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Country Reports

North Korea Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

High-level summits are positive indicators but are largely symbolic and do not necessarily point to a shift in the underlying motivations and strategic interests of the countries involved. It is almost certain that North Korea is, and will remain, unwilling to unilaterally "denuclearise" as defined by the United States. Ambiguity around North Korea's – and importantly the United States' – redlines drives the very high risk of interstate war. War remains unlikely, although the probability of unintended conflict increased in 2017 with the intensification of incidents; if diplomacy breaks down, a similar deterioration in the risk environment is probable. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has consolidated power; reorganisations of the state's top organs have also increased the rulingKorean Workers' Party's oversight of the military.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Operational Outlook

North Korea is among the countries with the highest operational risk scores. Government efforts to introduce more market-oriented policies have consistently stalled or been suspended. Despite ongoing construction, mainly in the capital Pyongyang, physical infrastructure is poor and substantial improvement is unlikely, including in special economic zones. International sanctions because of North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes will likely continue to hinder foreign investment or operations beyond the one-year outlook. All labour is controlled by the government, posing the risk of withdrawal of workers in addition to the arbitrary seizure of assets, as happened in the Kaesong Industrial Zone in April 2013 and February 2016.

Last update: September 4, 2018

Terrorism

Low

There are no known domestic or transnational terrorist groups in North Korea. The government sponsored terrorism in the form of kidnapping foreigners (such as Japanese citizens from Japan in the 1970s) or attacks on South Korean targets. The assassination of the North Korean supreme leader's half-brother in Malaysia in February 2017 was most probably carried out by a state actor, which is most likely to be North Korea. The North Korean government and military support terrorism internationally by selling technology, training, and weapons to state and non-state actors, including chemical weapons to the Syrian government and small-arms and anti-tank weapons to militant groups, including Hamas.

Last update: October 9, 2018

War Risks

The risk of interstate war on the Korean Peninsula is reduced in 2018 largely because of diplomatic efforts. In 2017, a sixth nuclear test and multiple long-range missile launches by North Korea (in addition to bellicose rhetoric from North Korea and the United States) contributed to brinkmanship that increased the risk of miscalculation and escalation towards conflict. If high-level talks fail, a return to this relatively risky exchange of threats and violent incidents is highly probable. Specifically, even if North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un agrees to "denuclearisation", North Korea and the United States will probably disagree on the definition, specific steps, and timeline for this.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Social Stability

Low

North Korea's ubiquitous and strict domestic security and intelligence services minimise the risk of social unrest. Most people with strong anti-government leanings are more likely to attempt to defect from North Korea rather than to rebel. Food or fuel shortages are the most probable trigger for protests, but these would be sparsely attended because of the severe reaction of security forces. They will probably use force and mass detention, if not public execution, to disperse and end any protests. During the long term, increasing information on South Korea will probably foment political dissatisfaction, although not enough to instigate an uprising.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission and over one year of age.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: November 27, 2013

Practical Information

Climate

Autumn is sunny and dry. Winters are quite harsh but still sunny and dry. Spring is often foggy and rivers remain frozen until mid-April. Summer, monsoon season, is hot (30°C) and very rainy.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +850

There are no emergency services in North Korea.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: January 21, 2014