Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to North Korea
North Korea is an East Asian country. However, according to the Index, it is the most unique country in the world. Unlike other countries in the region, its infrastructure is not as well developed and its government is the least democratic in the world. Four of the five most similar countries to North Korea border the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, these countries tend to have many atheists. With the exception of South Korea, these countries are all one-party states that promote socialism.
- South Korea is the only other country that speaks Korean and uses its unique writing system, Hangul. It is also located on the same peninsula so its geography is similar as well. They were one country before World War II. However, there are huge political and technological differences between South Korea and North Korea. While South Korea is a two-party democracy, North Korea is a one-party authoritarian dictatorship. In addition, North Korea is far poorer and has less developed infrastructure.
- China is another East Asian country ruled by an authoritarian communist party, albeit a less extreme version. As a result of being in countries that practice state atheism, their people tend not to be particularly religious. However, China is much more prosperous and is completely different linguistically. China also has a much more diverse landscape, including large areas of both desert and rainforest.
- Vietnam, like China and North Korea, is a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party. Both countries have been highly influenced by China historically. Their laws are extremely similar. Both countries allow abortion, but do not allow prostiution, same sex marriage, or polygamy. It is also mandatory to vote in both countries. However, Vietnam has a tropical climate. Furthermore, its agriculture and diet is based far more on rice. North Korea’s diet and crops are more diverse. The country grows a lot more corn and potato than Vietnam, due to its cooler climate.
- Laos borders both China and Vietnam. Both countries are quite poor and their infrastructure is not well developed. Although both countries are mountainous, Laos is landlocked and has completely different flora and fauna. It also has a far lower percentage of agricultural land. Still, both countries have a have percentage of their people in the military. Freedom of the press is also highly restricted in both countries.
- Cambodia borders both Laos and Vietnam. Cambodia is a little different politically, since it is a constitutional monarchy. Still, it is a one-party, authoritarian state. While their crops are quite different, Cambodia has about the same percentage of agricultural and forested land. However, it is also less mountainous. Another difference is that historically Cambodia has been much more influenced by India than China.
- Thailand, 7. Myanmar, 8. Belarus, 9. Taiwan, 10. Bosnia
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to North Korea
Interestingly enough, four of the five least similar countries to North Korea are former British colonies. Their governments are all democratic. They all have a higher standard of living and a completely different culture. Their people are mostly Christian and they natively speak Germanic languages. With the exception of Iceland, they all drive on the left side of the road and they also have far more cars per capita.
- Australia is much more democratic than North Korea and far more liberal. In addition, while both countries border the Pacific Ocean and are at the same longitude, Australia’s climate is much hotter and drier. Australia’s technology is very different as well since it drives on the left, has Type I electrical outlets, and uses a different railroad track gauge.
- Bahamas is a group of tropical islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, close to Florida. The country is mostly Protestant and the majority of its people have African ancestry. Unlike North Korea, the Bahamas is much flatter and it has a tropical climate. Furthermore, people in the Bahamas tend to be more outgoing than North Koreans, according to the Lewis Index. Still, the Bahamas is not as wealthy as the other countries on this list.
- Iceland is another island nation in the Atlantic Ocean, although it is quite different from the Bahamas. Like Australia, it has liberal policies and culture, which contrast North Korea. While North Korea has the highest percentage of people in the military, Iceland does not even have a military. However, one thing that both countries have in common is that they have many atheists. They also both rely on hydropower to create electricity, although Iceland uses far more energy.
- Canada is colder and less densely populated than North Korea. It also has a much lower percentage of agricultural land. Although North Korea and Canada create most of their energy through hydropower, Canada creates far more energy per capita. Still, Canada is the only country on this list that borders the Pacific Ocean. It also has a large number of immigrants from East Asia, although most people have Caucasian ancestry.
- Trinidad & Tobago, like the Bahamas, is a tropical island group located close to the Caribbean Sea. The country is religiously diverse, since a high percentage of its people have Indian and African ancestry. Furthermore, its government is also more democratic, although their laws are not completely difference. While Trinidad has more restrictions on abortion, both do not allow same sex marriage, polygamy, or prostitution.
- United States, 7. New Zealand, 8. Ireland, 9. Jamaica, 10. Saudi Arabia
North Korea is like if South Korea was more like Laos
While South Korea is the only country even close to North Korea in terms of culture and geography, South Korea’s government and infrastructure are far different from North Korea, since it is wealthier and more democratic. One country that is much closer to North Korea in terms of government and infrastructure is Laos. The government of Laos is also a one-party socialist state. Party leaders are responsible for choosing their leader. Both countries are officially named “people’s republics”. North Korea and Laos also have less developed infrastructure than South Korea. Few people own cars and train travel is not common, in stark contrast to South Korea.
All data accurate as of 2020.