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.
Letters to the Editor, March 25, 2013
Nightmarish existence for North Koreans
John Charleston ("Firepower keeping North Koreans safe", March 16) writes that North Korea is "safe" from American influence thanks to its military strength and nuclear weapons programme, while suggesting that the "right-wing" South China Morning Post is partly responsible for public opinion of the North Korean regime.
I suspect the irony of a resident of the world's most economically free jurisdiction using the local free press to defend the most repressive regime on the planet will not be lost on most of your readers.
It will also be obvious to most that the North Korean military strength that Mr Charleston espouses comes at the expense of the country's citizens, who live trapped in a nightmarish existence with severely limited access to the most basic of resources or freedoms that Hongkongers take for granted.
Your correspondent may do well to reflect on his likely fate had he similarly criticised the press in Pyongyang. Some 150,000 North Koreans guilty of similar "crimes" currently languish in the regime's expanding gulag system.
Mr Charleston closes by suggesting Lily Chan ("Change long overdue in North Korea", March 13) "would do well to expand her comfort-zone reading matter".
I would politely suggest he consider the same, starting with Blaine Harden's Escape From Camp 14.
Corey Hine, Kennedy Town
Stress at work a serious problem in HK
I refer to the report ("Sudden deaths blamed on finance sector's stress", March 13).
Hong Kong became a world city thanks to the tenacity and indomitable spirit of its citizens. It is a common practice for people here to burn the midnight oil, especially those who work in our financial sector.
They spare no efforts to achieve good results for their firms.
One side effect of stress is that it can lead to depression and we should not underestimate the seriousness of this problem with a survey by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong revealing that one in 10 Hongkongers admitted they were depressed.
It is not just the workload that people face that leads to a build up of stress, but also the fact that the working environment for many people is very competitive.
Citizens also face increasing financial pressure thanks to the effects of inflation and an overall rising cost of living.
The fact that so many of us lead sedentary lifestyles does not help.
However, there are things people can do to improve their mental and physical well-being, in particular, regular exercise.
They should also try and plan their work and free periods. And no matter how hard they are working, they should keep communicating with their family. Getting the right life-work balance is crucial.
Lynn Cheng Yuk-lam, Tsing Yi
India has now repaid its loans with interest
I cannot agree with K. M. Nasir's letter ("PM right not to give back Koh-i-Noor, March 18), regarding the decision by British Prime Minister David Cameron not to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India.
He said the jewel should not be returned unless the Indian government "gives back the billions of pounds in foreign aid it has received over the years".
After gaining independence from colonial rule, India needed financial aid, but it often had strings attached.
In most cases, aid would be linked with business deals. Donor nations might make financial gains but still preferred to call it aid instead of loans. However, India has met its obligations, with interest. Not only that but it has also given aid to some neighbouring countries.
The Koh-i-Noor belongs to India and I hope it will be returned in the near future.
Ranjit Bhawnani, Tsim Sha Tsui
Pontiff faces very difficult challenges
Pope Francis has to inject humility and simplicity into the Vatican in order to shake up the Roman Catholic Church's marred image.
The "Vatileaks" affair shined a light on a dysfunctional administration, and exposed corruption, waste, power intrigues, clerical sexual abuse scandals and alleged money laundering activities in the heart of the Vatican.
The newly elected pope will have to implement structural changes amid growing scepticism regarding the Catholic Church, which is in dire need of a revamp.
Meanwhile, the papacy still has to prove its legitimacy.
Samantha Datwani, Fortress Hill
High death toll on roads can be reduced
Accident rates are usually high on the mainland's roads over Lunar New Year, but the situation is not much better the rest of the year.
The death toll in 2011 was 62,000 - 90 per cent more than the US.
This shows that poor road safety north of the border is an extremely serious problem.
During holiday periods, migrant workers keen to get home to their families and who have failed to get a ticket for a train will take to the roads, and the volume of traffic increases substantially.
There are so many occasions when a road traffic accident could have been prevented. The alarming statistics are cause for concern.
It is clear that the government must ensure that all drivers receive adequate training. The lives of their passengers are in their hands. Accidents can be prevented if they know what they are doing.
Also, officials must instil in road users a greater awareness of safety. People need to realise that seat belts are there for a reason and that they can save lives and prevent serious injury.
Another reason for the high accident rate is poor infrastructure.
In some poor rural areas, the authorities often do not have the funds to make necessary repairs and roads are in an awful state with little or no maintenance.
Some narrow roads in mountainous regions may be particularly dangerous for oncoming vehicles. For example, last month, 11 passengers on a bus died when it crashed down a steep slope in Sichuan province.
The government should impose tougher penalties on those who are found guilty of careless driving and try to get the message across to people that they must follow traffic regulations at all times.
Lily Tsang, Tsuen Wan
Tung Chung malls would attract tourists
The sharp increase in tourist numbers has had repercussions in Hong Kong.
For example, shopping malls in popular urban areas like Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay have become overcrowded thanks to the massive influx of visitors.
In order to tackle the problem, a business group has proposed developing Lantau into a commercial zone, which will take some of these tourists away from the popular urban shopping centres.
I can see that this proposal might be feasible if the malls could be built near some of the island's more famous sightseeing landmarks, such as Disneyland and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.
If these new malls were built at Tung Chung tourists visiting the Disney theme park and using the cable car would not have far to go and it would actually prove to be more convenient than Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui.
The malls would also be popular with local residents who are getting fed up with shopping in the congested urban retail outlets.
Their shopping experience in Tung Chung would be far more relaxed.
However, whether or not it can work in reality will depend on what input the government is willing to make and how it responds to the business group's proposal.
Carol Li Wing-sum, Ma On Shan
ESF's new policy offers equal chance
The letter from Pierce Lam ("Make better use of subsidy given to ESF", March 12) refers to the English Schools Foundation's "preferential admission of non-Cantonese-speaking children" and "preferential education for native English speakers". This is incorrect.
The ESF's new admissions policy does not give preferential admission to either native English speakers or to non-Cantonese-speaking children.
Its old policy did give lower priority to children who spoke Cantonese at home, but the new policy does not.
It simply requires children to be able to speak English well enough to benefit from the English-medium tuition.
The children can come from Chinese, British, Indian, Hong Kong families and all of them will get an equal, identical chance.
Mr Lam has got the entire issue back to front, or has simply not read the new policy.
The new system is significantly better for local Hong Kong families wanting to give their children an international quality education.
It is preferable to the rather limited educational offering of the government, which prefers to spend its tax surpluses on arguably pointless infrastructure.
Simon Osborne, Pok Fu Lam