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Korea, North

North Korea is an East Asian country whose largest city and capital is Pyongyang. Its sovereignty was established in the late '40s, and it became a member state in 1991 along with South Korea. Allowing few visitors, North Korea is an isolated state and a somewhat mysterious place to outsiders. This is a mountainous country with highland lakes such as Ch'ŏnji, or Heaven Lake. Most of the population lives on plains and in lowland areas. The climate is pretty temperate. New efforts are being made to preserve forest habitats. Native species include Korean hare, Korean water deer, Korean field mouse, Korean brown frog, Korean pine, Korean spruce, and more than 100 endemic species of vascular plants. The media is under strict government control and generally limited to state-distributed material. Likewise, the economy is mostly state-run ventures, and international trade is minimal. Manufacturing is largely by Koreans for Koreans, and the auto industry has a much lower rate of productivity here than in South Korea. The culture is dominated by hero worship of leaders as potential divinities, and art forms like film are strongly influenced by governmental directions, in this case Kim Jong Il's manifesto The Cinema and Directing from 1987. The Mass Games are a spectacle of group dance and gymnastic routines glorifying the state. You can take a tour of the spot where the Korean War ended unhappily at Panmunjeom in Kaesŏng. In Pyongyang, the Tower of the Suche Idea is an architectural marvel dedicated to the late Kim Jong Il. Also in the capital, the Mangyongdae Children's Palace offers a wealth of entertainment from youth with musical, athletic, and other talents. Similar to South Korean cuisine but a little less spicy, North Korean food includes a lot of rice, corn, and noodles. Cod, clams, and other fish are common foods, and Pyongyang residents eat a greater amount of meat and legumes to get through harsh winters. Bean sprouts and water radishes are typical vegetables. Omnivores will have an easier time here, but soy is a common ingredient. Rice porridge and kimchi are much more appealing than they might sound. Ignore your fear of rotting cabbage and dig into a wonderful array of Korean side dishes that accompany most entrees!