Released by the Bureau of Public Affairs.
Official Name: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Area: 120,410 sq. km. (47,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Mississippi.
Cities: Capital--Pyongyang. Other cities--Hamhung, Chongjin, Wonsan, Nampo, and Kaesong.
Terrain: About 80% of land area is moderately high mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys and small, cultivated plains. The remainder is lowland plains covering small, scattered areas.
Climate: Long, cold, dry winters; short, hot, humid, summers.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Korean(s).
Population: 23 million.
Annual growth rate: About 2%.
Ethnic groups: Korean; small Chinese and Japanese populations.
Religions: Buddhism, Shamanism, Chongdogyo, Christian; religious activities have been virtually nonexistent since 1945.
Education: Years compulsory--11. Attendance--3 million (primary, 1.5 million; secondary, 1.2 million; tertiary, 0.3 million). Literacy--90%.
Health: Medical treatment is free; one doctor for every 700 inhabitants; one hospital bed for every 350. Infant mortality rate--27/1,000. Life expectancy--males 66 yrs., females 73 yrs.
Type: Highly centralized communist state.
Independence: September 9, 1948.
Constitution: 1972; reportedly revised in 1992.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state); premier (head of government). Legislative--Supreme People's Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court; provincial, city, county, and military courts.
Subdivisions: Nine provinces; four province-level municipalities (Pyongyang, Kaesong, Chongjin, Nampo); one free trade zone (Najin-Sonbong FTZ).
Political party: Korean Workers' Party (communist).
Suffrage: Universal at 17.
GNP (1991): $22.5 billion; 30% is agriculture, 31% is mining and
manufacturing, and 39% is services and other.
Per capita GNP (1991): $1,038.
Agriculture: Products--rice, corn, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, tobacco.
Mining and manufacturing: Types--steel, cement, textiles, petrochemicals, machines.
Trade (1990): Exports--$1.95 billion; machinery and equipment, military hardware, iron, steel, metal ores, nonferrous metals, nonmetallic minerals, textile fibers. Imports--$2.85 billion: textiles, petroleum, coking coal, grain. Major partners--Russia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, European countries. These figures do not include trade with South Korea.
Exchange rate (August 1995)--2.02 won=U.S.$1.
* In most cases, the figures used above are estimates based upon incomplete data and projections.
U.S. POLICY TOWARD NORTH KOREA
The United States does not maintain any diplomatic, consular, or trade relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K., or North Korea). Negotiations are ongoing to implement a provision of the 1994 agreed framework between the U.S. and D.P.R.K. for an exchange of diplomatic missions at the liaison office level.
On September 20, 1995, a consular protecting power arrangement was implemented, allowing for consular protection by the Swedish embassy of U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea. The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang is not authorized to issue U.S. visas. U.S. citizens and residents wishing to travel to North Korea must obtain visas in third countries.
There are no U.S. Government restrictions on travel by private U.S. citizens to North Korea. However, they may only spend money in North Korea to purchase items related to travel. In addition, $100 worth of merchandise for personal use may be brought back into the United States as unaccompanied baggage. (Also see Travel and Business Information.)
North Korea has been included on the U.S. list of states supporting international terrorism since January 1988, after North Korean agents bombed a South Korean airliner--KAL flight 858--on November 29, 1987, causing the deaths of 115 people.
U.S. law prohibits almost all financial and commercial transactions with North Korea by persons or firms subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Exceptions were made in 1988 for informational material and commercial export of goods meeting basic human needs. Export of goods, whether as a sale or donation, requires a specific license by the U.S. Treasury Department. Under the 1994 agreed framework, the United States is committed to further easing of its sanctions on North Korea as progress is made in implementing the framework.
The U.S. seeks progress from North Korea in the following areas as being necessary for improved bilateral relations: credible condemnations of terrorism, dialogue between North and South Korea on the future and possible reunification of the Korean peninsula; nuclear matters, return of the remains of U.S. military personnel missing in action during the Korean war, and greater respect for human rights. The U.S. also has expressed concern about North Korea's export of ballistic missiles and related technology, and the North Korean conventional military threat.
U.S. Support for North-South Reunification
The United States supports the peaceful reunification of Korea--divided following World War II--on terms acceptable to the Korean people and recognizes that the future of the Korean peninsula is primarily a matter for them to decide. The U.S. believes that a constructive and serious dialogue between the authorities of North and South Korea is necessary to resolve the issues on the peninsula, and that concrete steps to promote greater understanding and reduce tension are needed to pave the way for reunifying the Korean nation. The U.S. remains prepared to participate in negotiations between North and South Korea if so desired by the two Korean Governments and provided that both are full and equal participants in any such talks.
On the basis of these principles, on April 16, 1996, President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young Sam proposed to convene a "Four Party Meeting" of representatives of South Korea, North Korea, the United States, and the People's Republic of China as soon as possible, without preconditions. The purpose of this meeting would be to initiate a process aimed at replacing the current military armistice agreement with a permanent peace. In framing this proposal, the U.S. and South Korea took the D.P.R.K.'s expressed concerns into account. The main difference between this proposal and North Korean proposals is that the D.P.R.K. wishes to negotiate only with the U.S. This is not feasible, as the establishment of a permanent peace is primarily the responsibility of the Korean people--North and South.
Recognizing that the North's isolation is an inherently destabilizing factor in the Northeast Asia region and an impediment to the peaceful reunification of Korea, the United States encourages the D.P.R.K. to adopt policies that will help bring it more fully into the world community. To advance this goal--and in support of South Korean President Roh Tae Woo's 1988 reunification initiatives (see, under Foreign Relations, Reunification Efforts Since 1971)--the U.S. Government on October 31, 1988, announced the following steps regarding relations with the D.P.R.K.:
--Authorized U.S. diplomats to hold substantive discussions with
D.P.R.K. officials in neutral settings;
--Encouraged unofficial, nongovernmental visits from the D.P.R.K. in academics, sports, culture, and other areas;
--Facilitated the travel of U.S. citizens to the D.P.R.K. by permitting travel services for exchanges and group travel on a case-by-case basis; and
--Permitted certain commercial exports to the D.P.R.K. of goods that meet basic human needs (food, clothing, medical supplies, etc.) on a case-by-case basis.
As a result, there have been cultural, academic, and diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. From January 1989 to May 1993, U.S. and North Korean officials met 33 times in Beijing, China. The first political-level meeting between the U.S. and the D.P.R.K. occurred on January 22, 1992, between U.S. Under Secretary of State Arnold Kanter and Korean Workers' Party Secretary Kim Yong Sun. Both sides outlined their policies toward bilateral and inter-Korean relations.
U.S. Efforts on Denuclearization
North and South Korea had begun talks in 1990 which resulted in a 1991 denuclearization accord (see, under Foreign Relations, Reunification Efforts Since 1971). Lack of progress on implementation of this accord triggered actions on both sides that led to North Korea's March 12, 1993, announcement of its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The UN Security Council on May 11 passed a resolution urging the D.P.R.K. to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to implement the 1991 North-South denuclearization accord. It also urged all member states to encourage the D.P.R.K. to respond positively to this resolution and to facilitate a solution.
The U.S. responded by holding political-level talks with the D.P.R.K. in early June 1993 that led to a joint statement outlining the basic principles for continued U.S.-D.P.R.K. dialogue and North Korea's "suspending" its withdrawal from the NPT. A second round of talks was held July 14-19, 1993, in Geneva. The talks set the guidelines for resolving the nuclear issue, improving U.S.-North Korean relations, and restarting inter-Korean talks, but further negotiations deadlocked.
Following the D.P.R.K.'s spring 1994 unloading of fuel from its five-megawatt nuclear reactor, the resultant U.S. push for UN sanctions, and former U.S. President Carter's June 1994 visit to Pyongyang, a third round of talks between the U.S. and the D.P.R.K. opened in Geneva on July 8, 1994. The talks were recessed upon news of the July death of North Korean President Kim Il Sung, then resumed in August. On October 21, 1994, representatives of the United States and the D.P.R.K. signed an agreed framework for resolving the nuclear issue.
The 1994 framework calls for the following steps.
--North Korea agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program under
enhanced IAEA safeguards.
--Both sides agreed to cooperate to replace the D.P.R.K.'s graphite-moderated reactors for related facilities with light-water (LWR) power plants.
--The two sides agreed to move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.
--Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
--Both sides agreed to work together to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
In accordance with the terms of the 1994 framework, the U.S. Government in January 1995 responded to North Korea's decision to freeze its nuclear program and cooperate with U.S. and IAEA verification efforts by easing economic sanctions against North Korea in four areas through:
--Authorizing transactions related to telecommunications connections,
credit card use for personal or travel-related transactions, and
the opening of journalists' offices;
--Authorizing D.P.R.K. use of the U.S. banking system to clear transactions not originating or terminating in the United States and unblocking frozen assets where there is no D.P.R.K. Government interest;
--Authorizing imports of magnesite, a refractory material used in the U.S. steel industry--North Korea and China are the world's primary sources of this raw material; and
--Authorizing transactions related to future establishment of liaison offices, case-by-case participation of U.S. companies in the light water reactor project, supply of alternative energy, and disposition of spent nuclear fuel as provided for by the agreed framework, in a manner consistent with applicable laws.
Despite this, smooth implementation of the 1994 agreed framework was obstructed for a time by North Korea's refusal to accept South Korean-designed LWR model reactors. U.S. and D.P.R.K. negotiators met for three weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and on June 12, 1995, reached an accord resolving this issue.
North Korea agreed to accept the decisions of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) with respect to the model for the LWRs and agreed that KEDO would select a prime contractor to carry out the LWR project. The KEDO executive board announced that it had selected the South Korean-designed Ulchin 3-4 LWR as the reference model for the project and that a South Korean firm would be the prime contractor. The South Korean prime contractor would be responsible for all aspects of the LWR project including design, manufacture, construction, and management. In this Kuala Lumpur accord to the 1994 Geneva agreed framework, the D.P.R.K. also agreed to negotiate directly with KEDO on all outstanding issues related to the LWR project.
On December 15, 1995, KEDO and the D.P.R.K. signed the Light Water Reactor Supply Agreement. KEDO teams have also made a number of trips to North Korea to survey the proposed reactor site; in the spring of 1996, KEDO and the D.P.R.K. began negotiations on implementing protocols to the supply agreement.
Historical and Cultural Highlights
The Korean peninsula was first populated by peoples of a Tungusic branch of the Ural-Altaic language family who migrated from the northwestern regions of Asia. Some of these peoples also populated parts of northeast China (Manchuria); Koreans and Manchurians still show physical similarities.
Koreans are racially and linguistically homogeneous. Although there are no indigenous minorities in North Korea, there is a small Chinese community (about 50,000) and some 1,800 Japanese wives who accompanied the roughly 93,000 Koreans returning to the North from Japan during 1959-62.
Korean is a Ural-Altaic language and is related to Japanese and remotely related to Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, and Mongolian. Although dialects exist, the Korean spoken throughout the peninsula is mutually comprehensible. In North Korea, the Korea alphabet (hangul) is used exclusively, unlike in South Korea, where a combination of hangul and Chinese characters is used as the written language.
Korea's traditional religions are Buddhism and Shamanism. Christian missionaries arrived as early as the 16th century, but it was not until the 19th century that they founded schools, hospitals, and other modern institutions throughout Korea. Major centers of 19th-century missionary activity included Seoul and Pyongyang, and there was a relatively large Christian population in the north before 1945. Although religious groups exist in North Korea, most available evidence suggests that the government severely restricts religious activity.
According to legend, the god-king Tangun founded the Korean nation in 2333 BC. By the first century AD, the Korean peninsula was divided into the kingdoms of Silla, Koguryo, and Paekche. In 668 AD, the Silla kingdom unified the peninsula. The Koryo dynasty--from which Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century derived the Western name "Korea"--succeeded the Silla kingdom in 935. The Choson dynasty, ruled by members of the Yi clan, supplanted Koryo in 1392 and lasted until the Japanese annexed Korea in 1910.
Throughout most of its history, Korea has been invaded, influenced, and fought over by its larger neighbors. Korea was under Mongolian occupation from 1231 until the early 14th century and was plundered by Japanese pirates in 1359 and 1361. The unifier of Japan, Hideyoshi, launched major invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597. When Western powers focused "gunboat" diplomacy on Korea in the mid-19th century, Korea's rulers adopted a closed-door policy, earning Korea the title of "Hermit Kingdom."
Though the Choson dynasty paid fealty to the Chinese court and recognized China's hegemony in East Asia, Korea was independent until the late 19th century. At that time, China sought to block growing Japanese influence on the Korean peninsula and Russian pressure for commercial gains there. This competition produced the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Japan emerged victorious from both wars and in 1910 annexed Korea as part of the growing Japanese empire.
Japanese colonial administration was characterized by tight control from Tokyo and ruthless efforts to supplant Korean language and culture. Organized Korean resistance during the colonial era--such as the March 1, 1919, Independence Movement--was unsuccessful, and Japan remained firmly in control until the end of World War II in 1945.
Japan surrendered in August 1945, and Korea was liberated. However, the unexpectedly early surrender of Japan led to the immediate division of Korea into two occupation zones, with the U.S. administering the southern half of the peninsula and the U.S.S.R taking over the area to the north of the 38th parallel. This division was meant to be temporary and to facilitate the Japanese surrender until the U.S., U.K., Soviet Union, and China could arrange a trusteeship administration.
At a meeting in Cairo, it was agreed that Korea would be free "in due course;" at a later meeting in Yalta, it was agreed to establish a four-power trusteeship over Korea. In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. A five-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly.
Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated
as the politics of the Cold War and domestic opposition to the
trusteeship plan resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate
nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social
systems and the outbreak of war in 1950 (see, under Foreign Relations,
Korean War of 1950-53).
North Korea's faltering economy and the breakdown of trade relations with the countries of the former socialist bloc--especially following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union--have confronted Pyongyang with difficult policy choices. Other centrally planned economies in similar difficulties have opted for domestic economic reform and liberalization of trade and investment. Despite its recent moves toward limited economic opening, North Korea's leadership seems determined to maintain tight political and ideological control.
About 80% of North Korea's terrain consists of moderately high mountain ranges and partially forested mountains and hills separated by deep, narrow valleys and small, cultivated plains. The most rugged areas are the north and east coasts. Good harbors are found on the eastern coast. Pyongyang, the capital, near the country's west coast, is located on the Taedong River.
Although most North Korean citizens live in cities and work in factories, agriculture remains a rather high 30% of total GNP, although output has recently been falling. While trade with the South has expanded since 1988, no physical links between the two remain, and the infrastructure of the North is generally poor and outdated.
North Korea suffers from chronic food shortages, which were exacerbated by record floods in the summer of 1995. In response to international appeals, the United States, from September 1995 through June 1996, has provided four tranches of humanitarian aid totaling $8.5 million for international agencies' relief activities in the D.P.R.K.
Colonial Rule and Postwar Division
Beginning in the mid-1920s, the Japanese colonial administration concentrated its industrial development efforts in the comparatively underpopulated and resource-rich northern portion of Korea, resulting in a considerable movement of people northward from the agrarian southern provinces of the Korean peninsula.
This trend was reversed after the end of World War II, when more than 2 million Koreans moved from North to South following the division of the peninsula into Soviet and American military zones of administration. This southward exodus continued after the establishment of the D.P.R.K. in 1948 and during the 1950-53 Korean war. The North Korean population is now 21.8 million, compared with 44.5 million in South Korea.
The post-World War II division of the Korean peninsula resulted in imbalances of natural and human resources, with disadvantages for both the North and the South. By most economic measures, after partition the North was better off in terms of industry and natural resources. The South, however, had two-thirds of the work force. In 1945, about 65% of Korean heavy industry was in the North but only 31% of light industry, 37% of agriculture, and 18% of the peninsula's total commerce.
North and South both suffered from the massive destruction caused during the Korean war. In the years immediately after the war, North Korea mobilized its labor force and natural resources in an effort to achieve rapid economic development. Large amounts of aid from other communist countries, notably the Soviet Union and China, helped the regime achieve a high growth rate in the immediate postwar period.
Efforts at Modernization
During the early 1970s, North Korea, probably noting the more rapid economic development of the South, attempted a large-scale modernization program through the importation of Western technology, principally in the heavy industrial sectors of the economy. Unable to finance its debt through exports that shrank steadily after the worldwide recession stemming from the oil crisis of the 1970s, the D.P.R.K. became the first communist country to default on its loans from free market countries.
In 1979, North Korea was able to renegotiate much of its international debt, but in 1980 it defaulted on all of its loans except those from Japan. By the end of 1986, the North's hard-currency debt had reached more than $4 billion. It also owed nearly $2 billion to communist creditors. The Japanese also declared the North in default. By 1993, North Korea's debt was estimated at $10 billion.
Largely because of these debt problems but also because of a prolonged drought and mismanagement, North Korea's industrial growth slowed and per capita GNP fell below that of the South. By the end of 1979, per capita GNP in the North was about one-third of that in the South. The causes for this relatively poor performance are complex, but a major factor is the disproportionately large percentage of GNP (possibly as much as 25%) that the North devotes to the military.
In April 1982, Kim Il Sung announced a new economic policy giving priority to increased agricultural production through land reclamation, development of the country's infrastructure--especially power plants and transportation facilities--and reliance on domestically produced equipment. There was also more emphasis on trade.
In September 1984, North Korea promulgated a joint venture law to attract foreign capital and technology. The new emphasis on expanding trade and acquiring technology, however, was not been accompanied by a shift in priorities away from support of the military. Today, North Korea has an international trade share--exports plus imports--of 12% of GNP, well below South Korea's figure of 55%.
In 1991, the D.P.R.K. announced the creation of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the northeast regions of Najin, Chongjin, and Sonbong. Investment in this SEZ has been slow in coming. Problems with infrastructure, bureaucracy, and uncertainties about investment security and viability have hindered growth and development.
Most recently, the D.P.R.K. announced in December 1993 a three-year transitional economic policy placing primary emphasis on agriculture, light industry, and foreign trade.
North-South Economic Ties
The two Koreas have begun to develop economic ties. Following a 1988 decision by the South Korean Government to allow trade with the D.P.R.K. (see, under Foreign Relations, Reunification Efforts Since 1971), South Korean firms began to import North Korean goods. Direct trade with the South began in the fall of 1990 after the unprecedented September 1990 meeting of the two Korean Prime Ministers. Trade between the countries increased from $18.8 million in 1989 to $174 million in 1992.
During this period, the chairman of the South Korean company Daewoo--Kim Woo Choong--visited the North, and an agreement was created to build a light industrial complex at Nampo. In other negotiations, there were discussions to develop tourism and build road and rail links in Korea. Economic contacts continued to develop until the spring of 1993, when North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT slowed the expansion of North-South economic cooperation.
South Korean President Kim Young Sam prohibited substantial direct investment in the North until the nuclear issue was resolved, although inter-Korean trade continued, with South Korea becoming one of the D.P.R.K.'s largest trading partners. With the signing of the U.S.-D.P.R.K. agreed framework on October 21, 1994, President Kim announced he would again allow discussions for investments.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
North Korea has a centralized government under the rigid control of the communist Korean Worker's Party (KWP), which all government officials belong to. A few minor political parties are allowed to exist in name only, presumably to present a facade of representative government to the outside world. Kim Il Sung, commonly referred to as "Great Leader," dominated the government from 1948 until his death in July 1994. Kim served both as Secretary General of the KWP and as President of North Korea.
Little is known about the actual lines of power and authority in the North Korean Government despite the formal structure set forth in the constitution. Following the death of Kim Il Sung, his son--Kim Jong Il--appears to have inherited supreme power. However, 11/2 years after his father's death, Kim Jong Il has not formally assumed Kim Il Sung's two main titles: North Korean President and Secretary General of the KWP.
An inner core of ranking members of the Korean Workers' Party, including an increasing number of Kim Jong Il's followers, dominates the political system and the economy through an elaborate party structure and through the civilian and military bureaucracies. A pervasive personality cult has developed around Kim Jong Il, who was groomed for many years to succeed his father. Kim's continuing media buildup suggests that he eventually will succeed his father in one or both of his positions.
North Korea's 1972 constitution was reportedly amended in late 1992, but the D.P.R.K. has never publicized the changes. The government is led by the president and, in theory, a super-cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC).
The constitution designates the CPC as the government's top policymaking body. It is headed by the president, who also nominates the other committee members. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). The SAC is headed by a premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.
Officially, the legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), is the highest organ of state power. Its members are elected every four years. Usually only two meetings are held annually, each lasting a few days. A standing committee elected by the SPA performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session. In reality, the Assembly serves only to ratify decisions made by the ruling KWP.
North Korea's judiciary is "accountable" to the SPA and the president. The SPA's standing committee also appoints judges to the highest court for four-year terms that are concurrent with those of the Assembly.
Administratively, North Korea is divided into nine provinces and four provincial-level municipalities--Pyongyang, Chongjin, Nampo, and Kaesong. It also appears to be divided into nine military districts.
Principal Party and Government Officials
Kim Jong Il--KWP Politburo Standing Committee member; KWP Secretary;
Supreme Commander of the People's Armed Forces; Chairman of the
National Defense Commission; son of Kim Il Sung and de facto heir.
Kang Song San--SAC Premier; KWP Politburo member
Kim Yong Nam--Foreign Minister; SAC Vice Premier; KWP Politburo member
Kim Hyong U--Ambassador to the UN
North Korea's relationship with the South has informed much of its post-World War II history and still drives much of its foreign policy. North and South Korea have had a difficult and acrimonious relationship in the four decades since the Korean war.
North Korea occupies the northern portion of a mountainous peninsula projecting southeast from China, between the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. Japan lies east of the peninsula across the Sea of Japan. North Korea shares borders with the People's Republic of China along the Yalu River and with China and Russia along the Tumen River.
The military demarcation line (MDL) of separation between the belligerent sides at the close of the Korean war forms North Korea's boundary with South Korea. A demilitarized zone (DMZ) extends for 2,000 meters (just over one mile) on either side of the MDL. Both the North and South Korean Governments hold that the MDL is only a temporary administrative line, not a permanent border.
During the postwar period, both Korean Governments have repeatedly affirmed their desire to reunify the Korean peninsula, but until 1971, the two governments had no direct, official communications or other contact. They have yet to have a presidential-level summit. During former U.S. President Carter's 1994 visit, Kim Il Sung agreed to a first-ever North-South summit. The two sides went ahead with plans for a meeting in July but had to shelve it because of Kim's death.
Korean War of 1950-53
As noted, differences developed after World War II over the issue of establishing a Korean national government. The Soviet Union and Korean authorities in the North refused to comply with the UN General Assembly's November 1947 resolution on elections and blocked entry of the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea into the North.
Despite this refusal, elections were held in the South under UN observation, and on August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea was established in the South. Syngman Rhee, a Korean nationalist leader, became the Republic's first president. On September 9, 1948, the North established the Democratic People's Republic of Korea headed by then-Premier Kim Il Sung, known for his anti-Japanese guerrilla activities in Manchuria during the 1930s. Both administrations claimed to be the only legitimate government on the peninsula.
After the establishment of the two states, South Korea experienced several violent uprisings by indigenous, pro-North Korean leftist guerrillas. As Soviet troops left in late 1948 and U.S. troops in the spring of 1949, border clashes along the 38th parallel intensified.
North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The United Nations, in accordance with the terms of its Charter, engaged in its first collective action, and established the UN Command (UNC), to which 16 member nations sent troops and assistance. Next to South Korea, the United States contributed the largest contingent of forces to this international effort. The battle line fluctuated north and south, and after large numbers of Chinese "People's Volunteers" intervened to assist the North, the battle line stabilized north of Seoul near the 38th parallel.
Armistice negotiations began in July 1951, but hostilities continued until July 27, 1953. On that date, at Panmunjom, the military commanders of the North Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers, and the UNC signed an armistice agreement. Neither the United States nor South Korea is a signatory to the armistice per se, although both adhere to it through the UNC.
The armistice called for an international conference to find a political solution to the problem of Korea's division. This conference met at Geneva in April 1954 but, after seven weeks of futile debate, ended without agreement or progress. No comprehensive peace agreement has replaced the 1953 armistice pact; thus, a condition of belligerency still exists on the peninsula.
Reunification Efforts Since 1971
In August 1971, North and South Korea agreed to hold talks through their respective Red Cross societies with the aim of reuniting the many Korean families separated following the division of Korea and the Korean war. After a series of secret meetings, both sides announced on July 4, 1972, an agreement to work toward peaceful reunification and an end to the hostile atmosphere prevailing on the peninsula. Officials exchanged visits, and regular communications were established through a North-South coordinating committee and the Red Cross.
However, these initial contacts broke down and ended in 1973 following South Korean President Park Chung Hee's announcement that the South would seek separate entry into the United Nations and after the kidnapping from Tokyo of South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae Jung by the South Korean intelligence service. There was no other significant contact between North and South Korea until 1984.
The breakdown of these talks characterized the intermittent nature of inter-Korean dialogue. Basic differences in approach--North Korea insisting on immediate steps toward reunification before discussing specific, concrete issues and South Korea maintaining that, given the long history of mutual distrust, reunification must be a gradual, step-by-step process--made improved North-South relations an elusive aim.
Dialogue was renewed on several fronts in September 1984, when South Korea accepted the North's offer to provide relief goods to victims of severe flooding in South Korea. Red Cross talks to address the plight of separated families resumed, as did talks on economic and trade issues and parliamentary-level discussions. However, the North then unilaterally suspended all talks in January 1986, arguing that the annual U.S.-South Korea "Team Spirit" military exercise was inconsistent with dialogue. There was a brief flurry of negotiations on cohosting the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which ended in failure and was followed by the 1987 KAL flight 858 bombing.
In a major initiative in July 1988, South Korean President Roh Tae Woo called for new efforts to promote North-South exchanges, family reunification, inter-Korean trade, and contact in international forums. Roh followed up this initiative in a UN General Assembly speech in which South Korea offered for the first time to discuss security matters with the North.
Initial meetings that grew out of Roh's proposals started in September 1989. In September 1990, the first of eight prime minister-level meetings between North Korean and South Korean officials took place in Seoul, beginning an especially fruitful period of dialogue. The prime ministerial talks resulted in two major agreements: the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation (the "basic agreement") and the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (the "joint declaration").
The basic agreement--signed on December 13, 1991--calling for reconciliation and nonaggression established four joint commissions. These commissions--on South-North reconciliation, South-North military affairs, South-North economic exchanges and cooperation, and South-North social and cultural exchange--were to work out the specifics for implementing the general terms of the basic agreement. Subcommittees to examine specific issues were created, and liaison offices were established in Panmunjom, but in the fall of 1992, the process came to a halt because of rising tension over the nuclear issue.
The joint declaration on denuclearization was initialed on December 31, 1991. It forbade both sides to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons and forbade the possession of nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities. A procedure for inter-Korean inspection was to be organized and a North-South Joint Nuclear Control Commission (JNCC) was mandated with verification of the denuclearization of the peninsula.
On January 30, 1992, the D.P.R.K. also signed a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA, as it had pledged to do in 1985 when acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This safeguards agreement allowed IAEA inspections to begin in June 1992. In March 1992, the JNCC was established in accordance with the joint declaration, but subsequent meetings failed to reach agreement on the main issue of establishing a bilateral inspection regime.
As the 1990s progressed, concern over the North's nuclear program became a major issue in North-South relations and between North Korea and the U.S. The lack of progress on implementation of the joint nuclear declaration's provision for an inter-Korean nuclear inspection regime led to reinstatement of the U.S.-South Korea Team Spirit military exercise for 1993. The situation worsened rapidly when North Korea, in January 1993, refused IAEA access to two suspected nuclear waste sites and then announced in March 1993 its intent to withdraw from the NPT. During the next two years, the U.S. held direct talks with the D.P.R.K. that resulted in a series of agreements on nuclear matters (see, under U.S. Policy Toward North Korea, U.S. Efforts on Denuclearization).
Defense and Military Issues
North Korea now has the fourth-largest army in the world. The North has an estimated 1.2 million armed personnel, compared to about 650,000 in the South. Military spending equals 20-25% of GNP, with about 20% of men ages 17-54 in the regular armed forces. North Korean forces have a substantial numerical advantage over the South (approximately 2 or 3 to 1) in several key categories of offensive weapons--tanks, long-range artillery, and armored personnel carriers.
The North has perhaps the world's second-largest special operations force (55,000), designed for insertion behind the lines in wartime. While the North has a relatively impressive fleet of submarines, its surface fleet has a very limited capability. Its aging air force has twice the number of aircraft as the South; but except for a few advanced fighters, the North's air force is obsolete. The North--like the South--deploys the bulk of its forces well forward, along the DMZ. Several North Korean military tunnels under the DMZ were discovered in the 1970s.
In 1953, the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) was created to oversee and enforce the terms of the armistice. The Neutral Nation Supervisory Committee (NNSC)--originally made up of delegations from Poland and Czechoslovakia on the D.P.R.K.-Chinese People's Volunteers side and Sweden and Switzerland on the UN side--monitors the activities of the MAC.
In recent years, North Korea has sought to dismantle the MAC in a push for a new "peace mechanism" on the peninsula. In April 1994, it declared the MAC void and withdrew its representatives. Prior to this, it had forced the Czechs out of the NNSC by refusing to accept the Czech Republic as the successor state to Czechoslovakia, an original member of the NNSC. In September 1994, at the D.P.R.K.'s urging, China "recalled" the Chinese People's Volunteers representatives to the MAC, and in early 1995, North Korea forced Poland to remove its representatives to the NNSC from the North Korean side of the DMZ.
In April 1996, the D.P.R.K. declared that it would no longer fulfill its obligation under the military armistice agreement to maintain the DMZ. This was followed by three nights of minor incursions into the northern sector of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, after which the situation returned to normal.
Also over the last several years, North Korea has moved even more of its rear-echelon troops to hardened bunkers closer to the DMZ. Given the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ (some 25 miles), South Korean and U.S. forces are likely to have little warning of any attack. The United States and South Korea continue to believe that the U.S. troop presence remains an effective deterrent against North Korean aggression.
Relations Outside the Peninsula
After 1945, the Soviet Union supplied the economic and military aid that enabled North Korea to mount its invasion of the South in 1950. Soviet aid and influence continued at a high level during the Korean war; as mentioned, the Soviet Union was largely responsible for rebuilding North Korea's economy after the cessation of hostilities. In addition, the assistance of Chinese "volunteers" during the war and the presence of these troops until 1958 gave China some degree of influence in North Korea. In 1961, North Korea concluded formal mutual security treaties with the Soviet Union (inherited by Russia) and China, which have not been formally ended.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, the Soviet-backed Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan created strains between China and the Soviet Union and, in turn, in North Korea's relations with its two major communist allies. North Korea tried to avoid becoming embroiled in the Sino-Soviet split, obtaining aid from both the Soviet Union and China and trying to avoid dependence on either. Following Kim Il Sung's 1984 visit to Moscow, there was a dramatic improvement in Soviet-D.P.R.K. relations, resulting in renewed deliveries of advanced Soviet weaponry to North Korea and increases in economic aid.
The establishment of diplomatic relations by South Korea with the Soviet Union in 1990 and with the PRC in 1992 put a serious strain on relations between North Korea and its traditional allies. Moreover, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a significant drop in communist aid to North Korea. Despite these changes and its past reliance on this military and economic assistance, North Korea proclaims a militantly independent stance in its foreign policy in accordance with its official ideology of juche, or self-reliance.
At the same time, North Korea maintains membership in a variety of multilateral organizations. It became a member of the UN in September 1991. North Korea also belongs to the Food and Agriculture Organization; the International Civil Aviation Organization; the International Postal Union; the UN Conference on Trade and Development; the International Telecommunications Union; the UN Development Program; the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the World Health Organization; the World Intellectual Property Organization; the World Meteorological Organization; the International Maritime Organization; the International Committee of the Red Cross; and the Nonaligned Movement.
The D.P.R.K. is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987, when KAL 858 was bombed in flight. The D.P.R.K. has made several statements condemning terrorism, most recently a May 1994 Foreign Ministry spokesman statement "opposing any act encouraging and supporting terrorism." The D.P.R.K. and South Korea pledged in their 1991 reconciliation agreement to "refrain from all acts destroying and overthrowing the other side" and not use arms against one another. North Korea appears to be respecting a promise to the Philippine Government to suspend its support for the communist New People's Army.
Normalization talks with Japan have been complicated by North Korea's refusal to respond to questions concerning the status of a Korean resident of Japan allegedly kidnapped by North Koreans in the 1980s to teach Japanese to D.P.R.K. agents. Pyongyang continues to provide sanctuary to members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction who participated in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
U.S. passports are valid for travel to North Korea. Further information on entry requirements may be available from the North Korean mission to the UN in New York; otherwise, such information and visas are available from North Korean consulates in countries which maintain diplomatic relations with the D.P.R.K.
There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea. The Government of Sweden, acting through its embassy in Pyongyang, serves as the interim consular protecting power for the U.S. Government in North Korea. The Swedish embassy is located at Daedonggang District, Pyongyang; tel. and fax: 850-2-381-7258.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and a telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at ; this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at gopher://gopher.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
Available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402:
Library of Congress. North Korea: A Country Study. 1994
Department of State. The Record on Korean Unification 1943-1960. 1961.
Department of the Army. Communist North Korea: A Bibliographic Survey. 1971.
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.
Baldwin, Frank, ed. Without Parallel: The American-Korean Relationship
Since 1945. New York: Pantheon Books, 1974.
Barnds, William J. The Two Koreas in East Asian Affairs. New York: New York University Press, 1976.
Bucher, Lloyd M. Bucher: My Story. New York: Doubleday, 1970.
Chung, Joseph S. The North Korean Economy: Structure and Development. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1974.
Clough, Ralph. Embattled Korea: The Rivalry for International Support. Colorado: Westview Press, 1987.
Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
________. The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Eckert, Carter, Ki-Baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson, and Edward W. Wagner. Korea Old and New: A History. Seoul: Ilchokak Publishers for Harvard University Press, 1990.
Foot, Rosemary. The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950-53. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.
Han, Woo-kuen. The History of Korea. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1971.
Henderson, Gregory. Korea: The Politics of the Vortex. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968.
Henthorn, William. History of Korea. New York: The Free Press, 1971.
Hwang, In K. The Neutralized Unification of Korea. Cambridge: Schenkman, 1980.
Kihl, Young Hwan. Politics and Policies in Divided Korea. Colorado: Westview Press, 1984.
Kim, Hak-joon. The Unification Policy of South and North Korea, 1948-1976: A Comparative Study. Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 1977.
Kim, Ilpyong J. Communist Politics in North Korea. New York: Praeger, 1975.
Kim, Joungwon Alexander. Divided Korea: The Politics of Development 1945-1972. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Kim, Young C. and Abraham M. Halpern. The Future of the Korean Peninsula. New York: Praeger, 1976.
Koh, Byung Chul. The Foreign Policy Systems of North and South Korea. Berkeley: University of California, 1984.
________. The Foreign Policy of North Korea. New York: Praeger, 1969.
Lee, Chong-sik. Korean Workers' Party: A Short History. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.
________. Materials on Korean Communist 1945-1947. Honolulu: Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawaii, 1977.
________. The Politics of Korean Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.
Lee, Chong-sik and Se-Hee Yoo, ed. North Korea in Transition. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1991.
Lee, Ki-baik. A New History of Korea. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.
MacDonald, Donald S. The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.
Merrill, John. Korea: The Peninsular Origins of the War. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988.
Nahm, Andrew C. North Korea: Her Past, Reality, and Impression. Kalamazoo: Center for Korean Studies, Western Michigan University, 1978.
Paige, Glenn D. The Korean Decision. New York: The Free Press, 1968.
________. Korean People's Democratic Republic. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1966.
Palais, James B. Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Ridgeway, Matthew B. Korean War. New York: Doubleday, 1964.
Scalapino, Robert A. and Jun-yop Kim, eds. North Korea Today: Strategic and Domestic Issues. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1983.
________. and Chong-sik Lee. Communism in Korea. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.
Suh, Dae-sook. Kim Il Sung: A Biography. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.
________. The Korean Communist Movement, 1918-1948. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.
________ and Lee, Chong-sik. Political Leadership in Korea. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976.
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