FASCINATING FACTS OF THE DAY: 26 Weird And Bizarre Facts About North Korea That Reveal The Horrifying Truth About Life There

 

North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. Under the Kim family’s rule, basic freedoms and access to needs have been severely restricted and continue to get frighteningly worse. Akin to Hitler’s Germany, North Korea operates secret prison camps where people are violently tortured, abused and forced into hard labour. There is no religious freedom, dissent is silenced through nefarious means and society continues to break down. North Korea shuns the idea of collective co-operation to help itself and others, and may just be a literal hell on earth, isolated as it is from the rest of the world. We bring you 26 weird and bizarre facts about North Korea that will make you thankful that you don’t live there.

1.North Korea follows a “three generations of punishment” rule, meaning that if one person violated the law or sent to prison, their children, parents and grandparents are sent to work with them.

image source: stockholmfilmfestival.se

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.(source)

2. In the 1990’s, it was made compulsory for all teachers in North Korea to learn how to play the accordion.

image source: openculture.com

The accordion was often called the ‘people’s instrument’ since it was easy to carry along anywhere. There would be accompanied singing to tunes such as ‘We Have Nothing to Envy in the World,’ which was a rehash of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.(source)

3. 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. 

image source: wikipedia.org

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.

image source: photorator.com

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.(1,2)

4. Kim Jong-il kidnapped prolific South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and forced him to remake famous Hollywood films in propaganda style.

image source: Hellflower Film Ltd. via koreajoongangdaily.com

The kidnap plot was masterminded by Kim Jong-il who was in charge of North Korean film industry before he took up office as the country’s leader. He had Shing Sang-ok and the actress Choi Eun-hee kidnapped and the both were kept separate from each other in prison for five years until the former relented. Kim Jong-il’s aim was to compel them to create movies that would wow the world. They worked together and produced a series of films, the most notable one being Pulgasari, a socialist, propaganda-fueled version of Hollywood’s Godzilla.(source)

5. North Korea’s most popular attraction is visiting Kim Jong-il’s preserved body.

image source: reuters.com

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.(source)

6. Elections are held every 5 years in North Korea, but only one name appears on the ballot list. If a voter wishes to choose someone else, they can do so by crossing the name out, but without any anonymity and privacy.

image source: KCNA / Reuters

The candidate has a near-100% turnout and the seats are essentially uncompetitive as all of them are chosen and won by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Because of this, North Korean elections are termed as “show elections” since they only double as unofficial censuses.(source)

7. Students in North Korea are required to pay for chairs they sit on, the desks they use and the heating fuel during winters.



image source: bloomberg.com

Shockingly, 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.(source)

8. Human faeces is 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.

image source: rfa.org

North Korea has zero to none amounts of chemical fertiliser, so the government ordered every person to produce hundreds of kilogrammes of faeces. The faeces is usually mixed with straw and used as a replacement, but the excrement is harder to procure than expected. Cases of theft of squat toilets have been reported, and people have installed locks on their lavatories to prevent this.(source)

9. Kim Jong-un was once caught with a bondage magazine during his school days in Switzerland.

image source: EPA / Bernie International School

He attended the expensive Liebefeld School near Berne and according to his classmates, was much more interested in football and computer games than his lessons. 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.(source)

10. It is the year 105 in North Korea, not 2016 because the country marks years from the birth of Kim Il-sung, not Jesus.

image source: wikipedia.org

North Korea uses the Juche calendar, which was introduced in 1997 and is based on Kim Il-sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912. The year 1912 is used as Juche 1 and there is no Juche 0. However, the calendar does maintain the Gregorian calendar’s traditional months and the number of days in a month.(source)

11. Distribution, possession and consumption of cannabis is legal in North Korea, and in fact, is recommended as a healthier alternative to tobacco.

image courtesy: Damon Richter

According to Sokeel Park, the director of research and strategy at Liberty In North Korea, cannabis grows wildly in North Korea is even sold abroad by government agencies to earn foreign currency. Marijuana is also as good as legal since there is no stigma attached to it and neither is it fetishized as much as it is in the west.(source)

12. In North Korea, the Internet is limited to a very small circle of the elite (only 1,579 IP addresses exist for a population of 25 million). They also have their own operating system called Red Star and the content is pre-filtered by the state.

image source: vice.com

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.(source)

13. North Korea enlists around 2000 attractive women as part of a ‘Pleasure Squad’ who provide entertainment and sexual services for top officials.

image source: Reuters / KCNA

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.(source)

14. 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.

image source: Inside North Korea via businessinsider.com

If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, here’s something. 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.(1,2,3)

15. The North Korean regime has long enforced strict rules on styling one’s hair; most of the barber shops in Pyongyang advertise photos of government-sanctioned haircuts.

image credit: David Guttenfelder/AP

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.(source)

16. 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.

image credit: AP Photo / Elizabeth Dalziel

Wearing the badge on their lapels is a daily ritual for everyone and in a city where people rarely carry expensive or valuable items and credit cards, they are highly prized by pickpockets and thieves. So much so, that each badge can be exchanged on the black market for several hundred NKW.(source)

17. Public transportation connecting the main towns is nearly non-existent as citizens need permits to go from one place to another even within the country. Because of this, the streets in North Korea are so empty that children use them as playgrounds and soldiers can be seen hitchhiking on the highways.

image credit: Eric Lafforgue

In addition to the massive public transport problem, freedom of movement in North Korea is also extremely limited and citizens are rarely allowed to move around freely inside their own country. Cars are strange, foreign things to children and old people that move around on the deserted streets, and often put their lives in danger while crossing the road without looking for oncoming vehicles.(1,2)

18. 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.

image source: nationalgeographic.com

Since the defunct Soviet Union stopped supplying power to North Korea in the early 1990’s, the country has become entirely energy-bankrupt. Compared to South Korea, where each person consumes 10,162-kilowatt hours of power, the average North Korean uses just 739. Recently released photos from the International Space Station show how North Korea completely blends into the surrounding blackness, other than a couple of small spots of light.(source)

19. According to data that the government of North Korea provided to the UNESCO, the country’s literacy rate is 100% and it boasts that it is on par with the U.S.

image source: businessinsider.com

With the supposed 100% literacy rate, North Korea ranks equally with the U.S., U.K., and champions hundreds of other countries on that front. According to Asian scholars like Andrei Lankov, this is accomplished by teaching school children how to write the names of “President for Eternity” Kim, Il-sung  and “Dear Leader” Kim, Jong-il before they can write their own name and that of their parents’. Once this is done, the North Korean Government declares the student literate in writing. The authenticity of this information still remains to be proved, however.(1,2)

20. 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.

image source: mountainstamp.com

An extreme personality cult around the Kims exists in North Korea, which even surpasses that of Stalin or Mao Zedong. As part of its propaganda and brain-washing methods, the government elevates its leaders to a godlike status in the minds of the average citizen. One defector, Kang Chol-hwan writes of his childhood in North Korea:

“To my childish eyes and to those of all my friends, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were perfect beings, untarnished by any base human function. I was convinced, as we all were, that neither of them urinated or defecated. Who could imagine such things of gods?”

School children are taught fantastic and obviously untrue things about their leaders to keep them in awe and fear of the regime.(source)

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