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The story behind North Korea


Here at Koryo Tours we arrange regular group tours to North Korea throughout the year. Our group tours are designed to give an introduction to North Korea's society, politics, and culture. We can also arrange private independent tours to North Korea with tailored itineraries based on your interest or requests.

Have a question about travel to North Korea? Feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Interested in learning more about North Korea? Check out the Koryo Tours Blog for regular posts on North Korean culture, society, and travel.

Please see below for a historic overview of this fascinating place.

For Korea, the end of World War II brought liberation from decades of Japanese colonial rule and division across the 38th parallel between north and south. Rival states soon formed around the support of Soviet Union in the north and United States in the south. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea ('DPRK' or 'North Korea') was formally established on September 9th 1948.

The breakout of the Korean War on June 25th 1950 saw north and south together with their respective allies pitted in a bloody three-year conflict that devastated the peninsula. An armistice agreement signed in July 1953 established the Korean Demilitarised Zone, which remains in place to this day.

In the decades following the Korean War, the DPRK worked to rebuild the country and consolidate its position in East Asia and the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and natural disaster led to both food shortages and economic hardship, a period known as the 'Arduous March' in Korea. Since this time relations with several nations have been strained as the DPRK has developed nuclear technologies.

Today the country remains on its own political course, pursuing a twin policy of self-reliant economic development and self-defence. Society increased access to services and goods (both foreign and domestic), changing the way people go about their lives in North Korea. Following an up-and-down year of diplomacy in 2018, there is real potential for improved relations with North Korea's long-time adversaries - the United States and South Korea. Of our past 25 years working in North Korea, this is certainly one of the most interesting times to get to know this complex and relatively unknown country.

What better way than to see it for yourself?

Official Title
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Kim Jong Un — Supreme Commander of the KPA, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, General Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party
Workers’ Party of Korea
Won = 100 chon (approx 100 Won = US $1)
120,540 sq km (80% mountainous)
24 million (2008 census)

Korea’s history spans over 5000 years. Due to its strategic geographical location, neighbouring China, Japan and Russia, the peninsula has often been the field of battle of foreign powers and as now inextricably enmeshed in the global political climate.


The Koguryo Kingdom moves its capital to current day Ji'an on the Yalu River. Koguryo rules over much of what is today northeast China and the DPRK. It coexists with two other kingdoms, Paekche in the southwest and Silla in the southeast, on the Korean peninsula - the Three Kingdoms.
Korguryo capital moved to Pyongyang. Buddhism is introduced to Korea around this time and later spread to Japan.
First of a series of wars between Koguryo and the Sui Dynasty in China. Koguryo victories contribute to the fall of the Sui in 618.
First of a series of wars between Koguryo and the Tang Dynasty in China.
Silla subjugates Paekche.
Silla subjugates Koguryo with aid from the Tang China.
Silla-Tang alliance falls apart, leading to war over northern Korea.
Palhae is founded from the remnants of the Koguryo Kingdom. Two Korean states exist on the peninsula.
Wang Kon, future first king of the Koryo Dynasty, born at Kaesong. Silla rule begins to disintegrate.
Gung Ye, the one-eyed king, establishes a state in central Korea with Wang Kon as an official. Gung Ye grows increasingly mad throughout his rule declaring himself a living Buddha.
Gung Ye is overthrown and the Koryo Dynasty is established by Wang Kon at Kaesong.
The Koryo Dynasty unifies all Korean states on the peninsula with Buddhism as the state religion.
Estimated date of the massive eruption of Mt. Paekdu, forming Lake Chon. Thought to be one of the largest eruptions in recorded human history.
Koryo becomes a vassal state of the Yuan (Mongol) Empire.
Reign of King Kongmin begins. Accomplished artist and skilled diplomat, Kongmin distances Korea for the crumbling Mongol Empire.
Assassination of King Kongmin. Power shifts to generals and ministers.
General Ri Song Gye marches armies on Kaesong.
Assassination of loyal minister Jong Mong Ju at Sonjuk Bridge in Kaesong marks the end of the Koryo.
Ri Song Gye overthrows the Koryo Dynasty and establishes the Ri Dynasty. Capital moved to Seoul. Confucianism becomes the state philosophy.
Korean alphabet developed during the reign of King Sejong.
Japanese armies under Toyotomi Hideyoshi invade Korea.
First Sino-Japanese War fought on Korean territory.
Japan establishes a protectorate over Korea following victory in the Russo-Japanese War.
Japan annexes the Korean peninsula ending over 500 years of Ri Dynasty rule.
Kim Song Ju, later to become President Kim Il Sung, is born at Mangyondae near Pyongyang.
Major protests erupt across the peninsula against colonial rule, resulting in a bloody crackdown.
Japan establishes a puppet state in Manchuria and fights against Korean guerillas operating the region.
Second Sino-Japanese War begins. Colonial Korea is mobilised to contribute to the war effort that lasts till the end of the Pacific War in 1945.
August 15th - World War II ends and Korea is divided between north and south on the 38th parallel. Russian forces accept Japanese surrender above the parallel. American forces accept the surrender in the south.
October 10th - Founding of Workers' Party of Korea.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea established in the north led by Kim Il Sung and Repubic of Korea in the south led by Rhee Syngman.
June 25th - War breaks out. North Korean units capture Seoul within three days. UN forces under US leadership intervene.
September 15th - UN forces land at Inchon and proceed north to occupy much of the DPRK.
October - Chinese intervention in Korea, driving UN forces south. Stalemate ensues in central Korea.
July 27th - Armistice agreement signed establishing the Korean Demilitarised Zone.
The Chollima Movement begins with the aim of rebuilding the war torn DPRK.
Breakup of the Soviet Union.
First nuclear crisis with the United States
July 8th - Death of President Kim Il Sung.
October - DPRK-US Agreed Framework signed aimed at freezing Korea's nuclear programme.
Massive flooding destroys crops and infrastructure contributing to ongoing food shortages.
DPRK-US Agreed Framework falls apart and followed by Six Party Talks
First DPRK nuclear test.
Dec 17th - Death of Leader Kim Jong Il. Marshall Kim Jong Un comes to power.
May - 7th Congress of the Korean Worker's Party.

Annual Holidays and Events

National Holidays

  1. New Year's Day
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  2. Comrade Kim Jong Il's birthday (1942)
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  3. President Kim Il Sung's Birthday (1912)
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  4. May Day, International holiday of Workers
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  5. Memorial day of the death of Kim Il Sung 1994 (Juche 83)
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  6. Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War 1950-1953)
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  7. National Liberation Day (1945)
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  8. Day of the Foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (1948)
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  9. Day of the Foundation of the Workers Party of Korea (1945)
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  10. Day of the Promulgation of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK (1972)
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Major Commemoration Days

  1. Machine Workers' Day
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  2. Farmers' Day
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  3. International Women's Day
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  4. Fishermen's Day
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  5. Public Health Day
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  6. Reforestation Day
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  7. Communications Day
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  8. Korean People's Army Day
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  9. Railway Day
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  10. Geological Survey Day
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  11. Builders' Day
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  12. International Children's Day
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  13. Day of the Foundation of Korean Children's Union
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  14. Local Industry Day
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  15. Miners' Day
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  16. Coal-Miners' Day
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  17. Forestry Workers' Day
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  18. Air Force Day
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  19. Navy Day and Youth Day
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  20. City Administration Day
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  21. Commerce Day
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  22. Metal Workers' Day
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  23. Broadcasting Workers' Day
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  24. Textile Industry Day
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  25. Press Day
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  26. Land and Marine Transport Day
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  27. Chemical Industry Day
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[email protected] | + 86 10 6416 7544
WhatsApp (message only): +44 7822 014058
Room A409, Jucai Building. No. 76 Caoyuan Hutong.
Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100027, PR China

中国北京市东城区草园胡同76号聚才大厦A 座409 室,
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