Human and economic geography
According to Localcollegeexplorer, North Korea is an East Asian state. At the 1993 census the population was 21,213,378. (172.8 residents/km 2), which rose to 22,488,000 according to an estimate of 2005. Population growth was rather weak, thanks to a birth rate that dropped to 15.5%, against a death rate of 7%. In 2005 a population of 3,600,000 residents was attributed to the urban agglomeration of the capital, Pyeongyang (P’yŏngyang). The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), whose economy was completely collectivized, in the early years of 21° sec. it initiated the first steps towards a market economy, even if the reforms introduced in July 2002 were defined as simple ‘adjustments’ by the authorities, who refused to admit the failure of the old system and its abandonment. A private sector, made up of small businesses, then began to make up for the shortage of the state sector, and free markets began to flourish in the cities after their legalization in June 2003. The government also promoted an action in favor of foreign investors in the new industrial park of Gaesong (Kaesŏng), inaugurated at the end of 2002.just north of the demilitarized zone; but they, certainly indispensable for getting the North Korean economy back on track, have been waiting for the crisis relating to nuclear plants to be resolved at a diplomatic level (see below: History). The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has become the first investor country and the second trading partner, before Japan but after China, which supplies almost all of the oil consumed.
As for the various productive sectors, in the agricultural sector, wild deforestation and the uncontrolled use of non-organic fertilizers have produced a real ecological disaster, with a series of catastrophic floods and a state of constant famine, which have caused thousands of victims. Humanitarian aid, which already amounted to one million tonnes of cereals a year since the mid-1990s, was subsequently increased. The industrial sector, based, according to the ancient Soviet model, on heavy industry (steel, chemicals, machine tools, transport material), is made up of mostly obsolete plants with frequent interruptions in processing. In the fall of 2002 the ‘special area’ of Sineuiju (Sinŭiju), in the plain on the border with China, was inaugurated, and the ‘special tourist area’ for winter sports of Mount Geumgang (Kŭmgang) became operational, where tourists began to flow South Koreans.
Governed by the authoritarian and strongly centralizing regime of Gim Jeong-il (Kim Chŏng-il), leader of the Korean Workers’ Party (in power since 1949), the country, which at the end of the nineties had experienced a serious food crisis, with effects devastating on the population, it continued to pour into the early 21st century° sec. in conditions of extreme precariousness and dependence on international aid. The frequent floods and the growing inadequacy of the planned economy system contributed to this situation, only marginally affected by the reforms introduced at the beginning of the 2000s and aimed at allowing a cautious liberalization of the market. The major limitation to possible developments in agriculture and industry remained the enormous financial commitment of the state in the military sector, a cornerstone of the regime and traditionally used by the latter as an instrument of pressure on the international community. A cautious abandonment of this strategy seemed to lie ahead on the threshold of 21 century, when the country appeared open to new forms of diplomatic collaboration and to abandon the isolationist policy that had characterized it for years. The dialogue initiated with the international community to obtain humanitarian aid favored the resumption of negotiations with South Korea, which culminated in June 2000, in the historic meeting in Pyeongyang (P’yŏngyang) between Gim Jeong-il and South Korean President Gim Daejung (Kim Taejung). During the meeting, an agreement was ratified which provided for the common commitment for the reunification of the two countries, the exchange and release of political prisoners, the reunion of families separated at the time of the division of the country, the promotion of economic cooperation and the easing of the state of tension along the border. The dialogue continued between ups and downs even in the following years, punctuated by repeated commitments to economic collaboration and by as many repeated denials dictated by contingent and occasional situations, or by the recurrence of historical reasons for conflict (such as the joint military exercises between South Korea and US military in border areas). Weight, in relations between Pyeongyang and Seoul (Sŏul), the abrupt deterioration in relations between the North Korean government and the United States that occurred after the administration of GW Bush took office in Washington, despite the efforts of the South to maintain a line in any case autonomous and open to dialogue. In fact, the new US president adopted a much more intransigent line towards the Northern Council than that of his predecessors, and raised the accusations of illicit trafficking in weapons and nuclear testing against it. The crisis deepened after the attacks of the11 September 2001, following the decision of the North Korean government, which also condemned the terrorist action, to oppose the attack on Afghānistān and not to provide logistical aid to the United States in the fight against terrorism. Included by Bush as one of the countries that constituted the “axis of evil” along with Irān and ̔Irāq, and pressured by US requests to inspect nuclear plants, North Korea again stiffened its positions and assumed an attitude of open defiance, threatening to revoke the agreements made with the United States in 1994, under which it had committed to a moratorium on the nuclear program in exchange for economic aid. The tension grew in the following months and, in a crescendo of mutual accusations and threats, culminated in October 2002, when US government sources revealed the existence of North Korean research programs in the nuclear sector, in open violation of the 1994 agreements. The news triggered a process of open opposition that left no room for dialogue. In December 2002 Pyeongyang decided to reactivate the nuclear plant in Yeongbyeon (Yŏngbyŏn), which was followed, in the same month, by the expulsion of the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and, in early January 2003, the withdrawal of North Korea from the non-proliferation treaty. In the following April, the government resumed short-range missile tests, and in July publicly admitted that it had relaunched the nuclear weapons design and construction program, as a deterrent against possible attacks on the country, definitively rejecting the warnings of the international community. Despite the ostentatious intransigence, diplomatic talks had in the meantime resumed, especially on the initiative of China, and in August 2003. A new negotiating table was opened in Beijing, in which, in addition to China, the Northern Region and the United States, Russia, Japan and the Southern Region participated. During the talks, Pyeongyang said it was willing to freeze the nuclear program if Washington had signed a bilateral non-aggression treaty, but the proposal was rejected by the US counterpart, which demanded a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” dismantling of the nuclear program, in exchange for the resumption of energy and food aid and the creation of a multilateral security system. The negotiations also continued in the following months but did not achieve appreciable results. In February 2005 the North Korean government announced its indefinite exit from the negotiations, and for the first time officially admitted possessing nuclear weapons for “self-defense”. A sharp deterioration in international relations ensued, but diplomacy continued to work, and in July 2005 the six-party talks resumed in Beijing. However, despite the initial willingness to rejoin the non-proliferation treaty in exchange for energy supplies and the explicit commitment of the United States not to attack the country (Sept.), in the summer of 2006 the North Korean government carried out long-range missile tests. which triggered the harsh international reaction.