Comparison between North Korea and South Korea

Most of data derived from CIA, The World Factbook






9 September 1948

17 August 1948



Total: 120,538 sq km

Land: 120,408 sq km

Water: 130 sq km


 Total: 99,720 sq km

Land: 96,920 sq km

Water: 2,800 sq km




Temperate, with rainfall concentrated in summer; long, bitter winters


Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winters




Mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; wide coastal plains in west, discontinuous in east


Mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south





Mean elevation: 600 m

Elevation extremes:

Lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

Highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m


Mean elevation: 282 m

Elevation extremes:

Lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

Highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m


Natural resources



Coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower


Coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential

Land use


Agricultural land: 21.8%

arable land 19.5%;

permanent crops 1.9%;

permanent pasture 0.4%

Forest: 46%

Other: 32.2% (2011 est.)


 Agricultural land: 18.1%

arable land 15.3%;

permanent crops 2.2%; permanent pasture 0.6%

Forest: 63.9%

Other: 18% (2011 est.)









1)   Chagang-do (Chagang)

2)   Hamgyong-bukto (North Hamgyong)

3)   Hamgyong-namdo (South Hamgyong),

4)   Hwanghae-bukto (North Hwanghae),

5)   Hwanghae-namdo (South Hwanghae),

6)   Kangwon-do (Kangwon),

7)   P’yongan-bukto (North Pyongan),

8)   P’yongan-namdo (South Pyongan),

9)   Yanggang-do (Yanggang)


 1) Chungbuk (North Chungcheong),

2) Chungnam (South Chungcheong),

3) Gangwon,

4) Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang),

5) Gyeonggi,

6) Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang),

7) Jeju,

8) Jeonbuk (North Jeolla)

9) Jeonnam (South Jeolla)





1) Nason-si

2) P’yongyang-si (Pyongyang)



1) Busan (Pusan),

2) Daegu (Taegu),

3) Daejeon (Taejon),

4) Gwangju (Kwangju),

5) Incheon (Inch’on),

6) Ulsan



Current Leader

(Chief of state)



KIM Jong Un

(since 17 December 2011)



President PARK Geun-hye

(since 25 February 2013)


Head of government




–       Premier PAK Pong Ju (since 2 April 2013);

–       Vice Premiers


note: the Korean Workers’ Party continues to list deceased leaders KIM Il Sung and KIM Jong Il as

Eternal President and Eternal General Secretary respectively

–       Prime Minister HWANG Kyo-ahn (since 18 June 2015);

–       Deputy Prime Ministers YOO Il-ho (since 13 January 2016), LEE Joon-sik (since 13 January 2016)

Type of government / Governance style


–       Communist

–       State philosophy: Juche

–       Cult of personality

–       The Kim Dynasty (3 generations)

–       Propaganda

–       Censorship



–       Presidential republic / democratic republic

–       Free elections





 Political Parties




–       Major party: Korean Workers’ Party or KWP [KIM Jong Un]

–       Minor parties: Chondoist Chongu Party [RYU Mi Yong] (under KWP control)

–       Social Democratic Party [KIM Yong Dae] (under KWP control)



–       Justice Party [SIM Sang-jeong]

–       Minjoo Party of Korea or MPK (formerly New Politics Alliance for Democracy or NPAD) [KIM Jong-in]

–       New Frontier Party (NFP) or Saenuri (formerly Grand National Party) [Interim Chairman WON Yoo-chul]

–       People’s Party or PP [AHN Cheol-soo and CHUN Jung-bae]




GDP Composition







Agriculture: 22%

Industry: 47%

Services: 31% (2014 est.)





Agriculture: 2.3%

Industry: 38%

Services: 59.7% (2015 est.)




Export commodities





Minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products


Semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat display displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
 Import commodities  

Petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain



Crude oil/petroleum products, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemical, textiles


 Export partners China 65%

South Korea 27% (2014 est.)


China 25.4%,

US 12.3%,

Japan 5.6%,

Hong Kong 4.8%,

Singapore 4.2% (2014 est.)


Import partners  

China 68%

South Korea 22% (2014 est.)



China 17.1%

Japan 10.2%

US 8.7%

Saudi Arabia 7%

Qatar 4.9%

Germany 4.1% (2014 est.)


GDP per capita (PPP)

$1,800 (2014 est.)

$1,800 (2013 est.)

$1,800 (2012 est.)

note: data are in 2014 US dollars


$36,500 (2015 est.)

$35,700 (2014 est.)

$34,700 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars


External debt

$5 billion (2013 est.)  

$409.1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$424.4 billion (31 December 2013 est.)



24,983,205 (July 2015 est.)

49,115,196 (July 2015 est.)

Median age

total: 33.6 years

male: 32 years

female: 35.2 years (2015 est.)


 total: 40.8 years

male: 39.2 years

female: 42.2 years (2015 est.)



60.9% of total population (2015)

82.5% of total population (2015)





traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way) Christian 31.6% (Protestant 24.0%, Catholic 7.6%), Buddhist 24.2%, other or unknown 0.9%, none 43.3% (2010 est.)

National Holiday(s)


Founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), 9 September (1948) Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)






Branches: North Korean People’s Army: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force; civil security forces (2005)


Service age: 18 is presumed to be the legal minimum age for compulsory military service; 16-17 is the presumed legal minimum age for voluntary service (2012)

Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2011)



20-30 years of age for compulsory military service




 Foreign Policy


Uncertain. North Korea’s actions are often seen as rogue.

e.g. independent missile testings, not adhering to Six Party Talks

Maintains diplomatic relations with 190 countries

Committed to maintaining regional and international security

Controversies / Social issues



– North Korean defectors / refugees

–  Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953;

–   Forced labor and sex trafficking

–   Illicit drugs


–  Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953;

–  Periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limit Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary;


 National Symbol red star, chollima (winged horse); national colors: red, white, blue taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon); national colors: red, white, blue, black

This is just a table of comparison of some of the key indicators between the two Koreas.

Based on the data, North Korea is bigger than South Korea in terms of its land size, however South Korea is twice as populated than that of North Korea. North Korea has a younger median age (33.6) compared to South Korea’s (40.8) and both Koreas share the same export partner and import partner i.e. China.

I have organized it into a table for easy comparison, and I plan to go more in depth on some of these indicators in later posts.

Unfortunately, the table runs at the margins.. I have tried my best to align it but somehow it doesn’t go accordingly 😦

Regardless, I hope this table will be of some use to those who are interested in the two Koreas.








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Currently living and pursuing my undergraduate studies in South Korea.

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