The history of North Korea is closely tied to its southern counterpart in the Korean Peninsula with the history of mankind on the peninsula going back as far as 400,000 years.
In 2333 B.C. the ancient kingdom of Gojoseon was founded in northern Korea and Manchuria. This was followed by the Gija Joseon (around 12th Century B.C.) and the Jin state (3rd Century B.C.)
The Chinese Han Dynasty invaded the peninsula in the 2nd Century B.C. and this was followed by the Three Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Balhae (698 A.D.).
In 1392 the Joseon Dynasty was founded and this lasted until 1910 when Imperial Japan invaded the peninsula. The Japanese remained in place until the end of World War Two when Korea was partitioned.
In September 1945 Kim Il-sung, a Communist party leader, returned after 26 years in exile (his family had fled Korea for Manchuria in 1920 after the Japanese invaded). He was the chosen candidate by the Soviets to lead the Provisional People’s Committee.
On 9th September 1948 two states were created, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south. By October 1948 the Soviets had declared Kim’s regime as the only legitimate government. Following the merger of a number of parties, Kim became the General Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK), Prime Minister and then eventually Eternal President of the Republic.
In 1950, soon after the two republics were created, Kim Il-sung decided that he wanted to reunite the two halves of Korea. After receiving backing from Stalin, the North Koreans escalated border disputes and on 25th June 1950 the north commenced a full offensive. After making dramatic gains in the south, the northern forces were pushed back when the Americans, British, Australian and other United Nations countries came in on the side of the south. The war came to an end in 1953 and a peace treaty was signed in 1954 with a boundary drawn along the 38th Parallel.
Although Kim had made no gains and the peninsula was still divided, he was able to consolidate his position. After a series of purges he was in full control and over the next few years a personality cult was built around him.
In the early years of Kim’s rule there followed a period of nationalisation and increasing isolation from the rest of the world. The economy started to suffer and long reliance on the Soviet Union for aid came to an end in 1991 when the Soviet regime collapsed. It was then that North Korea looked towards the Chinese for support.
Kim Il-sung died on 8th July 1994 and was replaced by his son, Kim Jong-il. The country continued its long slow decline whilst Jong-il maintained the power base built by his father.
In 2005 the North Korean government announced that they had nuclear weapons and the isolation deepened. Kim Jong-il died suddenly of a heart attack in later December 2011 and was speedily replaced by his younger son, Kim Jong-un. Early indications are that the twenty-eight year old son intends to continue where his father left off.
Kim Jong-un is Head of State.
The unicameral Supreme People’s Assembly has 687 members elected to serve five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places North Korea at 174th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of12 (where 100 is least corrupt).