The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, abbreviated as DPRK, and commonly referred to as North Korea, is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital is Pyongyang, the country’s largest city by both land area and population. The Amnok River and the Tumen River together form the international border between North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. A small section of the Tumen River is also located along the border between North Korea and the Russian Federation, technically following the river’s thalweg. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the boundary between North Korea and South Korea.
Prior to 2010, tourists holding United States passports were not granted visas, except during the Arirang Festival mass games (아리랑 축제). U.S. citizens, journalists and citizens from other nations have also been given special permission to enter as members of the Korean Friendship Association and Choson Exchange. Citizens of South Korea require special permission from both governments to enter North Korea, and are typically not granted such permission for regular tourism except in special tourist areas designated for South Koreans.
Only Malaysians are allowed to enter North Korea without a visa.
In April 2010, the first tourist trains from Dandong, China brought visitors to North Korea for a 4-day tour. Prior to that, the international train from Beijing to Pyongyang was used as tourist train.
As of January 2012, tourists are now able to bring their own mobile phones into the DPRK, although without a North Korean sim the phone will not be able to make or receive calls. Previously foreigners had to surrender their phones at the border (or airport) before entering the country.
North Korea shares the Korean language with South Korea. There are dialect differences within both Koreas, but the border between North and South does not represent a major linguistic boundary.
According to the CIA World Factbook, North Korea’s life expectancy was 63.8 years in 2009, a figure roughly equivalent to that of Pakistan and Burma and slightly lower than Russia.