NORTH KOREA DEVELOPED INTO the country we know today as a result of World War II, when Korea was divided between the Soviet Union which controlled the north, and the United States which occupied the south. The Korean War (1950-1953) saw an attempt to unify the country-albeit by force, but the border didn’t change much with the signing of the armistice. North Korea’s “Great Leader,” Kim Il-sung instituted a Stalinist state and effectively closed off North Korea from the rest of the world.
For the next two decades, from the 50s to the 70s, North Korea advanced with postwar reconstruction, modernization and the establishment of commune farms.
But quality of life in the country began to decline in the 80s. In the 90s the country’s economy collapsed at the same time crops failed, resulting in widespread famine. Some North Koreans began to flee as a means to survive, even though doing so was considered treasonous and punishable by torture and imprisonment in labour camps. Borders were strengthened, and the journey became increasingly riskier and
Today North Korea continues to be hobbled by dire socio-economic problems it attempts to hide from the world. But we know North Koreans are suffering-from hunger, poverty and lack of basic freedoms people in other countries take for granted.
NORTH KOREA BY THE NUMBERS
6 million – In need of food aid
200,000 – Detained in over 180 work camps
50,000 – Hiding in China
33.3 OUT OF 1000 – Deaths of children under 5
1 IN 4 – Are malnourished
23,500 – Defectors granted nationality in South Korea as of 2011