30 Fascinating Facts About North Korea
Everyone has heard a thing or two about North Korea. This small country located in Asia is known for many controversies that often make headlines. People of North Korea have a unique lifestyle and specific perception of the world. Now, the world is becoming increasingly interested in North Korea and it’s way of life, although the world still knows little about this unusual country.
Even those who have been to North Korea might give contradictory stories. We have collected the most fascinating and virtually known and unknown facts about North Korea, which might help us understand this country better. Read on to see how this country is different from yours.
30. North Koreans Have No Idea That South Korea Exists
You might know that there is South Korea and North Korea, but North Koreans are convinced that Korea is a single country. If you look at the world’s political map made in another country, you will see both North and South Korea on it.
However, if you look at the maps made in North Korea, you will see one Korea, with Pyongyang’s capital. Both North and South Korea are probably dreaming about unification, but for now, they have their reason to maintain the status quo.
29. They Call Americans “Big Noses”
North Koreans strongly believe that every American has big noses, hairy chests, and huge eyes. If you get the chance to visit the Pyongyang War Museum, you may see many portraits of how Americans are presented.
Rumors have it that children use cardboard mannequins made to look like people in military uniforms and that they are taught how to kill those mannequins with giant noses and wide-open blue eyes. Again, this is just a rumor, as far as the world knows.
28. North Korea Is Not Communist
Its commonly believed that North Korea follows the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism. However, the truth is that North Korea gave up the communist ideology in the ’50s by officially cutting ties with the USSR.
At that moment, the Juche idea blossomed. Historians claim that this idea arose as early as 1926 as a continuation of Marx’s and Lenin’s teachings. Over time, all mention of communism started disappearing.
27. North Korea Has No Taxes
Yes, you read it right – there is no tax in North Korea! In fact, North Korea is one of the few countries in the world whose residents do not pay any taxes.
Taxation was declared as part of the ‘old world’ in 1974. Only organizations and individuals who are making money outside North Korea have to pay tax. However, the latest rumors say that the government is planning to reintroduce income tax in the near future.
26. North Koreans Watch American Films Without Realizing It
American movies are actually pretty popular in North Korea. They may not know about Hollywood, but they love American cinematography. That’s why Titanic and Die Hard are so popular.
Still, the audience doesn’t know where movies were filmed. On the other hand, it can be dangerous to watch Sout Korean TV, because they cannot plead ignorance of where a film or show come from in this case.
25. Kimilsungia And Kimjongilia
Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia are very popular in North Korea. Kimilsungia is a hybrid orchid, and Kimjongilia is a hybrid begonia, and they aren’t official flowers of the country, nor the people are forced to love these plants.
Still, there is an annual exhibition of Kimilsungias and Kimjongilias for which every participating family tries to grow the best flower. So, they love having them in their surrounding.
24. North Korea Is One Of The World’s Leading Exporters Of Seafood
Don’t be fooled, believing that North Korea doesn’t do business with neighboring countries and the rest of the world. That’s why North Korea is one of the largest leaders when it comes to exporting seafood.
North Korea’s main trading partner is its neighbor China, mostly fish and other seafood. Globally, North Korea is among the top 20 countries exporting fishery products. Interestingly, North Korea also experts monuments.
23. North Korea Is Run By A Dead Man
North Korea is unique in many things, but what makes this country really special is necrocracy. The reason is that Kim Il-sung was posthumously declared the Eternal Leader of the DPRK.
In reality, this means that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, bears the titles of the Supreme Leader of the DPRK, Supreme Commander of the Army, and Chairman of the Workers’ Party, but doesn’t have a presidential status. Does he really need it after so many titles?
22. The Arirang Show
The Arirang Festival is the largest mass performance, so popular in North Korea that they spend months preparing to participate and enjoy it. This festival is so massive that it’s included in the Guinness World Records Book. This show features 0.4% of the country’s population.
To put this in numbers, it means that 100,000 people take part every year of a total population of 25 million. The Arirang Festival is held in the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium – the largest stadium in the world with a total capacity of 114,000.
21. A Propaganda Village
Kijong-dong, or the “Peace Village” is located at the border with South Korea and serves to show the southern neighbors all the privilege of living in the North. This small village was created in the 1950s when electricity was a true luxury in rural areas both in South and North Korea.
The electricity here was so organized, that the lights appeared in the same buildings strictly according to the schedule. Plus, soldiers were patrolling, and the same women washed the same windows for 15 years. When technology developed more, southerners could see the village better, and it became clear that the houses in Kijong-dong are only empty boxes with no floors, ceilings, or inner walls.
20. Who’s Louder?
A view of Kijong-dong and its 160-meter-high flagpole – the tallest in the world until 2010, and there is an interesting story about this monument. For many years, it hosted a loudspeaker that described the delights of living in North Korea for those who would defect from the South.
In 2004, North Koreans started broadcasting military marches for 20 hours a day and at full volume. The southerners responded with their famous K-Rock. At one moment, the noise was too much, so both sides agreed to go silent.
19. Kim Jong-un Is One Of A Kind
There can be only one Kim Jong-un. It is officially forbidden to give children the name Kim Jong-un. If a child had been named like this before the law kicked doff, parents are and the child is obliged to change it.
In 2011, Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, issued an equivalent decree about his own name. The first decision of this kind came with Kim’s grandfather. Family tradition should be continued, no matter what it seems.
18. North Korea Has Mandatory Military Service
Those born in North Korea know that they will serve military service, both men and women. This isn’t so strange, because many countries have obligatory military service. The only difference here s that military service lasts for a decade. Yes, males over the age of 18 must serve a 10-year term in the army, as of 2003 when it was mandatory to serve it for 13 years.
After graduation from high school, women must serve in the military until the age of 23. In total, this small country has active military personnel of about 1 million people (4th in the world), with almost 6 million paramilitary personnel.
17. Popular Korean Posters
Art is a very serious business in North Korea. We all know that propaganda is taken very seriously in North Korea and as such, you can see it everywhere. Therefore, many posters are seen across the country, calling to serve their homeland. You can even buy them if you want to.
From an artistic point of view, these posters are very appealing, messages are direct and action-oriented. All in, they put a lot of effort into these materials.
16. North Koreans Are Shorter Compared to South Koreans
For still unknown reasons, North Koreans born after the Korean War are about 2 inches shorter than South Koreans on average. Scientists came to this conclusion by analyzing those who escaped from North Korea to South Korea.
USA Today reported in 2013 that those born after the Korean War were simply shorter. This phenomenon is yet to be explained, but until then you can choose to, or not, believe these claims.
15. Pyongyang Time
North Korea wants to be so unique, that they created their own time zone: Pyongyang Time. Yes, they have created their own time zone, called Pyongyang Time, named after the North Korean capital.
Pyongyang Time is 30 minutes behind South Korea and Japan. As of 2015, the country uses Pyongyang Time and this time was the time zone used before Japanese rule.
14. There Can Be Only One Hair Style
Kim Jong Un takes his hairstyle seriously. He likes it so much, that he has ordered all male citizens to copy his haircut. They went so far, that there is an official rule.
There is an official statement stating requiring men to keep their hair no longer than 2 centimeters and requiring women to keep their hair at a bob length. Basically, men must copy Kim’s haircut, while women were advised to copy his wife.
13. If You Pay, You Can Defect From North Korea
In past years, it has been more difficult and more expensive to leave North Korea. Ever since Kim Jong-un took power it has gotten more expensive to leave this country.
To get to China from North Korea you should pay up to $8,000 and that’s much more than the average North Korean can afford. Did you know that the gross domestic product per capita was $1,800 in 2014?
12. North Korea Is About The Size Of Pennsylvania
It’s always good to compare countries to see where you stand. So, for example, if we would compare North Korea and Pennsylvania you would see that North Korea is about the size of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is 46,054 square miles, or 119,279 square kilometers, while North Korea is 120,538 square kilometers. Less than 20% of North Korea’s land is arable, which is about the size of New Hampshire’s land area.
11. North Korea Says Has A 100% Literacy Rate
According to North Koria documents, they have a 100% literacy rate. The CIA World Factbook defines literate people as those ages 15 and over who can read and write.
If this is true it means that they have a well-organized and implemented education system that actually works. This isn’t something that many countries can brag about.
10. More Than 40% Of North Koreans Are Undernourished
According to the Global Hunger Index, the percentage of undernourished North Koreans increased to 43.4% in 2018 from 37.5% in 2000. Also, the number of malnourished children under the age of 5 has decreased.
According to Index, North Korea ranks 109th out of 199, which means that North Korea isn’t the most undernourished nation globally. However, during the 1990s, 2 million people died.
9. Trillions Of Dollars’ Worth Of Minerals In North Korea
Experts claim that North Korea sits on real fortune. According to many, there could be trillions of dollars’ worth of minerals underground in North Korea. Roughly speaking, this could be worth between $6 and $10 trillion.
There could be vast amounts of iron, gold, graphite, zinc, and copper. Plus, rare metals., since real metals are used in smartphone production in China and South Korea. No one can know this for sure because North Korea runs its mines inefficiently, and that private mining is illegal in the communist country.
8. North Korea Has One Of The Largest Standing Militaries
CIA data shows an impressive view of North Korea’S army, which is considered one of the most powerful ones in the world. With a 25 million-person population, North Korea ranks as 51st out of the world’s nations.
North Korea has approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops. North Korea’s military employs about 4.7% of the total population. For example, China has the world’s bigger population and an army that employs about 0.18% of the population.
7. Rollerblading Is Hugely Popular
According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” This sport is an excellent way for people to pass some time.
Plus, rollerblading is eco-friendly and great physical activity. David also shared that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang].”
6. Drugs Are Unregulated
Durg use in North Korea is quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers take it to China for foreign sale.
Furthermore, methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in North Korea. Meth is usually used for recreation purposes and as an appetite suppressant to help people work longer.
5. North Korea Is Home To The World’s Largest Stadium
The May Day Stadium in Pyongyang is the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity. It has a total capacity of 150,000 people.
The venue is used for occasional sporting events. Still, its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival held each August and September when North Korean history is celebrated.
4. North Korea Holds Political Elections Every Five Years
Elections are a big deal in North Korea… when they actually happen. North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. They are done
voting in three seconds.
After all, there is only one name to mark. There is always only one candidate name. They can vote against it, but in that case, they must place it in a separate box, revealing their identity.
3. Kim Jong Il Spent $800,000 A Year On Hennessy
What applies to North Korean citizens doesn’t apply to the country’s ruler, Kim Jong Il. According to US News & World Report, Kim Jong Il spent upwards of $800,000 a year on Hennessy.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the cognac distiller even said that for two years in the mid-1990s, Kim was the largest buyer of Hennessy Paradis. In North Korea, a bottle of Hennessy can cost $630.
2. There Are Two Prices For Everything
In the communist nation, rules are super simple: there’s a state-run economy and an underground one. Therefore, there are two prices for everything. One state worker might get paid a fraction of another worker who is employed by a Chinese factory.
Bill Brown, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, told Marketplace last year that “a textile worker at a state-owned company in Pyongyang might make 3,000 North Korean won a month while another makes 100 times as much in a Chinese-affiliated factory.”
1. Some Citizens Live Better
For many North Koreans, almost every day is a struggle. Food shortage is normal, horrid work conditions are accepted as such, and people know that the government can operate their every aspect of life.
However, for some citizens, life is becoming much better. For them, everyday life is very similar to the rest of the world. More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones and other virtually unknown devices less than a generation ago. There are many recreational opportunities, such as water parks, movie theaters, and other famous centers.