“”If this were a movie, the evil iron-fisted dictator would get his comeuppance before the closing credits. In real life, the Kim family has been oppressing their starving little country for 65 goddamned years, with no end in sight, and getting steadily crazier with each passing day.
North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea[note 1] (DPRK; Korean chosŏn'gŭl: 조선민주주의인민공화국; Korean hancha: 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國; Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a small, socialist (no longer Marxist-Leninist), autarkic, malnourished, and Orwellian remnant of the Cold War, ruled by the hereditary dictator Kim Jong Un, and with Juche as the state religion in all but name. The official name is actually less accurate than the informal name (in contrast to its neighbor, the Republic of Korea (ROK), an actual democratic republic on the Korean peninsula).[note 2]
The former ruler and grandfather of the current one, Kim Il Sung, is still the "Eternal President of the Republic", even though he's been dead for 29 years, and nothing on this plane of existence, especially governments, lasts anywhere near an eternity. He founded the nation with help from the Soviet Union[note 3] and lorded over it as a God-king for 46 years. Likewise, his son Kim Jong Il inherited the office from daddy and continued to lead as the "Eternal General-Secretary" and "Eternal Chairman", ruling for 17 years. Since the present leader is a third-generation Kim, that would make North Korea the world's only communist dynasty (assuming that they can even still be called communist, as many argue that they are actually a monarchy in all but name). The regime is so abhorrently totalitarian that most – though not all – communists despise it (as monarchy was one of the things Marx rallied against).
It is perhaps the most undemocratic and totalitarian state in existence, even worse than Saudi Arabia and only contested by ISIS and the Taliban at their peak, and most certainly current Eritrea, with possibly the world's worst human rights record and one of the only countries in the world in which internet access is hugely censored and generally only available in the capital city, Pyongyang. The people in the country are starving to death,[note 4] yet Kim still thought that he would reunite all of Korea under his benevolent heel one day.
North Korea is a rogue nation that is barely kept in check by China — which has many government officials who have taken to calling its leader 'Kim Fatty the Third' and 'Kim Fat Fat Fat' behind closed doors. Its isolation is so intense that it is the world's largest personality cult. China does not want to see North Korea collapse, as this would result in incredible numbers of refugees in flight across its border. China also doesn't want a united Korea, with the South taking the lead, in the US sphere. There has to be a regime change that China, South Korea, and the US can all cooperatively accept. (And while we're at it, everyone should get a pony.)
It remains to be seen when, or if, the North Korean regime can be safely defused and then dissolved. The first step would entail cracking open that cult isolation shell. Given the difficulties that resulted when 17 million East Germans were united with some 60 million West Germans to form a united Germany, some South Koreans also fear a reunification would result in economic and humanitarian disasters, as North Korea is much larger in comparison and much poorer (even in the 1980s right at the time collapse was inevitable, East Germany managed to export goods for hard currency at a notable rate. North Korea? Not so much). Therefore, almost all relevant players are rather content with the status quo. All except the North Koreans, that is. And nobody ever asks them.
While its southern sister now has generally free elections, the DPRK stands firm only as a totalitarian landfill of a crazed family.[citation NOT needed] With a shrinking eagerness to reunite the peninsula, North Korea may remain crazed and temporally displaced for a long, long time.
“”Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I've been to North Korea… It has a dead man as its president. Kim-Jong Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He's not head of the government or the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It's a necrocracy. A thanatocracy, it's one short of a trinity, I might add. The Son is the reincarnation of the Father. It is the most revolting, and utter, and absolute, and heartless tyranny that the human species has ever evolved. But at LEAST, you can fucking die and leave North Korea.
|—Columnist Christopher Hitchens, comparing North Korea with the Abrahamic God, done numerous times.|
North Korea's government has the perfect mix of absolute hyper-centralized power and poor, trapped citizens to form a system where the leading Kim and subordinates are free to muscle in absolutely any reality they want for their people, keeping them in perpetual fear. The country just has the perfect circumstances for unrivaled totalitarianism.
The country's official name (DPRK) is anything but accurate. Amusingly enough, the definition of "democratic" according to the Oxford English Dictionary is "a system of government by the whole population of a state". The definition of "republic" is "a state in which supreme power is held by the people," meaning that North Korea's full name means "People-ruled People's People-ruled State of Korea." In reality, North Korea is neither a democracy nor a republic (surprise, surprise): it is a full-blown dictatorship — specifically, an absolute hereditary monarchy in all but name. The real leader, Kim Jong-un, is officially only de facto head of the party (With his death, Kim Jong-il was declared "Eternal General Secretary" of the party, making him the head of the party de jure) and the head of the army. Despite being dead[note 5] since 1994, Kim Il-sung is still the official head of state, which led Hitchens, as mentioned above, to refer to the nation as a "necrocracy" and "one short of a trinity". Unfortunately, the trinity would not be completed before Hitch shed the earthly bounds of his mortal body.
Theocracy (in all but name)
North Korea's official ideology is 'Juche', a totally self-serving invention of Kim Il-sung that combines Stalinism and Maoism with fervent religious worship of Kim Il-sung and now his son and grandson. As part of the Juche ideology, North Korea's government is a dictatorship of three groups in society: the industrial proletariat, farmers and peasants, and intellectuals (represented by the symbol of the Worker's Party of Korea: a hammer, a sickle, and a calligraphy brush). This is in contrast to the usual communist notion that the dictatorship is either of the industrial proletariat only or of the industrial proletariat in conjunction with the farmers/peasants[note 6] and, one supposes, makes North Korea slightly less bad in comparison to Cambodia under Pol Pot, who had all the intellectuals executed. Furthermore, after the fall of the USSR, the official North Korean propaganda shifted away from communism (though much of the imagery in sculptures, etc., remained). A few years ago, references to communism were removed entirely, despite the command economy still in force.
The relevance of the ideas that comprise Juche, other than adoration of the Kim family, is disputed. B.R. Myers argued that Juche is a Marxist-Leninist fig leaf intended for external propaganda that conceals a racial nationalism. Very different propaganda exists for domestic consumption. The Korean people are portrayed as a pure race whose continued purity requires infantile dependence on the motherly bosom of the Great Leader[note 7] (anti-miscegenation rhetoric about Barack Obama is quite striking in this aspect).) Kongdan Oh and Ralph C. Hassig conclude that the supposed content of Juche evaporates once one peels away a few layers of the discourse. In either case, it hardly matters what Juche means. What matters is that North Koreans are presented with an ideology that legitimates the authority of their rulers. In this, they share a common circumstance with the rest of humanity.
Surprisingly enough, North Korea has three political parties, allegedly representing each of these classes, instead of the usual one in other communist states. None of these parties are independent to any degree, so don't let anyone fool you into thinking North Korea is a multiparty democracy or anything like that. The largest and most dominant of these parties is the Workers' Party of Korea. The real opposition, if it exists, is forcibly suppressed by the government to the point of paranoia; anyone who fails to show sufficient religious fervor toward the Great Leader, Dear Leader, and Great Successor is suspect.
North Korea's only real industry at this point is its military (which all men and women aged 18-35 are required to join). A joint North-South industrial park, Kaesong,
has been was set up, but rather intrusive "security" regulations on workers and businessmen have prevented it from doing as well as it could have. North Korea benefited from favorable trade deals with other communist countries during the Cold War, particularly the USSR. However, when the USSR collapsed, there was no longer a market for inferior North Korean goods, and the Kims stopped receiving favorable prices on fuel and the like. DPRK factories stopped functioning, and a 'rust belt' emerged as factories fell into disrepair.[note 8]
Instead, North Korea is trying to build its tourism by showcasing its "natural beauty". Considering the nation's near total lack of development, it has many natural wonders. Of course, the tourist board does not mention the spirit-crushing hunger that most non-military citizens endure (or much of the military, for that matter). This is hilarious since, when Korea was split, the southern part of the peninsula was the agricultural backwater, and the north was the industrial power.
North Korea is world-renowned in the underworld for its Breaking Bad levels of pure meth, among other specialties. Coincidentally, it also boasts the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, which is regarded as the largest stadium in the world, with a capacity of 150,000. The stadium holds the Mass Games (or the Arirang Festival) and the occasional public execution.
Believe it or not, North Korea has its own unit of currency, the North Korean Won (sign: ₩; code: KPW). Once in a while, you'll even see international currency trades involving it — just don't count on them happening at any particular time of year.
Human rights record, or lack thereof
“”No tyranny lasts forever.
|—Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, first democratically-elected President of Mongolia, to Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung University in 2013|
Grab some popcorn; this is going to be wild
North Korea is likely the most blatant violator of human rights globally. Amnesty International calls it "appalling", while Human Rights Watch calls it "grotesque indifference." While Kim Jong-il ate delicacies from around the globe, most of the country's population was starving, brainwashed, and terrified. Most Western and South Korean food aid is given to the Army and government officials, and only a trickle is available to the population. Conditions among the rank-and-file North Koreans during the famine in the 1990s were so bad that cannibalism (of children and relatives, living or dead) were reportedly practiced. More recent stories of cannibalism have been reported, but these events seem to be isolated cases or sensationalized rumors.
At the same time, the government has told its people to blame Western sanctions and has even spread the story that it is stockpiling food to feed the starving South Korean masses. Millions have died of starvation, and many are forced to scavenge for food. Most of the population lives in villages with little or no food available and must rely on themselves to survive and keep their families alive. If they can afford it, they can buy from the country's secretive black market. These villages are among the most filthy and impoverished areas in the world.
People living in cities or towns have slightly better lives. They have access to state media and can get jobs in local factories, hospitals, or schools, but people's lives are constantly controlled by fear. The residents of Pyongyang live better than the rest of the country, to the point that the government rewards people by letting them live there. However, living conditions in Pyongyang are still poor by Western standards. And because Kim Il Sung apparently wanted to replicate as many aspects of George Orwell's 1984 as he could, each home has a radio on the wall that blares propaganda at given times and cannot be turned off. Each home in North Korean cities also must have well-maintained portraits of Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung, and Kim Jong-un.
Health care is universal in North Korea, but the perpetual poverty of the country makes it almost non-existent. North Korea's hospitals have extreme medicine and medical supplies shortages and use beer bottles as IVs. Most of their antiquated medical equipment is donated by the rest of the world, but few doctors know how to operate it. Doctors often have had to donate their own blood and pieces of skin when operating, so at least they care about your wellbeing.
Repression and culture of fear
Political repression is worse than in any other country globally, and even history would struggle to dig up worse. People often spy on each other for the slightest signs of disloyalty, and the government punishes offenders and three generations of their families to purge their tainted blood. Police can inspect someone's home at random and look for signs of disloyalty, such as a foreign television or a secret lover (premarital relationships are strictly forbidden, despite both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il reportedly having many of them). As well as any open criticism of the government, any slight sign of disrespect for dead dictator Kim Il-sung, complaints about living conditions, or offenses by a family member can get one in severe trouble. In North Korea, "punishment" includes either public execution or imprisonment in one of a series of gulag-like camps in the mountains near the Chinese border, where people, some of them there for life, slave away to brutal guards, scavenge for food, eat their own waste, are tortured and interrogated and even raped, and are forced to watch and even participate in public executions. Many children do not even know that a world exists outside the camps. Three generations punishment means that these children will be born, raised, and live out their whole life in a camp because of something their grandparents did. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 2,640,000 people are enslaved in modern-day North Korea or 10.456% of the population.
North Koreans are taught to hate and fear the rest of the world, especially South Koreans, Americans, and Japanese. The Japanese are a particularly virulent target of official DPRK state hate. Although a privileged few get the chance to meet a Westerner in a carefully guided tour throughout Pyongyang, almost all North Koreans have had absolutely no contact with citizens of foreign nations. The only media available is government-controlled (consisting of the Korean Central News Agency and a newspaper called the Rodong Sinmun). As previously mentioned, access to the internet is strictly forbidden. Amateur radio licenses are not issued to North Korean citizens. Mail can only be sent within the country (except for tourist postcards and government mail). Access to telephone lines going into and out of the country is restricted and always monitored. With information access from the rest of the world completely blocked off, no one except those who secretly listen to foreign radio or watch foreign television can get any real news. Many don't even know that people walked on the Moon.
Touris— wait, why are you going here???
Though foreigners can visit North Korea, tourism is generally considered risky. The regime has proven willing, if not eager, to hold political hostages; several westerners have been detained in recent years for what, to outsiders, may appear petty crimes. The punishment meted out by the North Korean regime is often harsh and has drawn criticism from human rights organizations. Though high-ranking US diplomats have managed to secure the release of American detainees in the past, the US Department of State likely doesn't enjoy dealing with this sort of thing and strongly advises against travel to the country.
We honestly have no clue how they're holding up to COVID. The only data we have is that the disease indeed managed to slither its way into the Hermit Kingdom in the first place; the rest we can only speculate on. At best, their extreme isolation might prevent any of the nastier antivaxx-gestated strains from getting a foothold. At worst, there will be many more bodies for the survivors to eat.
Why does it still exist?
“”The engagement camp asks: How can we lure them back to the table so that we can persuade them to disarm? The regime-change camp asks: Where can we squeeze to hasten the collapse? The big question we should be asking is: What about the day after? Because when North Korea goes, the Day After is likely to last 20 years.
This is a question that is frequently asked but infrequently answered. Part of it is due to its vicinity to post-Soviet era states, but it gets more complicated than that:
- The primary reason is that the North Koreans have dug a massive artillery network into the mountains, which is so deep that even modern bunker buster bombs couldn't reach them. These artillery pieces have the range to reach Seoul, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Given the expectation of gas and chemical rounds, the civilian casualties could be in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands.[note 9] There would also be many ballistic missile attacks, possibly now even with nuclear warheads, against other South Korean and Japanese cities. After that, North Korea's ability to wage war would essentially be zero, as even its soldiers exist on starvation diets. These artillery pieces are falling apart, which necessitates North Korea acquiring, or at least pretending to acquire, nuclear weapons to preserve this stalemate.
- Add to that the fact that the annexation of North Korea could be the single largest humanitarian crisis in history, and there is a strong disincentive for the ROK and its allies to resume the war. While the US and South Korea obviously could beat the North Koreans, the ultimate dilemmas still remain "for what" and "at what cost", neither of which can be answered by the West yet. The goal and the ideal situation is for peaceful reunification like in Germany; however, many problems arise:
- The average West German made roughly four times as much as their Eastern cousins, which becomes far less when accounting for West Germany's higher living costs and taxes. Today a typical South Korean makes over 20 times as much as a northern neighbor.
- East Germany's population was barely a third of West Germany's; however, North Korea's is roughly half the size of the South's. That basically means that the ROK would be forced to absorb, in relative terms, much poorer people (and proportionately more of them) into their country if unification follows the German model. South Korea keeps up appearances, but taking on millions of unfed, untrained peasants may destroy its economy for decades. The South Korean legislature, in fact, rejected a special "Unification Tax", which would have set aside the revenue for spending in the north.[note 10] Northerners would likely be lured south with the prospect of good-paying jobs and food.
- Infrastructure in the north is poorly maintained and far out of date. The skills of northern professionals would be obsolete compared to those of their southern cousins.
- There are also slight linguistic differences exacerbated by 70-some years of separation and isolation and far more significant cultural differences. Because of the culture shock for northerners when coming south, South Korea's Unification Ministry maintains a special boot camp to help them integrate into the culture. That type of program would not be possible for 20 million people. Meanwhile, the two Germanies were divided for a shorter time and reunified before the age of the internet settled, which created a massive shift in South Korean culture and its westernization compared to the more traditional north.
- Because of this, there is a real danger that the privileged Southerners will treat North Koreans as an oppressed underclass after reunification. North Korean defectors to the South already suffer from high unemployment rates and make half the salary of an average South Korean.
- At the least, in the roughly forty years of separation of the two German states, radio and television signals readily crossed the "internal border", citizens of the German Federal Republic and West Berlin could visit loved ones in the East, and people could send mail (although it would be censored) across the border. Such is possible but highly risky in Korea.
- Another major difference is that the two German militaries never actually shot at each other during the Cold War, while the DPRK and ROK are still technically at war and occasionally flare up. Finally, there remains the question of how to mete justice to the Kims and other DPRK regime officials. What deal would possibly lure them away from absolute power and their illicitly gained wealth and hold them accountable for their human rights violations?
- Japan has strong anti-Korean sentiment (partly because Japan occupied and colonized Korea for 40 years) and does not want to deal with a unified Korea as a competitor. An economic forecast by Goldman Sachs indicates that a unified Korean state could have a GDP of about US$6 trillion by 2050, making Korea a significant economic rival. That said, Japan might be willing to trade that for a nuclear-free peninsula.
What is left?
All the cards are left with China, arguably the Kims' sole remaining ally on the entire planet; given the often chilly relationship with the US, China is not terribly keen on having the US Army camped out at the Yalu River.[note 11] So, China throws North Korea a bone to maintain a buffer. However, there's also the realization that a collapse of the North Korean state would result in refugees streaming across the border in staggering numbers. With the third Kim's current threats to change the status quo, they have almost had enough with his shit and began devising plans with the US on sanctions. According to leaks, Beijing even seems to have recognized that militarily intervening might not be in their best interest (its dream scenario is probably to have North Korea liberalize along Vietnamese lines, but they're learning that the minimal and minuscule reforms so far — and numerous reversals of them — make this a fleeting prospect).
Nothing is certain, but the two most likely outcomes both lead to North Korea's destruction; perhaps as a prelude, the US is working alongside Japan and South Korea to bolster their defenses in the event of a North Korean attack.
US Military defectors to North Korea
After the Korean armistice, 21 American and 1 British soldier refused repatriation and chose to remain in North Korea. For their own reasons, a total of six American soldiers have defected to North Korea after the Korean armistice of 1953.
- Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier (1943-1983): Deserted in 1962, died in Pyongyang.
- PFC Roy Chung (1957-2004?): Deserted in 1979. There is a suspicion that he may have been abducted by DPRK troops.
- PFC James Joseph Dresnok (1941–2016): Deserted in 1962, died in Pyongyang. He worked as a teacher, translator, and actor.
- Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins (1940–2017): Deserted in 1962, later left for Japan in 2004, where he lived until his death. He wrote a memoir, The Reluctant Communist.
- Cpl. Jerry Wayne Parrish (1944–1998): Deserted in 1962, died in Pyongyang.
- Pvt. Joseph T. White (1961–1985): Deserted in 1982. He reportedly drowned in the Ch'ongch'on River.
North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. The large pointy building to the right is the Ryugyong Hotel, an expensive boondoggle that is now the tallest unoccupied building in the world.
- Eritrea, infamously known as "Africa's North Korea"
- Korean Friendship Association
- Fun:North Korean Rhetorical Bingo
- North Korea's official website.
- North Korean news headlines from the official English language service of the DPRK. This has to be a parody, right?
- North Korea at Rick Ross's Cult Education Institute.
- North Korea Today — Channel of North Korean propaganda films.
- Squirrel and Hedgehog — Channel of fan-translated North Korean propaganda animation
- A very funny North Korean government video on why citizens should keep North Korea beautiful, in accordance with socialist principles, by getting a haircut.
- Hi-res photo of Taepodong-2 launch on April 5, 2009
- Parody North Korea Tourism Page
- The Toughest Job in North Korea
- Life in the Cult of Kim
- The forbidden railway — Yes, a Swiss and Austrian citizen travelled by train from Vienna through Russia to Pyongyang without a minder.
- If you're actually dumb enough to think that nothing's wrong in North Korea, here's the 400-page 2014 UN inquiry into the regime's crimes against humanity. Have fun puking.
- Welcome to North Korea — The 2001 International Emmy Award-winning documentary about the Hermit Kingdom, shot mostly within the country with official permission. (Seoul Train is another one.)
- Crossing the Line, Documentary about US Army PFC James Joseph Dresnok, who defected to North Korea in 1962 (originally published by the British Bolshevik Commies).
- North Korea Leadership Watch — Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
- 38 North — The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, devoted to informed analysis of North Korea
- Free Joseon (or Cheollima Civil Defense), a group supposedly associated with a grandson of Kim Jong-il (Kim Han-sol), conducted a raid on the North Korean Embassy in Spain
- Better names for which might be:
- IRL Hell
- Asia's Eritrea
- The Kimdom of North Korea
- Four Lies for the Price of One (it's not democratic, it's not the people's, it's not a republic, and it's not all of Korea)
- ...or the verbose approach: The People's Free Democratic Republic Where We Will Quite Literally Send to the Gulag and Kill Anybody Who Does Not Like the Fair and Equal System of Our Glorious Leader of the Only Korea That Has Existed and Ever Will Exist
- Honestly, its name kind of shows that the Kim dynasty is somewhat self-conscious about their totalitarianism, in a "We're not totalitarian! We have three words symbolizing democracy in our name. The
fake capitalist pig KoreaSouth only has one! See, we're good. See? See???" kind of way.
- Because in Soviet Russia, government chooses you!
- According to Andrei "Strangelove" Lankov, they are slightly less starving to death than in the mid-1990s after their lifeline, the USSR, ceased to exist and was replaced with a comrade that only begrudgingly supports them.
- Or, as the North Korean government has said, "sleeping in his mausoleum".
- E.g., the East German self-designation as the Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Staat and symbolized by the combination of the hammer and sickle on the official flag of the Soviet Union.
- As a sham "fig leaf" ideology intended for propaganda only and not actually followed by the regime, see also Moammar al-Gaddafi's Green Book which had a similar role in Libya.
- This is the same situation with other communist Soviet prop-ups like Laos, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc. When the USSR fell to pieces, the wealth did too. The only difference with North Korea is that, for the rulers, it was pure gold. The Kim family just reached a level of batshit that even the worst Soviet leftovers could only dream of. And thus is formed, not just a cult, but an entire fucking religion that gives every citizen a reason not to want a better quality of life, but total reliance and subservience to the Kim family. It's ferocious, and any way out may result in a crisis (see bottom section).
- Dozens of government ministries are already being relocated to a brand-new city partly to prevent HCM in a worst-case scenario.
- Reunification of the Koreas is a noble ideal and might be seen in our lifetimes, but trying to repeat West and East Germany will be impossible.
- Who knows why?
- 5 Ways Growing Up in North Korea Is Worse Than You Think by Robert Evans & Michael Malice Michael Malice (July 14, 2014) Cracked.
- The Internet Black Hole that is North Korea, New York Times, October 23, 2006.
- I am Dr. Andrei Lankov. I studied in North Korea and the USSR, and currently write for NK News, Al Jazeera and many others. AMA! by Andrei Lankov (2014) Reddit.
- 'Kim Fatty The Third' No More: China Reportedly Censors Mockery Of Kim Jong Un by Camila Domonoske (November 16, 20163:10 PM ET) NPR.
- "The defector who wants to go back to North Korea " by Justin McCurry (Tuesday 22 April 2014 02.22 EDT) The Guardian.
- Hitchens vs. Hitchens — "Religion: A Celestial North Korea" (Apr 15, 2012) YouTube.
- Visit to a Small Planet by Christopher Hitchens (January 1, 2001) Vanity Fair (archived from July 4, 2011).
- "Democracy" and "Republic" at Oxford Dictionaries
- Kim Jong-il made General Secretary for Eternity at North Korea ceremony, The Telegraph, April 11, 2012.
- North Korea drops communism, boosts "Dear Leader" (September 28, 2009) Reuters.
- B.R. Myers. 2010. The Cleanest Race. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. ISBN 1-933-63391-3
- North Korean screed against Obama illustrates race-based worldview by Chico Harlan & Zachary A. Goldfarb (May 8, 2014) Washington Post.
- North Korea: Through the Looking Glass by Kongdan Oh and Ralph C. Hassig (2000) Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0-815-76435-9.
- A Tourist in North Korea: Will foreigners soon flock to the Hermit Kingdom? Should they? (October 30, 2014) The Atlantic.
- Heaven Lake Google image search.
- In North Korea, meth is offered as casually as a cup of tea by Barbara Demick (January 27, 2014) Los Angeles Times.
- North Korea's Modern Architecture, Designs From An Alternate Universe by Vincze Miklós (July 31, 2014) Gizmodo.
- See the Wikipedia article on Rungrado 1st of May Stadium.
- Mongolian President's Speech Raises Eyebrows by Chris Green (November 15, 2013) Daily NK.
- North Korea: Catastrophic human rights record overshadows ‘Day of the Sun’ (12 April 2012, 00:00 UTC) Amnesty International.
- Grotesque indifference (May 15, 2007 8:00PM EDT) Human Rights Watch. Also Published in: 'International Herald Tribune.
- At the Heart of North Korea's Troubles, an Intractable Hunger Crisis by Blaine Harden (March 6, 2009) Washington Post.
- The Cannibals of North Korea by Max Fisher (February 5, 2013) Washington Post.
- How Choco Pie infiltrated North Korea's sweet tooth by Madison Park et al. (January 27, 2014) CNN. (And, months later, the authorities are trying to ban it.)South Korea Sent 10,000 Choco Pies Over to North Korea in Balloons by Katie Nelson (Jul 31, 2014) Mashable.
- Early immersion in culture of fear (February 19, 2014) Daily Telegraph UK via New Zealand Herald.
- North Korea: A Country Study, edited by Robert L. Worden (2008) Library of Congress, 5th edition. ISBN 9780844411880.
- Interview with Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, January 5, 2002.
- Concentrations of Inhumanity by David Hawk (May 2007) Freedom House.
- North Korea's hidden labor camps exposed: A new UN panel is vowing to hold North Korea's Kim regime to 'full accountability' for decades of mass crime and murder. Will Pyongyang face ICC indictment? by Robert Marquand (May 21, 2013) Christian Science Monitor.
- Kevin Bales, et al. "North Korea". The Minderoo Foundation Pty Ltd. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
- Almost 46 million people trapped in slavery with North Korea, India key offenders: Global index (May 30 201610:39 PM EDTUpdated Tue, May 31 20168:21 AM EDT) CNBC.
- "Maps | Global Slavery Index".
- North Korea's tightly controlled media (December 19, 2011) BBC.
- An In-depth Look at North Korea's Postal Service, Daily NK, April 4, 2008.
- Lessons from the death of North Korea's first leader by Humphrey Hawksley (December 19, 2011) BBC.
- US student Otto Warmbier given hard labour in North Korea (March 16, 2016) BBC.
- North Korea — Level 4: Do Not Travel (August 6, 2020) United States Department of State (archived from March 31, 2021).
- The Day After by Bill Keller (April 29, 2012) New York Times.
- Can North Korea Really "Flatten" Seoul? Many have suggested that North Korean missiles and artillery could "flatten" the city of Seoul. This isn't the clear-cut case, as those who know modern weapons can tell you. Perhaps more importantly, the very idea of destroying an entire city oversimplifies the diplomatic and military aspects of this very real, modern-day threat. by Erik Sofge (November 24, 2010) Popular Mechanics.
- South Korea opens 'mini capital' in Sejong City 2 July 2012) BBC.
- North Korea: Nukes are our country's 'life' by Alastair Jamieson (Mar 31, 2013 9:38 AM EDT) NBC News (archived from April 2, 2013).
- U.S., Republic of Korea and Allies Should Prepare for Eventual Collapse of North Korean Government (September 19, 2013) RAND Corporation.
- Korean War II Not Easy As It Looks: The Army has war gamed a conflict to secure a failed North Korea. It would not be a cakewalk. by James Joyner (March 26, 2013) Outside the Beltway.
- German unification: Economic Issues by Leslie Lipschitz & Donogh McDonald (1990) International Monetary Fund. ISBN 9781557752000.
- Korea, South Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook (archived from January 1, 2019).
- German precedent bodes ill for Korean reunification (November 27 2014) Oxford Analytica (archived from April 14, 2015).
- Even if Trump-Kim summit clicks, Koreans might never: They look different, speak different, and in terms of technology might as well be living in different centuries. Integration between North and South Koreans in a reunified country would not come easy by Crystal Tai (7:00pm, 10 Jun, 2018) South China Morning Post.
- Korean unification: dreams of unity fade into past for young South Koreans: South Koreans questioning goal of union with poor neighbours reared on different values as even the shared language diverges by Tania Branigan (27 May 2013 01.00 EDT) The Guardian.
- A United Korea? Reassessing North Korea Risks (Part I) by Goohoon Kwon (September 21, 2009) Goldman Sachs Global Economics, Commodities and Strategy Research Global Economics Paper No: 188 (archived from July 14, 2011).
- Think of areas like these being stacked with hundreds of thousands of people.
- Tougher Sanctions on North Korea Pass in Unified U.N. Vote by Rick Gladstone & David E. Sanger (March 7, 2013) New York Times.
- China's secret plan for North Korea's collapse, revealed by Max Fisher (May 6, 2014) Vox.
- Wikileaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea' by Simon Tisdall (November 19, 2010) The Guardian.
- Chinese Annoyance With North Korea Bubbles to the Surface by Jane Perlez (December 20, 2014) The New York Times.
- Review: From 5pm to 5am (April 15, 2011) North Korean Films.
- The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea by Charles Robert Jenkins & Jim Frederick (2008) University of California Press. ISBN 0520253337.
- The US defectors who became film stars in North Korea by Simon Fowler (12th December 2017) BBC.
- How Do Americans Look in North Korean Films? by David Marchese (Dec. 19, 2014) Vulture (Vox Media).
- An American GI defected to North Korea. Now his sons are propaganda stars. by Anna Fifield (May 25, 2016 at 9:56 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- A shadowy group trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un allegedly raided a North Korean embassy in broad daylight by John Hudson (March 15, 2019 at 12:39 PM) The Washington Post.