon-je (since 29 November 2017)
chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595
consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
none; North Korea has a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York
Diplomatic representation from the USchief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Marc KNAPPER (since 20 January 2017)
embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 725-0152
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, Unit
none; note - 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 harmony
three 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 anthem"name: ""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 jurisdiction
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
National symbol(s)taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon); national colors: red, white, blue, black
red 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


South KoreaNorth Korea
Economy - overviewAfter 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 joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.

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 years of underinvestment, shortages of spare parts, and poor maintenance. Large-scale military spending and development of its ballistic missile and nuclear program 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. 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)$2.027 trillion (2017 est.)
$1.967 trillion (2016 est.)
$1.913 trillion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 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 for North Korea 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 rate3% (2017 est.)
2.8% (2016 est.)
2.8% (2015 est.)
-1.1% (2015 est.)
1% (2014 est.)
1.1% (2013 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$39,400 (2017 est.)
$38,400 (2016 est.)
$37,500 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 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%
industry: 38.8%
services: 59.1% (2017 est.)
agriculture: 25.4%
industry: 41%
services: 33.5% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line12.5% (2015 est.)
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)1.9% (2017 est.)
1% (2016 est.)
Labor force27.47 million (2017 est.)
14 million
note: estimates vary widely (2014 est.)
Labor force - by occupationagriculture: 4.9%
industry: 24.1%
services: 71% (2016 est.)
agriculture: 37%
industry and services: 63% (2008 est.)
Unemployment rate3.8% (2017 est.)
3.7% (2016 est.)
25.6% (2013 est.)
25.5% (2012 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $351.6 billion
expenditures: $338 billion (2017 est.)
revenues: $3.2 billion
expenditures: $3.3 billion (2007 est.)
Industrieselectronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
military 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 rate3.5% (2017 est.)
1% (2017 est.)
Agriculture - productsrice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, fish
rice, corn, potatoes, wheat, soybeans, pulses, beef, pork, eggs
Exports$552.3 billion (2017 est.)
$511.8 billion (2016 est.)
$2.985 billion (2016 est.)
$2.908 billion (2015 est.)
Exports - commoditiessemiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products
Exports - partnersChina 25.1%, US 13.5%, Vietnam 6.6%, Hong Kong 6.6%, Japan 4.9% (2016)
China 85.6% (2016)
Imports$448.4 billion (2017 est.)
$391.3 billion (2016 est.)
$3.752 billion (2016 est.)
$3.711 billion (2015 est.)
Imports - commoditiescrude oil/petroleum products, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles
petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain
Imports - partnersChina 21.4%, Japan 11.7%, US 10.7%, Germany 4.7% (2016)
China 90.3% (2016)
Debt - external$376.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$358.2 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$5 billion (2013 est.)
Exchange ratesSouth Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
1,136.7 (2017 est.)
1,160.77 (2016 est.)
1,160.77 (2015 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 year
calendar year
GDP (official exchange rate)$1.53 trillion (2016 est.)
$28 billion (2013 est.)
Taxes and other revenues23% of GDP (2017 est.)
11.4% of GDP
note: excludes earnings from state-operated enterprises (2007 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)0.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
-0.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
GDP - composition, by end usehousehold consumption: 47.8%
government consumption: 15.2%
investment in fixed capital: 29.4%
investment in inventories: 0.3%
exports of goods and services: 43.9%
imports of goods and services: -36.7% (2017 est.)
household consumption: NA%
government consumption: NA%
investment in fixed capital: NA%
investment in inventories: NA%
exports of goods and services: 5.9%
imports of goods and services: -11.1% (2014 est.)
Gross national saving37.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
36.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
36.6% of GDP (2015 est.)


South KoreaNorth Korea
Electricity - production528.1 billion kWh (2016 est.)
13.41 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity - consumption497 billion kWh (2016 est.)
11.24 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity - exports0 kWh (2016 est.)
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity - imports0 kWh (2016 est.)
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Oil - production0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
Oil - imports2.942 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
10,640 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Oil - exports0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Oil - proved reservesNA bbl (1 January 2017 es)
0 bbl (1 January 2017 es)
Natural gas - proved reserves7.079 billion cu m (1 January 2017 es)
0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)
Natural gas - production188 million cu m (2015 est.)
0 cu m (2014 est.)
Natural gas - consumption69.63 billion cu m (2015 est.)
0 cu m (2014 est.)
Natural gas - exports0 cu m (2014 est.)
0 cu m (2014 est.)
Natural gas - imports43.43 billion cu m (2015 est.)
0 cu m (2014 est.)
Electricity - installed generating capacity103 million kW (2015 est.)
10 million kW (2015 est.)
Electricity - from fossil fuels67.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
45% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants1.7% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
55% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity - from nuclear fuels21.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity - from other renewable sources7.2% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Refined petroleum products - production3.114 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
11,270 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Refined petroleum products - consumption2.63 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
18,000 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Refined petroleum products - exports1.343 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Refined petroleum products - imports935,500 bbl/day (2016 est.)
5,976 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy599.3 million Mt (2014 est.)
50 million Mt (2013 est.)
Electricity accesselectrification - total population: 100% (2016)
population without electricity: 18,400,000
electrification - total population: 30%
electrification - urban areas: 41%
electrification - rural areas: 13% (2013)


South KoreaNorth Korea
Telephones - main lines in usetotal subscriptions: 28,035,600
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 55 (July 2016 est.)
total subscriptions: 1.18 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 5 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellulartotal: 58.935 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 120 (July 2016 est.)
total: 3.24 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 13 (July 2016 est.)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies
domestic: fixed-line and mobile-cellular services widely available with the latter subscribership up to about 120 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce
international: country code - 82; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 66 (2016)
general assessment: adequate system; nationwide fiber-optic network; mobile-cellular service expanded beyond Pyongyang
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
international: country code - 850; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intelsat - Indian Ocean, 1 Russian - Indian Ocean region); other international connections through Moscow and Beijing (2015)
Internet country code.kr
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 stations (2017)
no 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 (2015)


South KoreaNorth Korea
Railwaystotal: 3,874 km
standard gauge: 3,874 km 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified) (2015)
total: 7,435 km
standard gauge: 7,435 km 1.435-m gauge (5,400 km electrified)
note: figures are approximate; some narrow-gauge railway also exists (2014)
Roadwaystotal: 99,025 km
paved: 91,195 km (includes 4,193 km of expressways)
unpaved: 7,830 km (2015)
total: 25,554 km
paved: 724 km
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)
Pipelinesgas 2,216 km; oil 16 km; refined products 889 km (2013)
oil 6 km (2013)
Ports and terminalsmajor seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu
container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (19,469,000), Kwangyang (2,327,000), Incheon (2,368,000) (2015)
LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu
major seaport(s): Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam (Hamhung), Namp'o, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Wonsan
Merchant marinetotal: 1,907
by type: bulk carrier 100, container ship 89, general cargo 394, oil tanker 201, other 1,123 (2017)
total: 248
by type: bulk carrier 6, container ship 3, general cargo 184, oil tanker 25, other 30 (2017)
Airports111 (2013)
82 (2013)
Airports - with paved runwaystotal: 71
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 19
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 23 (2017)
total: 39
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 22
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 4 (2017)
Airports - with unpaved runwaystotal: 40
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 38 (2013)
total: 43
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m: 8 (2013)
Heliports466 (2013)
23 (2013)
National air transport systemnumber of registered air carriers: 12
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 348
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 65,482,307
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 11.297 billion mt-km (2015)
number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 17
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 223,418
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,574,719 mt-km (2015)
Civil aircraft registration country code prefixHL (2016)
P (2016)


South KoreaNorth Korea
Military branchesRepublic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2011)
North Korean People's Army: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force; civil security forces (2005)
Military service age and obligation18-35 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; minimum conscript service obligation - 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, admitted to 7 service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps; HIV-positive individuals are exempt from military service (2017)
17 years of age for compulsory male and female military service; service obligation 10 years for men, to age 23 for women (2017)

Transnational Issues

South KoreaNorth Korea
Disputes - internationalMilitary 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: 197 (2016)
IDPs: undetermined (periodic flooding and famine during mid-1990s) (2017)

Source: CIA Factbook