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January 2013

North Korea

North Korea

North Korea, slightly smaller than Mississippi, lies on the Korean Peninsula between China and South Korea. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist control. After the Korean War (1950-53), North Korea's founding President, Kim Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic "self-reliance" as a check against outside influence. The US was demonized as the ultimate threat.

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 September 2010. With his father's death in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has begun to assume his titles and duties.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population. Its history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community.

Pyongyang, its capital and oldest city, lies above the Taedong River. It is located near large iron and coal deposits and is a major industrial center. The natural resources of North Korea include: coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, and hydropower. The country's terrain is mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; the coastal plains are wide in the west, and discontinuous in the east.

CIA World Factbook; The Columbia Gazetteer, 1/2013; 1/2013

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