The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, abbreviated to DPRK or PRK, and commonly referred to as North Korea, is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital is Pyongyang, the country's largest city by both land area and population. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. The Amnok River and the Tumen River together form the international border between North Korea and the People's Republic of China. A small section of the Tumen River is also located along the border between North Korea and the Russian Federation, technically following the river's thalweg.
The Korean peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, until it was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Japanese rule was brought to an end. The Korean peninsula was divided into two occupied zones in 1945, with the northern half of the peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern half by the United States. A United Nations¨Csupervised election held in 1948 led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. North Korea and South Korea claim sovereignty over the entire Korean peninsula, which led to the start of the Korean War in 1950. An armistice in 1953 committed both to a cease-fire, however, the two countries remain officially at war, since a formal peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.
North Korea is a single-party state under a united front led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). The country's government follows the Juche ideology of self-reliance, initiated by the country's first President, Kim Il-sung. After his death, Kim Il-sung was declared the country's Eternal President. Juche became the official state ideology, replacing Marxism-Leninism, when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, North Korea lost a major trading partner and strategic ally. Combined with a series of natural disasters, this led to the North Korean famine, which lasted from 1994 to 1998 and killed an estimated 800,000 to 3,500,000 people. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il adopted Songun, or "military-first" policy in order to strengthen the country and its government. In 2009, references to Communism were systematically removed from the country's constitution and legal documents altogether.
Many outside organizations describe North Korea as a totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family and one of the lowest-ranking human rights records of any country, though the North Korean government denies this. As a result of its isolation and authoritarian rule, it has sometimes been labelled the "Hermit kingdom",a name once given to its predecessor, the Korean Empire. In 2011 North Korea had the lowest Democracy Index of any nation on earth. North Korea is one of the world's most militarized countries, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. It is a nuclear-weapons state and has an active space program.