What Does DPRK Stand For?

Search anything about North Korea and you’ll quickly find references to the acronym ‘DPRK’, seemingly used interchangeably with ‘North Korea’. There’s a good reason for this!

DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The country was founded as the DPRK on September 9, Juche 37 (1948) as an independent socialist state.

How was North Korea named the DPRK?

The story for this, paraphrased from official North Korean publications is as follows:

Though pressed for time after the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation in 1945, Kim Il Sung prioritized the naming of the state. Faced with the reality that Korea was not yet reunified, based on his vision of the country he proposed the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’. This name was met with opposition by many who expressed concern the name was too long, pointing to other countries that had shorter naming conventions. To this, Kim Il Sung advised that the country should be named ‘by ourselves as demanded by our people, the masters of the country, and there is no need to follow the example of others.’ He said that the name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ‘clearly reflected the independent, truly democratic and popular character of our Republic’.

DPRK or North Korea?

When you’re in North Korea, it will be well-received by locals if you refer to their country simply as the ‘DPRK’ or ‘Korea’. In conversation, you could also describe it as ‘the northern part’ of Korea, or by saying ‘in the north of the country’, for example. Using the term ‘North Korea’ is politically incorrect, but is certainly understood, and you’ll even sometimes catch Koreans saying this for simplification when speaking to foreigners.

Additionally, you’ll often see the country name written as ‘DPR Korea’, particularly for sporting meetups and in foreign-focussed publications.

As you’ll no doubt be well accustomed to, the DPRK is best known in the outside world simply as North Korea!

To complicate this further, in Korean the North refers to Korea as ‘Choson’ while the South uses the word ‘Hanguk’. Choson is the traditional name derived from the Joseon Kingdoms, and Hanguk is from the following Korean Empire.

Why is calling it ‘North Korea’ politically incorrect?

To the Korean people, North Korea and South Korea are viewed as one country temporarily divided, with an ongoing goal of reunification into a single Korean sovereign state. Korea was split in 1945 by foreign forces without the consultation of any Koreans. North Korea and South Korea do not recognize each other as being independent sovereign states. The terms ‘North Korea’ and ‘South Korea’ could imply permanent division, contrary to the reunification goals of each government.


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