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 seeks to set up new special economic zones with foreign help
North Korea sets up a special group to help potential foreign investors, who remain reluctant to pour their money into the country
In a bid to bolster its laggard economy, North Korea plans to set up new special economic zones and has created a group to assist potential foreign investors, state media and the organisers of a rare international conference in Pyongyang said.
Ri Chol Sok, vice-president of the newly formed Korea Economic Development Association, which was hosting the two-day conference, said the zones "are already starting to be organised all over the country".
The meeting began yesterday with academics and experts from 13 countries - including the US, Canada, India, China, Malaysia and Vietnam - and 60 North Korean participants.
North Korea is still regarded as too risky by many businesses, but has had its eye on expanding its use of economic zones since at least June when it announced foreign investors would be given preferential treatment for land use, labour and taxes.
North Korea, which is one of the world's poorest countries, officially follows a rigid planned economy, but authorities have tolerated unofficial capitalist activities for years. It has experimented with special economic zones as a means of encouraging foreign investment since the 1990s.
The longest-running example is the Rason Special Economic Zone in the far northeast of the country.
While Pyongyang has shown new signs of trying to reform its economy over the past year and a half, it has also continued to maintain state control. Instead of "reform" or "change," North Korea referred to the free-market style changes last year as "new economic management methods".