Cruising to North Korea

Background

An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist domination. After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK) in the southern portion by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President KIM Il-so'ng, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic "self-reliance" as a check against excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese influence.

The DPRK demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang's control. KIM's son, the current ruler KIM Jong Il, was officially designated as his father's successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM's death in 1994.

After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of 1 million. North Korea's long-range missile development, as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces, are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, following revelations that the DPRK was pursuing a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US to freeze and ultimately dismantle its existing plutonium-based program, North Korea expelled monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In January 2003, it declared its withdrawal from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. In mid-2003 Pyongyang announced it had completed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods (to extract weapons-grade plutonium) and was developing a "nuclear deterrent." Since August 2003, North Korea has participated in the Six-Party Talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US designed to resolve the stalemate over its nuclear programs. The fourth round of Six-Party Talks were held in Beijing during July-September 2005.

All parties agreed to a Joint Statement of Principles in which, among other things, the six parties unanimously reaffirmed the goal of verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. In the Joint Statement, the DPRK committed to "abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards

" The Joint Statement also commits the US and other parties to certain actions as the DPRK denuclearizes. The US offered a security assurance, specifying that it had no nuclear weapons on ROK territory and no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or other weapons. The US and DPRK will take steps to normalize relations, subject to the DPRK's implementing its denuclearization pledge and resolving other longstanding concerns. While the Joint Statement provides a vision of the end-point of the Six-Party process, much work lies ahead to implement the elements of the agreement.

Geography

Location: Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 127 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 120,540 sq km

Coastline

2,495 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm; note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned

Climate

Temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer

Terrain

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

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
Highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m

Economy

North Korea, one of the world's most centrally planned and isolated economies, faces desperate economic conditions. Industrial capital stock is nearly beyond repair as a result of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts. Industrial and power output have declined in parallel.

Despite an increased harvest in 2005 because of more stable weather conditions, fertilizer assistance from South Korea, and an extraordinary mobilization of the population to help with agricultural production, the nation has suffered its 11th year of food shortages because of on-going systemic problems, including a lack of arable land, collective farming practices, and chronic shortages of tractors and fuel. Massive international food aid deliveries have allowed the people of North Korea to escape mass starvation since famine threatened in 1995, but the population continues to suffer from prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions.

Large-scale military spending eats up resources needed for investment and civilian consumption. In 2004, the regime formalized an arrangement whereby private "farmers markets" were allowed to begin selling a wider range of goods. It also permitted some private farming on an experimental basis in an effort to boost agricultural output. In October 2005, the regime reversed some of these policies by forbidding private sales of grains and reinstituting a centralized food rationing system.

In December 2005, the regime confirmed that it intended to carry out earlier threats to terminate all international humanitarian assistance operations in the DPRK (calling instead for developmental assistance only) and to restrict the activities of international and non-governmental aid organizations such as the World Food Program. Firm political control remains the Communist government's overriding concern, which will likely inhibit the loosening of economic regulations.

Transportation

Airports: 79 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 35
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 44
Heliports: 20 (2005)
Pipelines: oil 154 km (2004)
Railways: total: 5,214 km
Roadways: total: 31,200 km

Waterways

2,250 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2006)

Merchant marine

Total: 284 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,117,435 GRT/1,563,258 DWT
By type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 14, cargo 222, chemical tanker 2, container 3, livestock carrier 4, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 20, refrigerated cargo 5, roll on/roll off 6, vehicle carrier 1
Foreign-owned: 84 (British Virgin Islands 1, Denmark 1, Germany 1, Greece 1, India 1, Italy 1, South Korea 1, Lebanon 14, Lithuania 1, Marshall Islands 2, Pakistan 3, Romania 16, Russia 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1, Syria 21, Turkey 4, Ukraine 1, UAE 7, US 4, Yemen 1)
Registered in other countries: 3 (Mongolia 3) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Ch'ongjin, Haeju, Hungnam (Hamhung), Kimch'aek, Kosong, Najin, Namp'o, Sinuiju, Songnim, Sonbong (formerly Unggi), Ungsang, Wonsan

Disputes

China seeks to stem illegal migration of tens of thousands of North Koreans escaping famine, economic privation, and political oppression; North Korea and China dispute the sovereignty of certain islands in Yalu and Tumen rivers and a section of boundary around Paektu-san (mountain) is indefinite.

Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic maritime disputes with South over the Northern Limit Line; North Korea supports South Korea in rejecting Japan's claim to Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima)    

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Brunei - Burma - Cambodia - China - East Timor - Hong Kong - Indonesia - Japan - Macau - Malaysia - North Korea -Philippines - Russia - Singapore - South Korea - Taiwan - Thailand - Vietnam

Further Reading

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