Capital | Pyongyang
Population | 24,457,492 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 120,540 SQ KM
Official Language | Korean
Holidays | Founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948)
Currency | Won (KPW)
Time Zone | UTC +9
Best Time to Visit | May, for May Day and the Arirang Mass Games
Connecting with the Culture | Feeling the full force of North-South tension along the Demilitarized Zone at Panmujeom. Taking in pristine mountain views in the stunning resort of Kumgangsan. Walking (with minders) amid Pyongyang’s architectural wealth, and grabbing a few solo moments shopping in Department Store No 1. Revisiting the past at the ancient Korean capital of Kaesong. Exploring the far north and Korea’s highest peak and holy mountain Paekdusan.
Read | widely—there’s not a lot of factual material in print or on the web, and people are rarely ambivalent about North Korea.
Listen | to the beat of the marching feet of the world’s fifth largest army.
Watch | Forever in Our Memory, a 1999 film that deals with the starvation of up to three million North Koreans during the 1990’s.
Eat | bibim naengmyeon (cold noodles), or the Korean menu on an tour.
Drink | soju (rice wine) or nokcha (green tea)
In a Word | Juche (self-reliance)
Characteristics | The Great Leader (the late Kim II Sung) and his son, The Dear Leader (Kim II Jung, AKA The Great Leader; Confused? So are we.); cult of personality; the 38th parallel; Cold War 21st century style; kidnapping, nuclear tests, rapprochement, border tension.
Surprises | There’s an Internet café (just one); the current Great Leader has only uttered six words in public (‘Glory to the people’s heroic military’), and is said to own 20,000 movies
NEWS ABOUT NORTH KOREA:
Fighting words: North Korea Threatens South Korea
(HN, 4/18/12) - North Korea threatens South Korea with `Special Military Action', escalating the war of words between the 2. Pyongyang is now threatening “quick action” against its neighbor who last week after N. Korea's failed missile launch, unveiled a missile of its own saying its capable of quickly striking any target in the North. On Monday afternoon KCNA, the state news agency interupted regular programming reading a not so normal announcement saying a `special operation' would reduce to “ashes in 3 or 4 minutes” the supporters of South Korea's president using "unprecedented peculiar means & methods.” Pyongyang blames President Lee for insulting the North as the country was mourning its late leader, Kim Jong Il, who died in December. North Korea often uses aggressive language in its dictums. But some analysts say the latest message may could preclude some sort of attack; tho there seems to be no suggestion of a mobilization of North Korea's military. Since 1953 when an armistice was signed ending 3 years of devastating warfare. The 2 Koreas have never signed a peace treaty, have no diplomatic relations & exist with 50,000 US troops between them. (Read more at KCNA)
After Failed Rocket Launch, North Korea Puts on Fireworks Display, Mass Dance Party
(Video Ria Novosti)
(HN, 4/10/12) - Following North Korea's failed rocket launch thousands staged a mass dance party & watched a grand fireworks display that drew a storm of applause from spectators on the streets of Pyongyang. The fireworks concluded the "Day of the Sun" - North Korea's highest holiday celebrating the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994 after giving power to his son Kim Jong-Il, who suffered a fatal heart attack last December & who then gave his own son Kim Jong-Un power over the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation. The dance started with "My Homeland", a tune supposedly composed by Kim Il-Sung himself.
Other songs touted the virtues of Vinalon, a domestically-made synthetic textile, as an example of the regime's juche (self-reliance) philosophy; & another number sang the praises of Computer Numerical Control, the subject of a propaganda drive to boost industrial production & revive the ailing economy. "Let's be at the cutting edge of modern technology!" it implored. Most son