North Korea country profile

North Korea is a country in East Asia and one of the world's most secretive societies. It occupies the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, with population of 23.9 million inhabitants. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. It is one of the few countries still under nominally communist rule. The country emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of World War II. After the Korean war, the territory was divided between North Korea and South Korea.

The famous Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between the two and because the peace treaty was never signed, the countries are still considered to be in a war. The history of North Korea is dominated by its Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.

After his death, Kim Il-sung was declared the country's Eternal President. Current leader of the National Defence Commission is Kim Jong-il. Born in Siberia in 1941, he is rarely photographed and almost never heard in radio or TV broadcasts.

North Korea has an industrialized highly centralized command economy. Of the five remaining Communist states in the world, North Korea is one of only two countries with an almost entirely government-planned, state-owned economy.

Poor economic and diplomatic relations
The country has long maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a devastating drop in aid to North Korea from Russia, although China still provides substantial assistance. The main issue which put North Korea under the eye of the international community were their nuclear program activities. Back in 2002, Pyongyang decided to reactivate a nuclear reactor while expelling international inspectors from the country. Such course of action increased tensions in the international circles as well as among the neighboring countries.

Small-scale private markets exist throughout the country and provide the population with imported food and commodities ranging from cosmetics to motorcycles in exchange for money. Main exports are minerals and metals, as well as cement and agricultural products. Major industries include military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.

The North Korean Central Planning Committee usually prepares, supervises and implements economic plans, while a General Bureau of Provincial Industry in each region is responsible for the management of local manufacturing facilities, production, resource allocation and sales.

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