North Korea profile - Timeline

  • 15 September 2015
  • From the section Asia

A chronology of key events:

1945 - After World War II, Japanese occupation of Korea ends with Soviet troops occupying the north, and US troops the south.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Korean War killed at least 2.5 m, pitting the Chinese-backed North against the South, supported militarily by the UN

1946 - North Korea's Communist Party (Korean Workers' Party - KWP) inaugurated. Soviet-backed leadership installed, including Red Army-trained Kim Il-sung.

1948 - Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) proclaimed, with founder Kim Il-sung installed as leader. Soviet troops withdraw.

1950 - South declares independence, sparking North Korean invasion and the Korean War.

1953 - Armistice ends Korean War.

1960s - Rapid industrial growth.

1968 January - North Korea captures USS Pueblo, a US naval intelligence ship.

1972 - North and South Korea issue joint statement on peaceful reunification.

1974 February - Kim Il-sung designates eldest son, Kim Jong-il as his successor.

1985 - North Korea joins the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), barring the country from producing nuclear weapons.

1986 - Research nuclear reactor in Yongbyon becomes operational.

1991 - North and South Korea join the United Nations.

1993 - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accuses North Korea of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and demands inspectors be given access to nuclear waste storage sites. North Korea threatens to quit the NPT.

1993 - North Korea test-fires a medium-range Rodong ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.

1994 July - Death of Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-il succeeds his father as leader.

1994 October - North Korea and the US sign an Agreed Framework under which Pyongyang commits to freezing its nuclear programme in return for heavy fuel oil and two light-water nuclear reactors.

Flood and famine

1996 - Severe famine follows widespread floods; 3 million North Koreans reportedly die from starvation.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kim Il-sung (1912-1994) was named "Eternal President" in 1998

1996 April - North Korea announces it will no longer abide by the armistice that ended the Korean War, and sends thousands of troops into the demilitarised zone.

1996 September - A North Korean submarine with 26 commandos and crew on board runs aground near the South Korean town of Gangneung. All but one on board is killed along with 17 South Koreans following several skirmishes.

1998 June - South Korea captures North Korean submarine in its waters. Crew found dead inside.

1998 August - North Korea fires a multistage long-range rocket which flies over Japan and lands in the Pacific Ocean, well beyond North Korea's known capability.

Historic handshake

2000 June - Landmark inter-Korean summit takes place in Pyongyang between Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, paving the way for the reopening of border liaison offices and family reunions. The South also grants amnesty to over 3,500 North Korean prisoners.

2001 June - North Korea says it is suffering the worst spring drought of its history.

2001 August - Kim Jong-il arrives in Russia aboard an armoured train for his first visit in nearly a decade amid hopes of a resumption of nuclear talks.

2002 January - US President George W Bush labels North Korea, Iraq and Iran an "axis of evil" for continuing to build "weapons of mass destruction".

2002 June - North and South Korean naval vessels wage a gun battle in the Yellow Sea. Some 30 North Korean and four South Korean sailors are killed.

2002 September - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi makes historic visit during which North Korea admits to having abducted 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s and that at least four are still alive.

Nuclear brinkmanship

2002 October - US and its key Asian allies Japan and South Korea halt oil shipments following North Korea's reported admission that it has secretly been developing a uranium-based nuclear programme.

2002 December - North Korea announces it is reactivating nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and expels IAEA inspectors.

2003 January - North Korea withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, marking the beginning of a series of six-party talks involving China, the Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia to try to resolve the nuclear issue.

2003 May - North Korea withdraws from a 1992 agreement with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

Six-party talks

2003 August - 2007 February - Five rounds of multilateral six-nation talks aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the security concerns brought about by North Korea's nuclear weapons programme produce few breakthoughs until 2007 when North Korea agrees to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel aid.

2003 October - Pyongyang declares it has completed the reprocessing of 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods. Experts say this would give the North enough weapons-grade plutonium to develop up to six nuclear bombs within months.

2004 April - North Korea appeals for 25m US dollars in aid after 161 people are killed and 1,300 injured when a train carrying oil and chemicals hits a power line in the town of Ryongchon close to the Chinese border.

2005 February - North Korea admits publicly for the first time that it has produced nuclear weapons for "self defence".

2006 February - First high-level talks with Japan since 2003 fail to yield agreement on key issues, including the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

2006 July - North Korea test fires seven missiles including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which crashes shortly after take-off despite it reportedly having the capability to hit the US.

2006 October - North Korea conducts its first nuclear weapons test at an underground facility. The UN adopts Resolution 1718 imposing economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea.

2007 July - North Korea shuts down it main Yongbyon reactor after receiving 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil as part of an aid package agreed at the fifth round of six-party talks and 25m US dollars of North Korean funds frozen at a Macao-based bank are released.

2007 August - South Korea announces it will send nearly 50m US dollars in aid to the North after Pyongyang makes rare appeal for flood relief.

Nuclear declaration

2007 October - Pyongyang agrees to disable three nuclear facilities and declare all its nuclear programmes by the end of the year.

2007 October - Second inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun becomes the first South Korean leader to walk across the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South.

2007 November - North and South Korean prime ministers meet for the first time in 15 years and announce a number of economic projects including a cross-border rail link and the construction of a new industrial complex.

2007 December - Deadline passes for North Korea to present a detailed report of its nuclear programme.

2008 February - The New York Philharmonic performs a groundbreaking concert in Pyongyang - a move seen as an act of cultural diplomacy.

2008 March-April - North-South relations deteriorate sharply after new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak promises to take a harder line on North Korea. North Korea expels South Korean officials from the joint Kaesong Industrial Park, test-fires short-range missiles and accuses the South of sending a warship into North Korean waters.

2008 June - In what is seen as a key step in the denuclearisation process, North Korea makes a long-overdue declaration of its nuclear assets.

2008 July - A North Korean soldier shoots dead a South Korean woman at the Mount Kumgang tourism resort.

2008 August - Kim Jong-il suffers a stroke

2008 October - Pyongyang agrees to provide full access to its Yongbyon nuclear site after the US removes North Korea from a terrorism blacklist.

Nuclear tensions rise

2009 January - North Korea says it is scrapping all military and political deals with the South, accusing Seoul of "hostile intent".

2009 April - North Korea launches a long-range rocket, carrying what it says is a communications satellite; its neighbours accuse it of testing long-range missile technology. Condemnation from the UN Security Council prompts North Korea to walk out of six-party talks and restart its nuclear facilities.

2009 May - North Korea carries out its second underground nuclear test.

2009 June - UN Security Council approves Resolution 1874 condemning North Korea over its second nuclear test.

2009 August - North Korea frees American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after former US President Bill Clinton facilitates their release. The pair was sentenced to 12 years hard labour for allegedly crossing the border illegally.

Tensions subside

2009 August - Pyongyang makes a series of conciliatory gestures to Seoul by sending a delegation to the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, releasing four South Korean fishermen and agreeing to resume a programme of family reunions.

2009 November - North Korea's state-run news agency reports the reprocessing of 8,000 spent fuel rods is complete, garnering enough weapons-grade plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs.

2010 February - Increased social unrest reportedly leads the government to relax free market restrictions after a 2009 currency revaluation wiped out many cash savings in the country.

Sinking of Cheonan

2010 March - South Korean warship Cheonan sinks near the sea border with North Korea, causing the death of 46 sailors. A team of international experts led by South Korea concludes the ship was sunk by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. The UN issues a statement but steers clear of directly linking North Korea to the incident.

2010 September - As US President Obama signs new sanctions into law, the North makes overtures to the South, including an offer of more family reunions and acceptance of flood-damage aid.

2010 September - Kim Jong-il's youngest son Kim Jong-un is appointed to senior political and military posts, fuelling speculation of a possible succession.

2010 November - North Korea reportedly shows an eminent visiting American nuclear scientist a new secretly-built facility for enriching uranium at its Yongbyon complex. The revelation sparks alarm and anger in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

Cross-border clash near disputed maritime border results in the deaths of two South Korean marines. North Korea's military insists it did not open fire first and blames the South for the incident.

2011 February - Foot and mouth disease hits livestock, threatening to aggravate already desperate food shortages.


2011 December - Death of Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un presides at his father's funeral and is hailed as the "Great Successor".

2012 February - Kim Jong-il is posthumously awarded the highest military rank of Generalissimo, a title also held by his father, Kim Il-sung.

The army pledges its loyalty to Kim Jong-un in a mass parade held to mark the 70th anniversary of Kim Jong-il's birth.

2012 April - Kim Jong-un is appointed first chairman of the country's top decision-making body, the National Defence Commission and first secretary of the ruling Korean Workers Party.

A rocket launch - viewed internationally as a banned test of long-range Taepodong-2 missile technology - fails. North Korea says the aim of the launch was to put a satellite into orbit to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung.

2012 July - Kim Jong-un is given the title of marshal - the highest functional military rank held by both his father and grandfather - following a reshuffle of top military posts.

2012 October - North Korea claims it has missiles than can hit the US mainland after Seoul and Washington announce a deal to extend the range of South Korea's ballistic missiles.

2012 December - North Korea successfully launches a "rocket -mounted satellite" into orbit following a failed attempt in April.

Third nuclear test

2013 February - UN approves fresh sanctions after North Korea stages its third nuclear test, said to be more powerful than the 2009 test.

2013 April - North Korea says it will restart all facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex and withdraws its 53,000-strong workforce from the South-Korean-funded Kaesong joint industrial park stalling operations at 123 South Korean factories.

2013 May - North Korea launches four short-range missiles over one weekend. It also sentences US tour operator Kenneth Bae to hard labour for "anti-government crimes".

2013 July - Panama impounds a North Korean ship carrying two MiG-21 jet fighters under bags of sugar. The UN later blacklists the ship's operator.

2013 September - North and South Korea reopen Kaesong joint industrial zone which was shut down in April amid heightened tension.

China bans export to North Korea of items that could be used to make missiles or nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

2013 December - Kim Jong-un's uncle, Chang Song-thaek, is found guilty of attempting to overthrow the state and is summarily executed - in a purge seen as the biggest shake-up since the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011.

2014 March - North Korea test-fires two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles for the first time since 2009, in violation of UN resolutions and just hours after the US, South Korea and Japan met in the Netherlands for talks.

2014 March - Two drones allegedly from North Korea are found in the south, sparking concerns about the north's intelligence gathering capabilities.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The North Korean leader's uncle, Chang Song-thaek, appears in court before his execution

2014 September - International Atomic Energy Agency believes Yongbyon nuclear site may be operational again based on analysis of satellite imagery.

State TV says Kim Jong-un is suffering an ''uncomfortable physical condition''. He isn't seen in public for weeks.

North Korea test-fires several short-range missiles.

2014 October - Officials pay surprise visit to south, agree to resume formal talks that have been suspended since February.

2014 December - North Korea rejects US claims it was behind cyber-attack on Sony Pictures that led to delayed release of film mocking Kim Jong-un.

North Korea blames the US after suffering lengthy internet shutdown that experts say was probably caused by cyber attack.

UN Security Council votes to put the human rights situation in North Korea on its agenda, despite objections from China and Russia.

2015 January - US imposes new sanctions on North Korea.

2015 June - North Korea says it is facing the worst drought in a century, sparking fears of worsening food shortages.

2015 August - South Korea halts loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across the Demilitarised Zone after the North fires on them during annual US/South-Korean military exercises.

2015 September - North Korea puts its Yongbyon nuclear plant back in operation, confirming UN suspicions based on satellite imagery. The North briefly restarted it in 2014, after it was mothballed in 2007.