North Korea

조선 주의 주의 인민공화국Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
Capital city Pyongyang
Surface 120,540 km²
Population 25,550,000
Road network length 1,717 km
Length of highway network 520 km
First highway 1978
Motorway name ?
Traffic drives Right
License plate code KP

North Korea, formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk) is a country in eastern Asia. The country has 25 million inhabitants and is approximately 3 times the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Pyongyang.


According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, North Korea comprises the northern part of the Korean peninsula and is bordered by China to the north and Russia to the north and South Korea to the south.. The northern part is about 600 kilometers wide, and 210 kilometers along the South Korean border. The country measures 300 kilometers from the Chinese to the South Korean border. The capital is Pyongyang, located in the west of the country. Other larger cities are Wonsan and Hamhung in the east and Nampho and Haeju in the west. Much of North Korea is hilly to mountainous, with the highest mountains in the border region with China and the center of the country. Plains can also be found along the west coast. To the west is the Yellow Sea, to the east the Sea of ​​Japan. The Paektu-san is the highest point in the country at 2,744 meters. The country has a somewhat temperate climate with cold dry winters and warm wet summers.


North Korea is one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world, with almost the entire population being Korean. The population doubled between 1950 and 2000 from 10.5 to 22.9 million. See North Korea population density. The population is concentrated in the lowlands, especially in the west and southwest of the country, but also along the east coast. North Korea’s population has become more urbanized since the 1950s. The capital Pyongyang has 3.3 million inhabitants. This is the only city with more than 1 million inhabitants. Hamhung and Chongjin are the second and third cities, the other cities are smaller than 500,000 inhabitants. In North Korea, the same Korean is spoken as in South Korea, with at most dialect differences.


North Korea has an industrialized planned economy. North Korea, along with Cuba, is the only country in the world where the entire economy is in the hands of the government. International trade is severely limited, making North Korea virtually impoverished. The communist government can barely provide basic facilities. The median salary is $47 per month. Food, housing, health care and education are free. No taxes have been levied since 1974. Economic growth is limited. There is frequent famine and human rights are in bad shape.


After the Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, Korea was divided by the United Nations on the 38th parallel with a Soviet administration in the north and an American administration in the south. In 1948 the People’s Republic was formed, after which the Soviets withdrew. Between 1950 and 1953, the Korean War took place in which North Korea invaded and nearly defeated South Korea. The United States came to the aid of South Korea and China came to the aid of North Korea. It eventually came to a truce that continues to this day. A peace agreement has never been signed. North Korea has since been a highly isolated and closed country led by a secretive dictatorial regime.

Road Network

The Reunification Highway in North Korea

North Korea’s road network is very limited and most of the road network is unpaved. There is approximately 1,700 kilometers of paved road, including 343 kilometers of motorway. There is a 2×2 highway from Pyongyang to Wonsan on the east coast (the part west of Ritsu-ri is really grade separated), a highway from Pyongyang to Hyangsan, a 41-kilometer highway between Pyongyang and Nampho (Youth Hero Motorway) and a 160 kilometer long highway from Pyongyang to Kaesong (Reunification Highway).

North Korean highways are usually equipped with concrete pavement and roadside reflector poles. Street lighting is not available, not even in tunnels. With the exception of the Pyongyang – Kaesong route, highways do not have a central reservation. This makes the use of the highways more suitable for military purposes, such as an airplane runway.

Road traffic is rare in North Korea. The vast majority of all motorized vehicles are managed by high-ranking politicians or the military. Yet here and there a truck or van drives around. The ordinary Korean mainly moves on foot or by bicycle, also on the highways. Traffic in North Korea has been on the right-hand side since 1946. The borders are difficult to cross, especially with South Korea, but also with China.

Pyongyang’s road network consists largely of wide boulevards flanked by rows of concrete blocks. These flats disguise the slums behind them. Traffic wardens are located at most intersections, although motorized traffic is virtually absent. There are a number of grade-separated intersections in the urban area.


The highway from Pyongyang to the demilitarized zone at Kaesong is over 160 km long, has 2×2 lanes and is the most atmospheric highway in North Korea. This is due to the green central reservation and the colorful vegetation on the verge. This highway even has a roadhouse, the tea house Sohung. The road is often used to transport groups of foreign tourists, with the tea house being a regular stop. The highway opened on April 12, 1992 is also called the ‘Reunification Highway’, due to the fact that the highway runs towards South Korea. In addition, it has that name because of the Reunification Monument at the beginning of the highway near Pyongyang. After a break in the demilitarized zone, the highway actually continues into South Korea as National Highway 1.

The highway from Pyongyang to Nampho has 2×5 lanes, and is the last open highway in North Korea. Construction started sometime around the end of 1998 and opened on October 11, 2000. The highway was named ‘Youth Hero Motorway’, as a tribute to the young people who built the road under severe material and equipment shortages and appalling conditions. Truck traffic is not allowed on this highway, so that the road surface is not damaged too much. Freight traffic is to travel via the expressway between the two cities opened in 1981 along the Taedong River, also known as the ‘Riverside road’.

The highway from Pyongyang to Hyangsan runs from the capital to Hyangsan, near Mount Myohyang. This road has 2×2 lanes and many valley bridges. The road was originally planned to go to the provincial capital of Huichon, but it never got beyond the junction at Hyangsan. The road ends there spontaneously and traffic is directed via the exit. The route is still visible in the landscape up to about 10 kilometers north of the terminus. Earthworks and piers of valley bridges reveal where the road should have gone. The highway was completed on October 12, 1995.

The highway from Pyongyang to Wonsan runs from the capital to the town of Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea. From the junction with the highway Pyongyang – Kaesong to the village of Ritsu-ri, this road has been developed as a grade-separated highway with 2×2 lanes. East of that point, the road has many at-grade intersections and sections that are single-lane. This highway was opened on September 2, 1978.

Expressways in North Korea
Pyongyang – Hyangsan Expressway • Pyongyang – Kaesong Expressway • Pyongyang – Nampho Expressway • Pyongyang – Wonsan Expressway • Wonsan – Hamhung Expressway

Asian Highways

Asian Highways in North Korea
AH1 • AH6 • AH32

Road numbering

There is no road numbering in North Korea.


Signage is very scarce in North Korea. The existing signage is usually done in white on a blue background. White on green is common on highways. The highway sign is also used in North Korea and is green.

North Korea Location Map