North Korea Demystified: A Selection of Online Resources to Learn About This Secretive Country
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea as it is more commonly known, is regarded by many as the world’s most isolated country. The volatile, far left state operates a tightly organised single party military dictatorship with “The Glorious Leader” Kim Jong-Il at the helm.
North Korea is a fascinating country as we know so very little about how the population of around 24 million people (2009 estimate) conducts its daily life. Over the years, more and more information has trickled out of North Korea, both from official government channels and defectors who have fled the country.
Why not start with the horse’s mouth? Korea-DPR.com is the official website of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. Despite seeing fairly regular, much of it is the recycled happenings of 60 years ago or renewed promises from The Great Leader.
You can also find information regarding delegate visits to the country (more on that later) as well as photo galleries of foreign visitors enjoying a taste of kimchi and communism. Interestingly the Korean Friendship Association “forum area” has received a WordPress revamp since the last time I visited, which makes it a blog and certainly not a forum.
Many of these “forum” posts have comments disabled, though make sure you read the FAQ, which answers many burning questions – including the obvious: where can I get a signed photograph of Kim Jong-Il?
At the KFA shop of course.
For anyone who has ever fantasized about actually visiting North Korea there’s Koryo Tours. What better way to learn about this fascinating country than by going there? This won’t be like any holiday you’ve ever taken before. You’ll be accompanied everywhere you go by guides and restricted to your hotel once your arranged activities are over. No exploring!
Koryo Tours aren’t the only company that offer trips, but they’ve been successfully taking groups to the country since 1989. One thing you’ll find on the Koryo Tours website that you’re unlikely to see the last time you booked a fortnight abroad are these rules, which urge you to bow in the presence of statues and leave your chewing gum at home.
If you don’t think you’ll be making it over there any time soon then be sure to take a look at this fantastic gallery from The Big Picture which features some stunning photographs of a country with gargantuan highways and very few cars.
Believe it or not The Lonely Planet also have a section dedicated to the country and .
If you enjoy a good Wikipedia article then there are some exhaustive efforts available to you on the topic of North Korea. Here’s a selection of the best:
- North Korea – A detailed overview of the country with plenty of statistics and history.
- Juche – Meaning “main subject”, Juche is the political thesis of Kim Il-Sung the (now deceased) “Eternal President” of DPRK.
- Korean Demilitarized Zone – A thoroughly interesting article about the 2.5 mile wide, 160 mile long area that makes up the most militarized border in the world. Attractions include mines, checkpoints and a fake North Korean town.
- List of cities in North Korea – Learn more about capital city Pyongyang and pollution blackspot Chongjin amongst other large settlements. Only the luckiest citizens are allowed to live in the capital.
- Korean Peoples Army – North Korea has a large army, as well as an interest in weapons of mass destruction.
- Arirang Festival – Often known as the Mass Games, this finely-tuned stage show happens once a year with an incredible display of synchronized acrobatics.
Propaganda & Uriminzokkiri
The California Literary Review hosts a decent collection of North Korea propaganda posters as well as commentary and insight into the motives behind the messages and art style. If your Korean is up to scratch then you might find the official North Korean news agency’sinteresting, but doesn’t seem to work too well. There’s always the Korean Central News Agency, which speaks to the people on behalf of the Korean Workers Party (this is essentially “the news” in DPRK).
North Korea (much like the rest of the world) has embraced a few other outlets – notably YouTube and Flickr. The news agency’s YouTube account tries as hard as possible to depict North Korea as a normal, happy and prosperous country (though it’s not that hard to see through the cracks).
does little more than to confirm that Photoshop (actually, make that GIMP) has landed in North Korea – and they’re not afraid to use it.
Economy & Cartography
It seems odd to mix the two, but a website called North Korean Economy Watch has done just that with up to date, detailed analysis of the economic situation in DPRK and a Google Maps project. As well as news relating to construction projects, foreign investment and the controversial topic of private trade in the country, the editor Curtis Melvin has previously visited in 2004 and 2005.
Also hosted on Melvin’s site is North Korea Uncovered, a Google Maps project that has been featured in the Wall Street Journal for its extensive mapping of North Korea’s economic, cultural, political and military infrastructures. This is apparently the most comprehensive map of its kind, though you’re going to need Google Earth to view it.
Hopefully these resources will help expand your knowledge of this mysterious country, and though the resources are limited there is still a considerable amount of information surrounding North Korea online. There are also some great documentaries on the subject. If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy learning about shortwave numbers stations , another mysterious topic that’s been covered well online.
Are you interested in North Korea? Have you ever visited the country? Do you have any other North Korea-related links that we might be interested in looking at? Post your thoughts and links in the comments.