The country has enough fissile material for a dozen nuclear bombs. It sells missile technology to rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria. And the three generations of the Kim dynasty who have run it since 1945 have all been ruthless, brutal — and terrifyingly erratic.
The military are part of North Korea’s privileged elite, who belong to the ruling single party.
They are known as the ‘core class’, and number a quarter of the population. The most privileged of all are the Kims themselves, with gilded luxury residences, replete with bowling alleys, cinemas and heated swimming pools.
More than half the population of 23 million are not so fortunate as they are classed as ‘waverers’, ordinary people outside the charmed party circle. While still at school they have to complete detailed biographical sketches of their families, which are then used by the state to determine everything from food rations and housing to careers.
The final class of people are categorised as ‘hostile’. These are the children of the intelligentsia such as doctors, Christian ministers, merchants or lawyers. They are taken from their families and forced to live in barren regions of the country near China where it is cold, windy and mountainous. The hostiles constitute 20 per cent of the population in what must be the most class-stratified society on earth.
North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship where loudspeakers pump out propaganda on the streets and in factories and mines. It practises total surveillance, with the spies being spied on by other spies.
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