North Korea

Thomas Larsen

Current Facts

  • Population: 25 million
  • Major ethnicity: Racially homogeneous
  • Minor: Chinese and Japanese
  • Languages contain: Korean and some English (very poor)
  • Religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity at a small extent
  • Literacy rate: 100%
  • Capital: Pyongyang
  • percentage living under poverty: 25%

Following Japan’s defeat in 1945 the Soviet Union, and United States agreed to split the post-war control of the Korean peninsula between themselves. On August 10, 1945 two young U.S. military officers drew up a line demarcating the U.S. and Soviet occupation zones at the 38th parallel. The divide should have been temporary, a mere footnote in Korea’s long history, but the emergence of the Cold War made this a seminal event. Seeking to ensure the maintenance of their respective influences in Korea, the U.S. and USSR installed leaders sympathetic to their own cause, while mistrust on both sides prevented cooperation on elections that were supposed to choose a leader for the entire peninsula. The United States handed control over the southern half of the peninsula to Syngman Rhee, while the Soviet Union gave Kim Il-sung power over the north. In 1948, both sides claimed to be the legitimate government and representative of the entire Korean people.

Important health statistics

By 1960, a complete and comprehensive free heath care system was to be established. All the steps of health care from prevention, diagnosis, medicines to hospitalization were provided for free. All residents were to receive free health care, leaving no village without doctors. Special programs were introduced for maternal care and for the protection of workers’ safety.

Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2013): 66/73

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2013): 183/111

Level Types of hospitals

Primary care: Cooperative farms- level – people’s hospitals. Industrial health care office and emergency care office – primary hospitals

Second-level care: Gun (county) -level people’s hospitals

Third-level care: Do (province) -level central hospital. Do-level university hospital

Fourth-level care: Central hospitals, special hospitals (tuberculosis wards, etc.)


Daily life

If you live in Pyongyang life is difficult but manageable for those fortunate enough to live there. Still there is very little to buy. Soap, most foodstuffs, underwear, medicines and hundreds of other things are scarce. Elevators do not work. Bath tubs are for water storage. Toilets do not flush without a bucket. Stores use candles for lighting.

"Life in the north revolves around the 48 hour week and make work. I have seen middle school children digging ditches and college students doing manual labor in the worst weather. It is as if they keep them busy all the time."

Common Jobs

For men:
1. Samsung Electronics
2. Hyundai Motor Company
3. Posco (a steel-making company)
4. Korea Electric Power Corporation
5. Kia Motor Company

For women:

1. CJ CheilJedang (mostly food products and pharmaceuticals)
2. Asiana Airlines
3. Korean Air
4. Samsung Electronics
5. Posco


Education in North Korea is controlled by the government and is compulsory until the secondary level. Education in North Korea is free. The state also used to provide school uniforms free of charge until the early 1990s. Heuristics is actively applied in order to develop the independence and creativity of students. Compulsory education lasts eleven years, and encompasses one year of preschool, four years of primary education and six years of secondary education.
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Common North Korean cuisine is similar to that of South Korea, with less of an emphasis on spice and an extra helping of cold noodles. Local ingredients include corn, rice and seafood. In Pyongyang, a greater emphasis is on meat, bean, and pea dishes to help endure the especially long, harsh winters near the nation’s capitol