North Korea is considered the most isolated and ruthless country in the world. Though it is referred to as a “hermit kingdom,” there are some interesting and bizarre facts about this reclusive nation of 25 million people. Sometimes, the news leaked from North Korea seems like it came straight out of a dystopian novel. Read on to discover the true North Korea.
The government controls hairstyles. Interestingly enough, fauxhawks have been banned. An unmarried woman can choose a cut that is short and above-the-shoulders. Men are not allowed to have shaggy hair as it’s a sign of free-thinking and rebellion. The government released a five-part series explaining how to maintain hair that aligns with communist values.
2,000 North Korean girls are chosen and trained as adult entertainers for Kim Jong-un’s pleasure. Literally called the Pleasure Squad, it is divided into 3 specialized groups. One for sexual services, one for giving massages, and one for live singing and dancing (often semi-nude).
Elections Have Only One Candidate
North Korea holds elections every five years. The regime is centered and led by Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder who still serves in spirit as the Eternal President. The Supreme Leader of North Korea oversees physical affairs, such as sentencing political advisors to death and handling crimes against humanity.
Forced Child Labor
North Korea reported to the Human Rights Watch organization that it abolished child labor by law 70 years ago. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case according to those who fled the country. Children are forced to work in labor camps as punishment for crimes their parents committed.
Forced To Play The Accordion
Accordions are very popular in North Korea. It was even obligatory at one time for teachers to learn to play the accordion. Journalist Barbara Demick wrote a book Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea, in which she wrote: “It was often called the ‘people’s instrument’ since it was portable enough to carry along on a day of voluntary hard labor in the fields.”
Introduced in 2015, North Korea operated on Pyongyang Time, which is half an hour behind South Kore and Japan. It began as a way to fight “wicked Japanese imperialists”. In 2018, the country moved its clocks forward 30 minutes to speed up Korean unification.
Three Generation Punishment Law
Equal parts shocking and ruthless, there is a three generations of punishment rule. If one person is found guilty of a crime they are sent to a prison camp sometimes along with their family members. The subsequent two generations born at the camo remains there indefinitely.
State Assigned Jobs
Forced labor is just another keg in the wheel of the established system of political repression. Citizens do not have a choice in the job they are assigned to and are not allowed to change jobs. One category includes a group of women called inminban who’s job is to maintain the neighborhood, such as polishing the monuments of their leaders and cleaning roads and train lines.
No One Drives
North Korea’s capital Pyongyang is often so empty that children play in the streets. There is a lack of cars on the road, but the police still enforce strict traffic regulations. Most cars are owned by state organizations; all vehicles must be clean, and if not, they may be fined. Those driving out of Pyongyang requires a travel certificate. And anyone who drives drunk is punished with hard labor.
Marijuana Is Legal
Surprisingly, especially to the Western world, cannabis is effectively legal, or at the very least, tolerated and commonly used in North Korea. The exact status is a little unclear since there is limited knowledge available to the outside world, but it’s sure that cannabis grows wildly. Marijuana is known there as ‘yoksam’ there.
The North Korean famine, which is tied to the country’s ongoing economic crisis, is known as the Arduous March or The March of Suffering. It lasted from 1994 to 1998. From economic failure and the loss of Soviet support, a variety of factors caused food product to decline rapidly. Floods and drought only worsened the crisis.
North Korea’s metro system is the deepest in the world. Tunnels run 360 feet beneath the surface of the capital. The metro also doubles as a nuclear bunker should the need arise.
State Sanctioned Food
According to the Los Angeles Times, people “eat what they can get.” North Koreans buy food in markets officially sanctioned by the state’s central distribution system as well as illegal “grasshopper markets.”
Human Feces Fertilizer
The government decreed that every citizen has to give 220 pounds of human manure each day to be used for fertilizer. A source in the North Hamgyong province reported, “If you cannot fill the quota, you have to supply 300kg of compost of livestock manure instead. Many people can’t [make or collect] 100kg per day…there’s a growing number of residents who are choosing to pay cash instead of providing the manure itself.”
Jeans Are Banned
Blue jeans are illegal in North Korea. Kim Jong-un launched a nationwide Western clothing ban around 2016. Japanese journalist working with citizen reporters inside North Korea, Ishimaru Jiro, wrote: “A growing number of North Korean people are infatuated with Western culture.” The inspection “target supposed capitalist tendencies such as length of skirts, the shape of shoes, T-shirts, hairstyles, and clothes.”
Propaganda has long existed in public life and has greatly shaped the public opinion of America. One propaganda book titled The US Imperialists Started the Korean War, was authored by three state-sanctioned academics. It depicts Americans are aggressiveness and the broader goal of post-WWII global domination. This is what kids grow up reading.
Families Torn Apart
In August of 2018, North and South Korea held temporary reunions for families separated by the Korean War. The reunions were organized by the Red Cross of the two Koreas, included 100 older citizens from each country whom they had not seen since the early ’50s. In the photo above, a North Korean waves goodbye to his South Korean brother.
Allegedly, it is forbidden to celebrate birthdays on July 8th and December 17, the day’s leaders Kim Il-Sun and Kim Jong-Il died. The National Funeral Committee decided the people’s mourning period and that all institutions across the country will hold mourning events.
It’s Not 2019
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea calendar, DPRK calendar, or Juche calendar. It was implemented on July 8, 1997, the third anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s passing. Newspapers, radio stations, public transportation, and birth certificates all follow the Juche years. The year 1912 is Juche 1 and there is no such thing as before Juche 1.
Government Controlled Radio
Except for the small elite, the rest of the 25 million citizens are not connected to the Internet and, thus, are a “closed society.” Televisions receive only government stations. International radio signals are often jammed. Freestanding radios are illegal. But each home and business has a government-controlled radio tuned into a central station. There is no off switch, only a volume control dial.
The village on Kijon-dong looks on the outside like any other town. There is a childcare center, a kindergarten, houses for 200 families, and a hospital. It’s located in the guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border separating North and South Korea. Kijon-dong is referred to as a “Propaganda Village” and is actually a decoy devoid of any people.
TV Is Under Total Control
Television in North Korea is under government control, the Korean Central Broadcasting Committee. The content is controlled by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Worker’s Party of Korea. There is a small domestic network of 30 websites available to the elite, though most do not have access to the internet. The websites promote propaganda praising Kim Jong Un, as well as some “art films, documentaries and animated movies.”
The Ryugyong Hotel has been named the “Hotel of Doom” and the “worst building in the world.” The enormous structure is twice the height of the Great Pyramids. For years the project underwent mysterious on-again off-again construction. It’s 3,000 rooms remain empty.
They Tried To Flee By Boat…
Mysterious ghost ships have been appearing with corpses and skeletons for years, though recently some ships have been discovered with the crew still alive. Some speculate that the sailors are defectors trying to flee North Korea, but those found alive are sent back. Others speculate that the government is demanding larger quotas.
Some Snacks Are Banned
There is a kind of Choco Pie black market in North Korea. This picture shows 200 activists who released 50 balloons carrying 10,000 Choco Pies. One organizer of the Choco Pie balloon event, Coo Sun-Hee, said, “Embarrassed by the growing popularity of Choco Pie, North Korea banned it as a symbol of capitalism.”
Former NBA player Dennis Rodman has visited North Korea many times over the years. He’s even met Kim Jon Un three times. Rodman told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “We talk about basketball….I don’t discuss politics…my job is to be a human being, to try and connect us with him.”
Dictator Kidnapped Director
Dictator and former first secretary of the worker’s party of Korea, Kim Jong-II, abducted a famous South Korean film director and his actress wife. In 1978, actress Choi Eun-hee was abducted; six months later, her husband Shin Sang-ok was abducted as well. Shin was imprisoned for three years and upon his release was reunited with his wife, Choi. The famous couple was forced by Kim Jon-II to make films. The dictator wanted North Korea’s film industry to gain global recognition. In 1986, Shin and Choi escaped by entering a US embassy while in Vienna.
No Kum-Sok: A Hero
On September 21, 1953, fighter pilot No Kum Sok took an opportunity to fly away. He defected to South Korea in a Soviet MiG fighter jet. He landed on a United State’s ship, got out of the plane and tore up a picture of Kim Il-Sung that is always placed in each aircraft, and then put his arms up in surrender.
“The Interview” s a 2014 action/comedy film that is about two journalists who get an interview with North Korea’s Kim Jon Un all because the leader is a big fan of their tabloid-TV show. The movie was condemned by North Korea as “sponsoring terrorism.”