The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering South Korea and China. Its capital, Pyongyang, is the country's largest city by both land area and population. It is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), and governed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012. It has a population of 24,052,231 (UN-assisted DPRK census 2008) made up of Koreans and a smaller Chinese minority. Japan 'opened' Korea in 1876 and annexed it in 1910. The Republic of Korea (ROK) was founded with US support in the south in August 1948 and the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north in September that year.
North Korea will be resistant to change
Kim Jong-il's death in December shook the world. Since then, governments and media outlets have reacted with optimism, considering this a golden opportunity for a new start for relations with North Korea. It is hoped Jong-il's successor, Kim Jong-un, will steer the new regime on a less belligerent course. Although there is room for optimism, nations should adopt a cautious outlook.
It seems unlikely that the new regime's stance on international issues, particularly nuclear weapons, will become any less hostile.
Although Jong-il is no longer alive, his influence is widespread around the country. Fear has been bred into North Koreans' hearts over decades of indoctrination as well as the society's embrace of juche, or self-reliance.
North Korea is considered 'the most repressive media environment in the world', according to a Freedom House report last year. The resulting lack of pressure from the people greatly minimises the chances of change in the policies of the new regime.
North Korea's history of erratic behaviour also increases the difficulty of predicting its next move.
Although Jong-il's death may be a chance to usher in reforms, the people, military and government of North Korea are likely to resist change.