A map of North Korea, showing highland and lowland areas, vegetation and citiesNorth Korea (officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Rugged uplands and mountains cover most of the country. The Hamgyong range, in the north east, has the highest peaks. Winters are long and severe in North Korea, while summers are warm but short. Most people live on the areas of lower land in the west. A 4-kilometre-wide (2.5-mile) strip called the Demilitarized Zone separates North from South Korea. It is one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world. Since the two countries split in 1948, North Korea has been ruled by a Communist regime which tightly controls the lives of its citizens. Today, its human rights record is among the poorest on Earth.
Nearly all North Koreans are ethnic Koreans, descendants of early settlers from Mongolia and Siberia. They share their language, Korean, with South Korea. Life is difficult for people in North Korea. The government has strict control over people’s lives: religion is largely not permitted, while media (such as TV and radio broadcasts), education and tourism are tightly controlled. Only a limited group of people, mostly senior government employees, are allowed to use the internet. Many North Koreans are poor and depend on international food aid. Much of the country is without regular electricity and running water.
More than a third of North Korea’s population is enlisted in its army, the largest proportion of any country in the world.
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