North Korea: Country and Military by the Numbers

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On July 28, the government of North Korea launched a missile that could theoretically reach the west coast of the United States. As with a similar test on July 4, the missile was launched on a steep trajectory that experts calculated could be flattened out and reach Denver or Chicago, perhaps even Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The missile reached an altitude of approximately 2,300 miles and flew about 600 miles downrange before plunging into the Sea of Japan, implying a range of about 6,500 miles if flown on a standard trajectory. Los Angeles is 5,900 miles from North Korea, Chicago is 6,500 miles away, and Washington is 6,850 miles away, just out of range.

On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose its toughest sanctions ever on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or more commonly, North Korea. The punishing sanctions are meant to convince the country to abandon its nuclear weapon program or face an embargo on its export that could cost the impoverished country about $1 billion of its already meager annual export revenue.

Economically, North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its population of about 25 million lives in extreme poverty, with annual estimated per capita income of $1,800 according to the CIA Factbook.

Because the DPRK’s economy is highly dependent on China, the Chinese decision to support Security Council’s sanctions may signal a new determination by China to force North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, to stop the launches and to stop work on building a nuclear warhead that is small enough for the Hwasong-14 missile to carry to U.S. cities. About 75% of the country’s $4.15 billion in exports are sent to China and 76% of its $4.8 billion in imports come from China.

The Security Council resolution prohibits all exports of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood. The sanctions also include more restrictions on the country’s Foreign Trade bank and forbids North Korea from sending more workers abroad.

According to the CIA Factbook, North Korea is a source country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Workers are not free to change jobs and “tens of thousands” of North Koreans, including children, are held in prison camps and subjected to forced, heavy labor.

In addition, the country sends tens of thousands of its citizens to both Russia and China where they work under near-slavery conditions and have most of their earnings confiscated by the DPRK, according to a report in The New York Times.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the DPRK’s total labor force of 14 million works in the industry and services sectors. The remaining 37% work in agriculture. The CIA Factbook notes that unemployment ran to 25.6% in 2013, about equal to the unemployment rate in Greece.