Not much is known about the hermit country of North Korea. Officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it keeps it’s citizens fiercely guarded from foreigners and outside information. For this reason, facts about daily life in the DPRK are not only mysterious and fascinating to outsiders, but are also seemingly hard to come by. Let’s delve into the top 10 most intriguing facts about North Korea. You’ll certainly be surprised.
10. They have laws about haircuts
North Korea has 28 approved haircuts from which their residents can choose. Married women have more options than single women, who must wear their hair short. Young men must have shorter hair than their elders, who cannot have hair longer than 3 inches. Interestingly, the style of their current leader is not one of the options for men.
9. They maintain a fake “Propaganda” City
Kijong-dong is a village located close to the South Korean border. Even though the Government claims that over 200 content families live here, the South Koreans maintain that it is in fact uninhabited. The belief is that the village was built as propaganda to inspire pro-North Korean defection. Visible from the South Korean border are the clean apartment buildings, scenic farms, and one of the tallest flagpoles in the world.
8. Marijuana is legal
According to multiple reports from visitors and defectors, there are no enforced laws banning the sale or consumption of pot. Called yoksam in North Korea, it is not considered a drug and grows wildly throughout the region. It seen and used more as a medicine and not a drug, which is why the Government has not prioritized it.
7. Their fertilizer is composed of human feces
They were once dependent on South Korea for chemical fertilizer, but after an embargo was put into place, North Korea was forced to resort to using human and animal feces to keep their farms in working order. Residents were given orders to collect and turn in their feces, and outhouses were frequently burglarized.
6. They only have four TV channels
North Koreans only have four television channels, all of which are state-run. These channels are Mansudae Television, Ryongnamsan Television, Sport Television, and Korean Central Television. Korean Central Television is the only channel that is also broadcasted to the outside world.
5. They do not believe it’s the year 2018
The DPRK Calendar is called the Juche calendar and is actually based on the birthday of Kim Il-sung, making 1912 their year 1 (Juche 1). By this math, while we are in the year 2018, the North Koreans are on Juche 106.
4. They have the world’s largest stadium
The “Rungrado 1st of May” stadium is located on 51 acres in Pyongyang and has a capacity of 150,000, making it the largest stadium in the world. Construction of this massive stadium finished in 1989 and since then, it has been used for various athletic events, but mainly for the Arirang Festival.
3. They hold elections for their leaders
Every 4-5 years, elections are held for the Supreme People’s Assembly, Local People’s Assemblies, and national legislature. Only one name appears on the ballot, and voting is mandatory. While the voter may cross out the candidate’s name, they must do so in plain sight of officials, making it a risky endeavor.
2. Kim Jong-Il’s body is their most popular attraction
Trips to North Korea are far from easy to come by, but those who do make it inside the hermit country flock to the embalmed body of the DPRK’s previous ruler, Kim Jong-Il. Encased inside of a state run mausoleum and surrounded by guards with an encyclopedic knowledge of the ruler’s life, Kim Jong-Il has joined the ranks of Lenin and Mao who have also become tourist destinations for their embalmed bodies.
1. Pyongyang is an exclusive city
Three million people reside Pyongyang, one of North Korea’s only cities. The city is known to be clean and well maintained, and those lucky enough to live there have already been deemed trustworthy, healthy, and devoted to their leader. Half of North Korea’s citizens live in extreme poverty, mostly in a rural setting. Over 200,000 citizens live in prison camps.
The DPRK has been successful in keeping many secrets about daily life and the treatment of their people. Citizens have no contact with the outside world, and the lifestyle presented to visitors doesn’t tell the whole truth. As details leak out, a better picture can be painted about the hardships North Koreans must endure. However, their culture is certainly fascinating. At the very least, we can draw from their existence to better understand the psychology behind such a heavily guarded and restricted area.