North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang is the nation’s capital and largest city. To the north and northwest the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in China) and Tumen rivers; it is bordered to the south by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire Korean peninsula.
1. Pot is legal in North Korea.
2. North Korea’s internet is as weird as it gets.
3. During its seven-decade existence, North Korea has been ruled by three generations of the same family, all brutal dictators. Kim Jong Un, 33, grandson of Kim Il Sung, came to power in 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.
4. North Korea bases its calendar on Kim Il-Sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912. So it’s year 105, not 2017.
5. The founder and first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, created the country’s policy of juche or “self-reliance,” which cut off North Korea economically and diplomatically from the rest of the world, even in times of great need, such as famines.
6. North Koreans must abide by one of 28 approved haircuts. Unmarried women must have short hair, but married woman have many more options. The hair of young men should be less than 2 inches long, older men can go as long as 2¾ inches, according to a Taiwanese website WantChinaTimes.
7. North Korea is the world’s only necrocracy: a government that still operates under the rules of a former, dead leader.
8. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006, in violation of international law. Two were conducted in 2016, including one that North Korea said was a powerful hydrogen bomb. However, the United States doubted that claim. The North is believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but the size is unknown.
9. North Korea hands out ballots with only one option on them, so votes swing, you guessed it, 100% for the leader. You can chose not to vote for him by crossing out his name but it isn’t anonymous and it is punished…
10. They have elections every five years…
11. There are almost no working traffic lights in North Korea.
12. Kim Jong Un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia on Feb. 13 by two women who used a deadly nerve agent, according to Malaysian authorities. The Malaysian government blamed North Korean agents for his murder.
13. North Korea has the world’s largest stadium. The Rungnado May Day stadium has more than 150,000 seats and houses the extravagant Mass Games.
14. Annual GDP per person was $1,800, in 2014, among the lowest in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The GDP per person in South Korea in 2016 was $37,900, according to the Factbook.
15. North Korea’s regime gets much of its income by exporting to Japan and elsewhere counterfeit pharmaceuticals, such as Viagra, narcotics such as methamphetamine, counterfeit cigarettes and fake $100 U.S. bills, and by selling small arms and missile parts to terror groups and rogue nations.
16. North Korea has a network of informants who monitor and report to the authorities fellow citizens they suspect of criminal or subversive behavior. Unauthorized access to non-state radio or TV broadcasts is severely punished.
17. If one person violates a law or is sent to prison camp, it affects their whole family. Grandparents, parents, and children of the violator are sent to work with them.
18. Anyone found guilty of committing a crime (which could be as little as trying to escape North Korea), is sent to the Kaechon internment camp along with their entire family. The subsequent two generations would be born in the camp and must also live their entire lives in servitude and die there.
19. In the 1990s, it was made compulsory for all teachers in North Korea to learn how to play the accordion.
20. A fake propaganda village called Kijong-dong was built in the 1950’s after the Korean war to put up the front of a peaceful, prosperous place and to encourage people from the South to defect.
21. In the last 60 years, over 23,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea whereas only two South Koreans have gone to the North. According to the North Korean government’s official story, Kijong-dong is a collection of multistory buildings that house 200 families who spend their days happily engaging in normal, day-to-day activities.
22. In reality, the buildings’ windows have no glasses in them and the electric lights (a luxury that is unheard of to rural North Koreans) are operated on an automatic timer. The only people in sight are maintenance workers who sweep the roads once in a while to give the impression of ongoing activity.
23. Kim Jong-il kidnapped prolific South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and forced him to remake famous Hollywood films in propaganda style.
24. That way, they created their own version of Godzilla named “Pulgasari”.
25. North Korea’s most popular attraction is visiting Kim Jong-il’s preserved body.
26. The North Korean dictator’s embalmed body rests in a state mausoleum and is open for visitation even to foreign tourists. The local guides have a comprehensive knowledge of Kim’s life and eagerly point out details about his great achievements and godlike abilities.
27. North Korea claims having a 99% literacy rate.
28. Pyongyang has three fun fairs, some with less than optimal rides and technology. They are called “people’s pleasure grounds”.
29. Students in North Korea are required to pay for chairs they sit on, the desks they use and the heating fuel during winters.
30. Some students are even made to work producing goods for the government. Parents often bribe the teachers to exempt their kids from this type of hard labour or just don’t send them to school, even though it’s an act that violates official policy.
31. Human feces are used instead of fertiliser in North Korea, due to the severe lack of resources. The supply shortage is so extreme that the citizens are forced to provide it.
32. There is one American living in North Korea. After the Korean War, Joseph Dresnok crossed over the mine-laden border into North Korea. He met three other U.S. soldiers doing the same thing. However, Dresnok was the only one who chose to stay. He admitted, “I feel at home…I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”
33. Kim Jong Un attended the expensive Liebefeld School near Berne and according to his classmates, was much more interested in football and computer games than his lessons.
34. Also a big fan of Michael Jordan, Kim Jong-un was a good basketball player and was once caught with a bondage magazine in his school bag.
35. North Korea has only three tv channels. Two of which are only available on weekends, while the other is broadcast in the evenings. Because of this, South Korean soap operas are among the most popular items smuggled in.
36. Apart from cannabis being legal in North Korea, it is in fact recommended as a healthier alternative to tobacco.
37. Cannabis grows wildly in North Korea is even sold abroad by government agencies to earn foreign currency.
38. As of October 1, 2017, a major Russian telecommunications company appeared to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.
39. They also have their own operating system called Red Star and the content is pre-filtered by the state.
40. Red Star is based on Linux and runs a state-approved search engine. Chats, emails, and forum boards are regularly monitored and Internet access in general is only permitted with special authorization and primarily used for government purposes or by foreigners.
41. North Korea enlists around 2000 attractive women as part of a ‘Pleasure Squad’ who provide entertainment and sexual services for top officials.
42. The existence of Kim Jong-il’s harems has been known to the South Korean intelligence community. According to the account of a Pleasure Squad defector Mi Hyang, groups of young, attractive women were enlisted regularly to provide entertainment and sexual services to top-level government officials.
43. Border relations between North and South Korea are so tense that when soldiers from the South open the door to the North in the Demilitarized Zone, they hold hands to avoid being physically pulled into the other side.
44. In 2014, South Korean Christians put up a Christmas tree visible from the North Korean Border. North Korea responded by calling it a “tool for psychological warfare” and threatened to bomb it. Bizarrely, North Korea also uses a fax machine to send threats to South Korea.
45. Since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011, the rules have been relaxed a little. It is still preferred that men and women stick to conservative haircuts. Older women can only wear their hair short, whereas the young ones are allowed to sport loose locks, albeit in a neat and cropped fashion. Long hairstyles are generally frowned upon, especially for men.
46. There are an estimated 34,000 statues of Kim Il Sung in North Korea – one for every 3.5 km, or one for every 750 people. All North Koreans are also required to wear a badge featuring his face as a mark of their loyalty to the founder of the nation.
47. Citizens need permits to go from one place to another even within the country.
48. A night image of the Korean Peninsula taken by NASA illustrates the sheer isolation and underlying electricity problems in North Korea. Compared to its neighbours South Korea and China, it is completely dark.
49. Kim Jong-il was apparently born under a double rainbow and his birth caused a new star to appear in the sky; he learned to walk and talk before 6 months and has the ability to control the weather by his moods, according to the official government-released biography of his life.
50. Wearing jeans is banned in North Korea as it is seen as a sign of American imperialism.