North Korea is an east Asian country located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. The country shares the peninsula, and its southern border, with South Korea, although the two countries are separated by a demilitarised zone.
North Korea’s continental climate is defined by summers that are short, hot, and humid, with plenty of rain. Summer temperatures reach around 30 degrees Celsius, and more than half of the country’s average rainfall occurs during the warmest months. During the long winters, the cold northern winds that blow south from Siberia regularly bring temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius.
North Korea is one of the most secretive nations in the world, with an isolationist policy that has resulted in a severance of relations with most other countries. However, the things that North Korea are known for in the Western World range from absurd to frightening.
North Korea is, for example, both the world’s most corrupt country, and the world’s least democratic country, with one of the highest death penalty rates in the world. Many of North Korea’s citizens are desperately poor, and around one-third are undernourished. The country is also known for its bizarre propaganda, which depicts former dictators Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un as virtual gods.
Beginning in the 2nd century BCE, the Korean Peninsula was ruled by the Han Chinese dynasty for more than 400 years. After a series of conflicts the unified region splintered into three kingdoms. Various powers attempted to unify the kingdoms, with little success.
After Mongol invasion in the 13th century, the collapse of the Mongol Empire, and conflicts with Japan and Manchuria, the Korean Joseon Dynasty reigned throughout a peaceful period of almost 200 years.
Korea was occupied by Japan in the early 20th century. At the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided; the southern half was occupied by the US, and the northern half by the Soviet Union. In 1950, North Korea invaded its southern counterpart, leading to a three-year war, and an enormous amount of destruction in both countries.
In recent decades North Korea has developed a reputation as a rogue country, a result of a long-standing dictatorship, increasing efforts to develop nuclear technology, and the North Korean government’s unparalleled violation of the human rights of its citizens.
Animals native to North Korea include species of rodents, frogs, and water deer, and the endangered Amur leopard. Also native to the area is the red-crowned crane, a black-and-white crane with a red patch of bare skin on the top of its head, which is one of the rarest cranes in the world.
Around 14% of North Korea’s 3,000 plant species are endemic to the region. Common in the area are coniferous trees that make up dense forests across the country. On the other end of the scale are three plant species that have extremely small and well-defined habitats. One, for example, is a species of rupicola, a tree with feathery white flowers. This particular species grows only near the summit of Mount Geumgang in the North Korean province of Kangwon, and nowhere else in the world.
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