Your guide to being an expatriate in North Korea

Caffeinate Your North Korea Expat Journey: Find Essential Info and Connect with Expatriates Today!

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia. It is bordered by China to the north and Russia to the northeast. The country is governed by a regime led by the authoritarian leader, Kim Jong-un. After the liberation in 1945 from the Japanese colonial rule, North Korea became a socialist state dedicated to Marxism-Leninism. Despite its attempts to develop economically, the country continues to face human rights issues and diplomatic tensions with neighboring countries, including South Korea and the United States.

North Korea

Expat destinations in North Korea

Demographics of North Korea:

Ethnic groups

Korean: 98%



Religion Overview

North Korea is officially an atheist state, with the government promoting its Marxist-Leninist ideology as the only true belief system. However, there are unofficial religious communities that practice Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism in private.

Major Religions


North Korea's climate ranges from humid monsoon in the southwest to dry continental in the northeast. Winters are long and extremely cold with temperatures commonly dropping below -10°C. Summers see high humidity levels, with temperatures averaging at 25°C.

Economy Overview

North Korea's economy is highly centralized and heavily dependent on exports of coal, iron, and textiles. Due to United Nations' sanctions, trade and economic activity have been restricted causing severe shortages of food and medicine. The country has a large workforce in agriculture, but mostly relies on government-run state farms. The state is the largest employer and owns most industries, leading to problems of productivity, efficiency and enduring shortages.

Key Industries

  • Coal mining
  • Steel production
  • Textiles
  • Fishing
  • Minerals

Major Companies

  • Pyongyang Tractor Plant
  • Koryo Youngsan Fertilizer Complex
  • The Songgan Blood Steel Complex
  • Mangyongdae Steel Complex
  • Pyongyang Automobile Factory

Culture and Language Overview

North Korean culture is heavily influenced by socialist ideology, and cultural activities are largely organized by the government. Traditional and ancient practices have been nearly forgotten due to focus on the development of 'new socialist culture'. Cultural activities that are still prominent include traditional music and dance, social gatherings, and sports. The national language is Korean, and the country has its own unique alphabet, Chosŏng.'

Cultural Highlights

  • Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia: These are annual flower festivals held in honor of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. They are still officially celebrated in North Korea.
  • Jongmyo Shrine: This annual ancestral rite held on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month also marks North Korea's traditional cultural holiday.
  • Arirang: is a traditional folk song and dance that is commonly performed during North Korean athletic events. It is a national symbol of unity.
  • The circus troupe: North Korea's acclaimed circus company performs regularly and has toured internationally.
  • The Pyongyang Grand Theatre: This is a prominent venue for Pyongyang opera, a traditional North Korean performing art.

Geography and Landmarks Overview

North Korea is a landlocked country, and its mountainous terrain is split by the Amnok (Yalu) and Tumen Rivers that flow through China and Russia. The country is covered by lush vegetation, and the Kim Il-sung Natural Forest Reserve is a well-preserved example of its flora. The main coastal cities include Wonsan and Hamhung, while Pyongyang is the capital.

Notable Landmarks

  • Taesongsan, also known as Mount Paektu: a dormant volcano that is significant in Korean mythology.
  • Kumgang Mountain Resort: This scenic mountain resort near the east coast is one of North Korea's most beautiful destinations, open to foreign tourists
  • Kaesong: Formerly a former capital city of ancient Korea, now it is a historic city that displays samples of Korean history dating back thousands of years
  • Mansudae Revolutionary Site: This site displays statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung and is significant in North Korean history and politics.
  • The Juche Tower: A 170-meter tall steel tower that represents the national ideology of Juche, made famous in the movie 'The Interview'.

National Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Day of the Shining Star (February 16)
  • The Day of the Sun (April 15)
  • Anti-Imperialist National Self-Defense Day (August 28)
  • National Foundation Day (September 9)
  • Victory Day (July 27)
  • National Liberation Day (August 15)
  • March of Autumn (October 10)
  • Kim Jong-il's Birthday (February 16)
  • Kim Il-sung's Birthday (April 15)
  • Constitution Day (December 27)

Political Stability

North Korea is an authoritarian regime with no independent judiciary, free speech, or freedom of assembly. The government strictly regulates and supervises almost all aspects of societal, political and economic life, including employment and education.

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