North Korea


The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea is a state in East Asia, commonly known under the unofficial name of North Korea. Located in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It has a land border with the Republic of Korea in the south (the states are separated by a demilitarized zone), the People's Republic of China in the north, and the Russian Federation in the northeast. From the west the country is washed by the Yellow Sea, from the east by the Sea of Japan.

The area of the country is 120,540 km², the population, according to a 2019 estimate, is more than 25 million people. It occupies the ninety-eighth place in the world in terms of territory and fifty-third in terms of population.

The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The official language is Korean.

According to the constitution, it is a unitary socialist state. Power in the country belongs to the only political party - the Workers' Party of Korea, led by Kim Jong-un, who has held the highest government posts since the end of 2011. The official state ideology is Juche.

It is subdivided into 14 administrative-territorial units, of which 9 are provinces, 2 are cities of direct subordination, and 3 are special administrative regions.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a mono-ethnic state, Koreans make up about 99% of the population. The vast majority of the population are atheists.

Industrial-agrarian country with a hybrid developing economy. The nominal GDP for 2017 was $17.364 billion (about $685 per capita). The monetary unit is the North Korean Won.

Korean statehood traces its history from the 4th-3rd centuries BC. As a result of the Second World War, Korea, formerly under the control of the Japanese Empire, was divided into the northern part, which came under the jurisdiction of the USSR, and the southern, controlled by the United States. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was proclaimed on the territory of the Soviet zone of occupation on September 9, 1948, after the founding of the Republic of Korea on August 15 within the American zone of occupation. The ensuing Korean War (1950-1953) cemented the division of the country.


The area of the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which is located between the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan. It borders China to the north, Russia to the northeast, and South Korea to the south.

The shores of the DPRK in the east are washed by the Sea of Japan, in the west by the waters of the Gulf of Korea.

According to Korean history, the first of the Korean rulers was born in 2333 BC, historians believe that Korea was first settled around 30,000 BC, when tribes from central and southern Asia came to the peninsula. Under constant threat from China, these tribes united and formed a single state in the 1st century AD. By 700 A.D The Silla Kingdom of Korea experienced its cultural heyday, building palaces, pagodas and gardens throughout the country for entertainment and even influencing the development of Japanese culture. But at the beginning of the 13th century, the Mongols came to Korea and applied their favorite scorched earth tactics here. After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the Joseon dynasty came to the throne, the beginning of whose reign marked the development of Korean writing.

In 1592, the Japanese invaded the country, followed by the Chinese, the Koreans were defeated and the Chinese Manchu dynasty seized power. Turning its back on the cruel and evil world, Korea was closed from foreign influence until the beginning of the 20th century, when in 1910 the Japanese annexed the entire peninsula to their territory. The brutal Japanese occupation lasted until the end of World War II, after which the Soviet Union and the United States occupied the northern and southern parts of the peninsula, respectively. In December 1945, the US and the USSR signed an agreement on the provisional administration of the country, and two governments were formed. In the south, the United States, with the support of the UN, actually put the anti-communist government of Syngman Rhee at the helm, in the north, the pro-Soviet government of Kim Il Sung came to power.

The exhausting war between the North and the South lasted until 1953 (or still is, given that the South never signed the armistice). Sometimes referred to as the "Forgotten War", the Korean War was furious and brutal. By the time it was over, the Koreans had lost about two million dead, and North Korea was almost literally razed to the ground by almost incessant bombing by US air forces, more intense than that suffered by Japan and Germany during World War II. The peninsula was officially divided into two parts along the 38th parallel, the northern part proclaimed itself the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Today, North Korea is a peculiar mixture of a turbulent centuries-old history and a unique ideology, many ancient monuments and pompous buildings of socialism, beautiful landscapes and unique flora, an original population and the legacy of the Cold War. This is one of the most closed states on the planet and one of the last "reserves of communism", a country of surprisingly hardworking people and centuries-old culture, which managed to rise almost independently from the ruins into which it was turned by the Korean War.


How to get there

By plane
Air Koryo operates flights from Pyongyang to Moscow, Vladivostok, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait and several other cities in China. Tickets can only be purchased through the official representative offices of the state airline Air Koryo with a paid tourist tour and an open visa.

By train
Once a week direct carriages run from Moscow to Pyongyang via Beijing and twice a month via Vladivostok.

By car
Theoretically, the international Asian route AH1 passes through North Korea. But you still won't be able to enter North Korea by car, and inside the country no one will let you drive a car (as a minimum formality, a North Korean driver's license is required).

By bus

By ship
Almost impossible. There are occasional flights between North and South Korea, service is irregular and very rare.

Subway operates in Pyongyang, and foreign tourists are allowed to travel between five stations. It is also the cheapest subway in the world, costing about $0.03 per trip.


The official language of the country is Korean. English-speaking tourists are provided with guides who are fluent in English, tourists from the countries of the former USSR, by prior arrangement, will be accompanied by Russian-speaking guides.

Currency: Won.

You will not be able to buy in local stores and somehow use local money, moreover, their purchase and circulation by foreigners is illegal. Prices in tourist shops are comparable to average European ones.

Night life
There is only non-nightlife. Local vodka with ginseng root is called insam-zhu. Very good local Taedong beer (brewery bought from UK), some Soju (rice vodka) is also good. Local alcohol is inexpensive - a 650 ml bottle of beer costs 0.5 Euro. However, do not get drunk, so as not to get into trouble.

When it comes to water, we recommend drinking bottled water.

Precautionary measures
It is important to emphasize that the government of the DPRK (in particular, the leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il) are very highly respected figures in North Korea. While true dedication is not necessary (at least for tourists), insulting them in any form is against the law, and can get you (especially your guide) in trouble. In North Korea, "trouble" doesn't just mean "getting hit": North Korea is known for very harsh punishments, from fines to lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty.

It is a good gesture to bring gifts for the guide and driver, such as cigarettes for men or hand cream for women, etc. Other good gifts for guides are chocolate, instant coffee and milk powder. Don't give anything to the locals, and don't even try to talk to them without your guide's permission. Treat your guides with respect, as North Korean guides have been known to show tourists they trust from time to time places and events they would not normally take.

Most, if not all, tourist groups in the DPRK are asked to solemnly bow once or twice in front of the statue of Kim Il Sung when visiting monuments of national importance. If you are not ready to do this, do not even try to enter North Korea. Just always act with the utmost respect for the images of the two leaders.

Any problems you may cause will most likely be blamed on your guide for not being able to control you, and he or she will bear the brunt of the responsibility.

Other than your guide, chances are you won't meet anyone on your trip who speaks English. A few Korean words and phrases will be a good international gesture. However, even if you speak Korean, do not attempt to speak to anyone on the street without clear permission from your guides.

Despite sharp political differences, the DPRK and South Korea share a common culture; The various tips in the article about South Korea (for example, the custom of pouring drinks with two hands) will also help here.

Recently, you can use the Internet in North Korea (foreigners only).

It is forbidden to import books and magazines in Korean or in any other language.

Since 2013, the import of personal mobile phones into the DPRK is allowed. North Korea has a 3G standard and you will need to buy a local SIM card. The cost of a conversation with Russia is 0.68 Euro/minute.

International calls to regular telephones are possible from hotels, but are very expensive (2 Euro/minute).

Internet access is available in large hotels, you will need to obtain permission to use the Internet when ordering a tour.