Occupying the Northern half of the Korean peninsula, North Korea is one of the world's most closed societies often criticized for its violation of human rights.
Korea was independent for most of its history, but was occupied by Japan in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war. It was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones following World War II. Both North and South Korea claimed sovereignty of the entire peninsula, which led to the Korean War, lasting from 1950 to 1953. An armistice ended the fighting, but the countries are still officially at war with each other - a peace treaty was never signed.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was founded under President Kim Il-so'ng, and operates under the principal of economic and diplomatic "self reliance" as a hedge against other communist powers. Because of the government's secretive nation and its isolation - very few foreigners visit - it is often called "The Hermit Kingdom." Cellular phone access is limited and international calls are illegal, except for the political elite. Internet use is also limited for most of the population.
The single-party state is currently led by Kim Jong Il, and the nation's long-range missile development as well as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs concern the international community. During the 1990s, after years of economic mismanagement, the country started relying on international aid in order to help feed its population, but still spends considerable resources on its military, following the Songun doctrine - or "military first."
In 2002, President George W. Bush called North Korea part of the "axis of evil" and a "outpost of tyranny." While talks between the United States and North Korea are ongoing, there are no formal diplomatic relations - and no exchange of ambassadors. President Bill Clinton visited in August in 2009 and spoke with Kim Jong Il in order to exchange the release of two American journalists who were said to have entered the country illegally.
In September 2010, Kim Jong-un was made a four star general and given positions in the national party. Many analysts think this means he will succeed his father Kim Jong Il, who is thought to be in poor health.
See below for the latest news and video reports on North Korea.