The peninsula was divided into Soviet- and American-occupied zones at the close of World War II.
It was later the theater for a protracted war after Communist forces launched a full-front invasion into their southern neighbor on June 25, 1950.
Since an armistice brought an end to open warfare in 1953, South Korea’s economy has thrived to become the 15th-largest in the world, ranked by gross domestic product.
While the CIA ranks North Korea at number 90, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund don’t even estimate a ranking due to the secretive nation’s cloaked economy.
The satellite image to the right shows how profoundly the now three generations of hereditary dictatorship have retarded economic growth across North Korea.
While bright networks of lights reveal the highways and commercial centers of South Korea, only North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang appears to have any significant illumination north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
That's a roughly 2.5-mile wide ribbon that separates the two countries.
To the north, the bright lights of China’s economic engine can be seen starting almost immediately along that country’s border with North Korea.