Head of State: Kim Jong-un (2011)
Prime Minister: Choe Yong-rim (2010)
Land area: 46,490 sq mi (120,409 sq km); total area: 46,540 sq mi (120,540 sq km)
Population (2012 est.): 24,589,122 (growth rate: 0.535%); birth rate: 14.51/1000; infant mortality rate: 26.21/1000; life expectancy: 69.2
Capital and largest city (2003): Pyongyang, 3,222,000 (metro. area), 2,767,900
Monetary unit: won
Korea is a 600-mile (966km) peninsula jutting out from Manchuria and China (and a small portion of the USSR). North Korea occupies an area—slightly smaller than Pennsylvania—north of the 38th parallel.
The country is almost completely covered by a series of north-south mountain ranges separated by narrow valleys. The Yalu River forms part of the northern border with Manchuria.
Authoritarian socialist; one-man dictatorship.
The ancient history of the Korean peninsula can be traced to the Neolithic Age, when Turkic-Manchurian-Mongol peoples migrated into the region from China. The first agriculturally based settlements appeared around 6000 B.C. Some of the larger communities of this era were established along the Han-gang River near modern-day Seoul, others near Pyongyang and Pusan. According to ancient lore, Korea's earliest civilization, known as Choson, was founded in 2333 B.C. by Tan-gun.
In the 17th century, Korea became a vassal state of China and was cut off from outside contact until the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Following Japan's victory, Korea was granted independence. By 1910, Korea had been annexed by Japan, which developed the country but never won over the Korean nationalists, who continued to agitate for independence.