North Korea is a country shrouded in mystery and controversy, primarily due to its highly secretive and authoritarian regime. Many of us only see what is portrayed in the media, leaving us to ponder what life is like for the people who live there. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 18 shocking facts about North Korea that might give you more insight into this enigmatic nation.
Internet Is Virtually Nonexistent for Citizens
Only the political elite and some students can access the global internet in North Korea. Most of the population is limited to a domestic intranet known as “Kwangmyong,” which offers only a handful of government-approved websites and no connection to the outside world.
In North Korea, you can’t just waltz into a salon and ask for any haircut you like. The government has approved a limited number of hairstyles—10 for men and 18 for women—that citizens can choose from. This is yet another example of the state’s control over personal freedoms.
Fake Capital City
A city near the South Korean border called Kijong-dong appears to be a typical town with buildings, but it’s all for show. The buildings are empty shells, and lights are set on timers to create the illusion of an occupied city, purportedly to lure South Korean defectors.
Only One Candidate on the Ballot
Elections in North Korea are a farce. Typically, only one candidate is on the ballot, and voting against them is considered criminal. Unsurprisingly, the reported voter turnout is close to 100%, with one candidate usually winning by an overwhelming majority.
Forced to Listen to State-Approved Music
The government tightly controls music in North Korea, and all songs must be state-approved. Most music is propagandistic, glorifying the regime and its leaders. Western music is almost entirely banned, isolating the country from global culture.
No Religious Freedom
The government claims to allow freedom of religion, but it’s far from true. The state endorses only a few religious organizations that are heavily monitored. Unauthorized religious activity can result in severe punishment, including imprisonment or even execution.
Mandatory Military Service
Both men and women in North Korea are required to undertake military service. Men serve for ten years, while women serve for seven. This is one of the longest mandatory service durations in the world, underscoring the regime’s militaristic focus.
All media outlets in North Korea are controlled by the state, ensuring that the population only receives government-approved information. Newspapers, radio, and television broadcasts are all tools of propaganda used to maintain power and control over the citizenry.
No Private Car Ownership
Private car ownership is almost unheard of in North Korea. The state or military owns most vehicles. This is yet another method of restricting freedom of movement for ordinary citizens, keeping them isolated and controlled.
The Arirang Mass Games
North Korea is known for its Arirang Mass Games, a grand gymnastic and artistic performance that involves tens of thousands of participants. It is one of the world’s largest and most complex coordinated events but serves primarily as a propaganda tool for the regime.
Calendar Starts With Kim Il-Sung’s Birth
In North Korea, the calendar doesn’t start with the birth of Christ but rather with the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding leader. The year 2022, for example, is known as Juche 111 in North Korea, as Kim Il-sung was born in 1912.
Public executions are still a common practice in North Korea. They serve as a brutal reminder of the regime’s power and are used as a tool to instill fear among the population. These executions are often for crimes that would be considered minor in most other countries.
No Contact With Foreigners
Ordinary North Koreans are not allowed to speak with foreigners without permission. Any interaction is closely monitored, and citizens can face severe punishment if they are found to have communicated with someone from another country without approval.
The Cult of Personality
North Korea has a deeply ingrained cult of personality surrounding its leaders. Portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are required in every home, and citizens must adhere to strict rules about how these portraits are treated, including regular cleanings and specific placements within the home.
Famine and Food Rations
North Korea has faced periods of famine, and food rations are common. The average citizen survives on a limited diet that’s low in protein and vitamins, leading to widespread malnutrition. Despite this, the government spends much of its budget on military endeavors.
Human Rights Violations
Human rights are virtually nonexistent in North Korea. Citizens are subjected to forced labor, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression and movement. International human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the regime for its practices.
State-Endorsed Drug Production
North Korea has been implicated in the production and distribution of illegal drugs like methamphetamines. The government reportedly uses drug production as a way to generate revenue, further highlighting the lengths the regime will go to maintain its power.
Three Generations of Punishment
If a person commits a serious crime in North Korea, it’s not just them who suffer the consequences. Their family for up to three generations can be punished, resulting in entire families being sent to prison camps. This policy is a cruel and unusual form of collective punishment.
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Victoria Clarke is a passionate American author with a gift for bringing characters to life on the page. Born in the heart of New York City, she found her voice among the hum of daily life, weaving tales that resonate with the experiences of everyday people. From heartfelt family dramas to the intricate dynamics of modern relationships, Victoria has a knack for capturing the nuances of the human experience in her works.