North Korea -History, People and Nuclear Weapons


For over 50 years North Korea has been an authoritarian country. It is still one of the few countries in the world that is ruled by a Communist dictator. In the last two decades North Korea has been working on a nuclear program that may give them access to an atomic bomb.



North Korea has an area of about 120,000 square kilometers and a population of 23 million. Most of the country is dry and mountainous. Much of the population lives in the cities of the coastal lowlands.

The country has many industries. Most of them produce weapons and other products for the country's army.


History of North Korea

For a long time Korea was an old, independent kingdom. In the first part of the 20th century it was controlled by Japan, which wiped out most of Korea's culture and even banned the Korean language. During World War II many Korean men fought in the Japanese army.

After Japan had lost the war Korea became a divided country. The Soviet Union took over control of the northern part of Korea and made it communist. The southern part was influenced by the Americans.

In 1950 Communist leader Kim Il-sung invaded the south and tried to reunite it with the northern part. The United States and Great Britain entered the war against the communists and helped the southern Korean army. The war lasted for three years and ended in a stalemate.

In the 60s and 70s Kim built up a personality cult and saw himself as North Korea's great leader. But he became more and more isolated and only had the Soviet Union and China whom he had relations with. When Communism collapsed in Europe and the Soviet Union, North Korea continued its state-run communist system and was left with hardly any partners.

In 1994 Kim Il-sung died and his son Kim Jong-il took over control of the country. He is the only communist leader who has inherited power from his father. He continued his father's Communist ideology up to the present day. Diplomats who know the North Korean leader describe him as paranoid and hypochondriac.



People in North Korea

Everyday life is very difficult for the North Korean population. They do not have enough to eat and consumer goods, like washing machines or bicycles are very hard to get. Sometimes even electricity fails during the day.

You can see very few cars on the roads, which are in a very bad condition. Most North Koreans have no idea what the outside world is like. They are not allowed to leave their country.

In the 1990s North Korea experienced a famine in which hundreds of thousands of people starved to death.

The government controls all aspects of daily life. Television and newspapers are owned and run by the state, foreign TV is forbidden and only 20,000 people have mobile phones. The first Internet cafe was opened up in 2002 and although some people have an Internet connection the government censors most of the content. North Korea's people have little information about the outside world or how the world looks at them.

According to Amnesty International more than 200,000 people are political prisoners or locked up in labor camps.



North Korea's nuclear weapons program


North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. About one million men and women have weapons and the communist country spends about 25% of its money on defense. However, it does not have any modern weapons. Most of them came from the Soviet Union and China a long time ago.

In the last two decades North Korea has been working hard on its nuclear weapons program. At first officials claimed they were working on a reactor to produce nuclear energy, but the country unofficially has been collecting plutonium to make nuclear bombs.

After warnings by the west to stop the program and economic sanctions against the regime did not work, the United States brought North Korea to the conference table. President Clinton signed a deal with North Korea that would give them food and oil if they stopped their nuclear program.

When George Bush became American president in 2001, tensions between the two countries grew. Bush called North Korea a terrorist state and said it was a part of the world's axis of evil.

In 2006 it successfully tested its first atomic bomb and in 2009 a second explosion took place. Military leaders have also tested rockets that can deliver nuclear bombs to South Korea and Japan. This could begin a new arms race in Asia. Some experts think that the communist leaders may even have an intercontinental rocket that could reach the United States.



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  • access = the possibility to use
  • according to = here: as Amnesty International says in a report
  • although = while
  • area = size
  • arms race = when some countries want to have more bombs than others
  • aspect = part
  • authoritarian = ruled by a dictator; he forces the people to do what he says
  • axis of evil = a phrase used by President Bush that described the bad countries of our world, among them Iraq, Iran and North Korea
  • ban = forbid
  • censor = to look through content and remove things that you do not want
  • century = a hundred years
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • coastal = near the coast
  • collapse = break down
  • consumer goods = products that you need for everyday life
  • content = here: the things that are written on the Internet
  • deal = agreement
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • defense = all the parts of the military
  • deliver = take, bring
  • divided = separated
  • economic sanctions = to stop buying things from and selling things to other country in order to punish them
  • electricity = power that you need for light or machines
  • experience = to go through
  • fail = stop working
  • famine = when many people have no or little food
  • forbid = not allowed
  • foreign = from another country
  • hardly = almost no
  • hypochondriac = if you are worried about your health, even though you are not ill
  • independent = free
  • influence = to have an effect on
  • inherit = get from a family member
  • invade = to enter a place by fighting
  • isolated = cut off; with no friends or partners
  • kingdom = empire; country ruled by a king or queen
  • labor camp = place where the government keeps you and you have to work
  • little = not very much
  • lock up = keep in prison
  • lowland = flat area
  • mountainous = with many mountains
  • nuclear = atomic
  • nuclear weapon = an atomic bomb
  • official = people who have power in the government
  • own = to possess, have
  • paranoid = if you believe that you cannot trust someone else ; or that someone is trying to harm you
  • personality cult = when people must admire and look up to a famous person or a leader
  • plutonium = a radioactive material that is used to produced nuclear bombs
  • present day = now
  • regime = government
  • relation = connection, tie
  • reunite = bring back together
  • rocket = a machine that is used to fly into the sky and can carry bombs to other countries
  • rule = govern
  • sign = put you name on a document
  • stalemate = with no winner
  • state-run = controlled by the government
  • starve = to die if you have no food to eat
  • successful = if you have completed or done something hat you really wanted to do
  • tension = a situation when you do not trust another country
  • unofficially = not official
  • weapon = something that you use to attack someone with ,like a knife, gun or bomb
  • wipe out = destroy