North Korea is infamous for several things, including its system of governance and an impressive arsenal of ballistic missiles. The world views the country of North Korea as uncompromising and backward, an image fueled by the whimsical actions of its leader. The Supreme leader, Kim Jong Un rarely gives in to popular progressive viewpoints celebrated all over the world. Consequently, North Korea is known for its active intolerance of anything foreign, be it people or ideas.
“Leaving North Korea is not like leaving any other country. It is more like leaving another universe. I will never truly be free of its gravity, no matter how far I journey”Hyeonseo Lee, Activist
It’s almost as if the country is immune to all forms of social pressure. In such a controlled environment, deviation from the contemporary world is easy to pull off. Several factors, like a state-controlled media, allow the three-generational dictatorship rule to blossom.
Gathering facts about North Korea has proven difficult over the years. There are several myths about the seven-decade-old country, but most versions of life in North Korean are either exaggerated or watered-down. Despite the secrecy, the country is beginning to attract worldwide attention. From its continuous nuclear bomb tests to its absurd rules, people question what goes on within its borders. Several contradictory accounts allude to the unique way of life in the country. Here are the top 10 most insane facts you’d hear about North Korea.
North Korea is In a Different Year Altogether
In North Korea, this year isn’t 2020; it is the year 108. While Western countries count years based on a BC-AD timeline, North Korea does not. The North Korean calendar starts to count after the birthday of its founder, Kim Il-Sung. The deceased ruler was born in 1912, hence the year 108 in North Korea.
Sins Count Until the 3rd Generation
As a North Korean, you have to be extra careful not to break the law, because if you do, you don’t bear the consequences alone. Defaulters’ families also receive punishment up to the third generation. This is one of the main ways the supreme rule remains intact. Citizens are careful not to break any laws so they can spare their families.
Only 28 Haircuts are Approved
Both males and females in North Korea have officially sanctioned hairstyles approved by the government. The men can choose from an approved list of 10 hairstyles while women choose between 18 similar styles. Moreover, unmarried women are more restricted and can only wear their hair short or as a bob. Younger men cannot have hair that is longer than 2 inches.
There Are Just 3 Television Stations
“If We push the buttons to annihilate the enemies, (they) will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment”Korean Central News Agency, March 2016
Korean Central Television (KCTV) is one of the approved three television channels in the country. It is also the primary channel, and it’s widely accessible all over North Korea. The remaining two stations are only available on the weekends.
Despite the restrictions, the locals love South Korean operas. Usually, they are illegally smuggled into the country or broadcasted at high risk. If the regime finds out about the operas, it metes out severe punishments, sometimes as harsh as death penalties.
North Korea has an Elite City and Several Social Categories
Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea and its elite city. The loyal citizens are the ones who get to live in Pyongyang. They are seen as trustworthy and full supporters of the regime. To be eligible to live in Pyongyang, a citizen must first have proven their worth to the regime leader and the government. Then, Kim Jong Un will give final approval to their new status by deciding whether they’ve earned the placement or not. Generally, the standard of living for those in Pyongyang is better, with some international and modern-day amenities available.
Beyond Pyongyang, North Korea categorizes its citizens in classes based on how loyal they are to the regime. There are 51 of such social categories.
A Dead Man Leads North Korea
Currently, Kim Jong Un is the Supreme Leader of the DPRK, but he is not the president. North Korea operates a unique system called necrocracy. Necrocracy is a form of government that operates under the rules of a former leader who is dead. Posthumously, Kim Il Sung was declared the “Eternal Leader of the DPRK.” However, in reality, the position does not affect the powers of the incumbent leader, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Army and Chairman of the Workers’ Party.
Kijong-Dong, the “Peace Village”
Kijong-dong is a propaganda village located at the border North Korea shares with South Korea. The village is fondly called “Peace Village” and was built in the 1950s. The primary reason for the town was to show those who lived in South Korea all the advantages that came with living in the north. Kijong-dong had amenities like electricity and fancy buildings when these things were still luxuries for the rural areas on both sides of the border.
Every day, there was a strict schedule that the propaganda village was run by. Lights appeared in the same buildings based on a timetable, the windows were cleaned for 15 years by the same women, and soldiers patrolled the streets to depict high-security levels. The southerners will later discover that the houses were empty boxes without floors, walls, or ceilings!
The Pyongyang Time
In 2015, North Korea created its own time zone. It is called Pyongyang Time, named after the elite capital of North Korea. The time zone puts North Korea 30 minutes behind Japan and South Korea. The regime implemented the new time zone on the 15th of August 2015 in celebration of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan.
Every five years, North Koreans are mandated to vote. This is particularly interesting because the citizens hand out their votes with just one option on the ballot paper!
The political propaganda of mandated votes is vital to the incumbent government. It also acts as a form of informal census and control measure. Moreover, the ballot option explains why Kim Jung wins every time with 99-100% positive results.
Self Reliant Economy
“The basis of the Juche idea is that man is the master of all things and the decisive factor in everything”Kim Il-sung, Former Supreme Leader
The founder of North Korea created this country’s policy when he first began to rule. The policy, referred to as “Juche,” promotes self-reliance and sustainability. It ensures North Korea is cut off from the rest of the world, both diplomatically and economically. This policy remains in effect both in times of surplus and extreme need like famines too!