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.
UN inquiry into human rights appeals for access to North Korea
A UN inquiry gathering harrowing testimony of human rights abuses in North Korea appealed for access to the country, even as Pyongyang condemned its work as slanderous and provocative.
The three-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Australian judge Michael Kirby has just wrapped up five days of disturbing hearings in the South Korean capital Seoul - mostly testimony from North Korean defectors.
North Korea, which strongly denies allegations of rights abuses, refused to recognise the commission and barred it from visiting the country. Despite an attack by the Korean Central News Agency, Kirby issued another in a long series of formal and informal appeals to grant his three-member panel of experts access to the country.
"We will act with respect, we seek to find facts, we will provide due process, we will have no preconceptions," he said.
The commission's repeated requests for access included a formal written letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but it had no direct response.
The commission is the first UN expert panel to officially examine North Korea's human rights record, and plans to collect witness testimony in Japan, Thailand, Britain and the United States.