When you travel anywhere in the world, it’s important to respect local norms and traditions: don’t disrespect the King in Thailand, don’t bare your soles in the Middle East, don’t suggest that guns are bad mmmkay in America, and don’t say “North Korea” in North Korea.
There are a few reasons why they don’t like tourists using this moniker: firstly it suggests that, heavens forfend, there are two Koreas. Secondly, both Koreas (we mean the two parts of the same Korea) both claim sovereignty over the whole of the Korean Peninsula. And lastly the official title of North Korea is the DPRK, or to give it its full title: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk).
What does ‘DPRK’ mean?
‘Democratic’: this might be a strange concept for those of us in the west who view “democratic” to mean pluralistic elections, but in socialist parlance Democratic refers to the democracy delivered by the vanguard party, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Democracy is everyone being equal. It is also known as democratic centralism, to avoid factionalism.
‘People’s’: The leading party – in this case the Workers’ Party of Korea – acts as the vanguard party for the people, and against the interests of business. A state for the people.
‘Republic’: the literal definition of a republic is “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch”. Some might therefore argue that since the succession of power in the DPRK is de facto hereditary, it’s not actually a republic. The Kims do not, however, have royal titles, and receive their power through the state institutions of the DPRK.
‘Korea’: Korea is the English transliteration of the country’s former name, when it was ruled by the Koryo Dynasty. This is why some companies use the name ‘Koryo’.
Put it all together and what have you got: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or the DPRK. Remember this when you visit the country; your guides will be very impressed with your knowledge and cultural sensitivity towards the people north of the 38th parallel!.