In theory, North Korea is a classless
society, but in practice there are large gaps. A unique
classification system means that many citizens are
excluded from economic and social benefits. Poverty is
widespread and the population has suffered from severe
malnutrition and even mass violence since the 1990s.
The political elite lives in great abundance. The
highest ranking is Kim Il-Sung's (1912–1994) family and
family, followed by Kim's old revolutionary comrades and
Citizens are ranked according to a socio-political
ranking system - called songbun - with some 50
subgroups. The system is based on something that can be
described as an intermediate between class and caste.
People are measured on the basis of family history and
loyalty to the revolution and the supreme leader. The
rank of a family determines an individual's access to
food rations, healthcare, housing, education and career.
Songbun even controls who you have the right to marry.
Countryaah Official Site:
Official statistics for population in North Korea, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Status is regularly reviewed, and if a family member
commits an "anti-revolutionary act" the entire family
loses status (see also Political system).
The country's growing economic problems from the
mid-1970s eroded the social protection networks that
were comparatively good. Economic mismanagement,
flooding and drought led to more than one million people
dying from starvation or famine-related illnesses in the
1990s (see Modern History).
Since then, North Korea has received major food
deliveries from, among others, the United Nations food
program WFP. The proportion of people suffering from
malnutrition has decreased, but it was estimated that by
the middle of the 2010s it would still be around one
third of the population. Every third child is small for
their age. The state food rations are small, and the
diet is nutrient-poor. A majority of the population is
still at risk of acute food shortages.
There is a shortage of medicines, heating, water and
electricity. Diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and
malaria have again become commonplace.
Obligations towards the family have traditionally
been overriding other duties. The father has been the
head of the family and the eldest son has had special
responsibility. Women have had lower status than men in
traditional Korean culture. Even in today's North Korea,
men are more likely than women to pursue a career in
politics, but the education system does not seem to
discriminate against women, and the proportion of
working women is high.
The ruling Labor Party acts as the moral guardian of
the North Koreans and regulates their lives in detail.
Everyone must belong to some political organization. The
individual does not choose either place of residence or
work freely. The application to the right authority is
required for relocation but also for vacation travel or
just weekend getaway. Ordinary families often have to
wait for their vacation quota, while the most devoted to
the party and the state can be rewarded with family
A newlywed couple is assigned a house or apartment,
while others often have to wait to get somewhere to
live. The dwellings are usually small, and it happens
that three generations must live together.
In the past, North Korea - at least officially - had
well-developed free healthcare and social care. Free
daycare, paid maternity leave, sickness benefit, old-age
and early retirement pension were formally guaranteed.
Women were reported to have the same pay as men for the
same work. The low wages were accompanied by heavily
subsidized rents and food rations.
Shelling of South Korean island
North Korea shoots the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong with grenades on
November 23. Four people are killed.
- The United Nations Food Program issues a warning that one in five North
Koreans will be starved in 2011.
The Labor Party holds congress
The Labor Party holds its first congress in over three decades. Kim Jong Il's
son Kim Yong Un is appointed general, elected to the party's Central Committee
and becomes Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Kim Yong Il's
sister Kim Kyong Hui is appointed general.
Jan Sung Taek gets top post
Kim Yong Il appoints his brother-in-law Jan Sung Taek as Deputy Chairman of
the National Defense Commission.
Kim Yong Il visits China.
North Korean torpedo lowers South Korean ship
The South Korean vessel Cheonan loses after being hit by a torpedo fired from
a North Korean submarine. 46 crew members die.