Known as one of the most powerful and strict dictatorships of our time, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or North Korea) provokes curiosity. If you are one of those people who are fascinated by reclusive countries and their little secrets, then read on . . .
1. They have their own calendar
Based on Kim II-sung’s birthday in 1912 — grandfather of today’s leader Kim Jong-un — the current year in North Korea is not 2016, but 104!
2. The country is a ‘democracy’
Like every democratic country, North Korea organises elections. These take place every five years but have one particularity: voting is mandatory and there is only one candidate. That’s why, unsurprisingly, North Korea has a 100 per cent election turnout for their current leader.
3. They tried to attract South Korean people to the country
Half of the North Korean population is currently experiencing poverty. However, the government tries to hide this as much as possible. For instance, they have built Kijong-dong (Peace Village), also known as the ‘Propaganda Village’, which is a city located near South Korea’s borders and when looked from afar appears prosperous. In reality though, the city is fake: no one lives there. The place has been established to entice South Korean citizens and ideally make them want to settle in North Korea — a strategy that did not work as expected as only a few South Koreans have moved to the North, while more than 20,000 North Koreans have moved to the South.
4. Only elites are allowed to drive
It is completely forbidden for the average North Korean citizen to drive. Owning a car is actually reserved for the government and military officials. More generally, transport is controlled and watched by the state: it is almost impossible for a North Korean to travel in his own country or especially go abroad. In fact, leaving the country is probably the worst crime to commit.
5. There are 28 legal haircuts
In North Korea, everything is controlled by the government, even the right to choose a proper haircut. As a matter of fact, men can select a hairstyle between 10 looks — which are all short — while women have 18 choices — short for married women, and longer for single ladies.
6. Reading the Bible is punishable by death
It is really easy to be imprisoned or executed in cold blood in North Korea. If a citizen is found reading a copy of the Bible, watching pornography or South Korean movies, they can expect a brutal death sentence — a common killing method is to throw the condemned person in a cage with previously starved dogs.
7. Prisons are death camps
Disobedience to the government’s rules is not something that is taken lightly. Testimonials have described prisons as death camps: prisoners are starved to death, beaten, tortured, and it has also been speculated that experiments are made on their bodies — that’s why these prisons are often compared to Holocaust death camps. However, committing a political crime doesn’t mean prison time just for you. Three generations of your family will have to follow even if they are not related to the crime, as it’s commonly believed that bad behaviour runs in the blood.
8. A dead body is the most popular attraction in the country
When Kim Jong-Il died in 2011, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un, his body was neither buried or cremated. In fact, the dead leader’s remains have been embalmed and placed in a glass sarcophagus with the help of a Russian team. The Russians’ ancient methods probably inspired North Korea as two of Russia’s previous leaders, Lenin and Stalin, have famously been embalmed. Since then, Kim Jong-Il’s body, which rests in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, has become the most visited attraction in the country.
9. Wearing jeans is illegal
According to the North Korean government, denim jeans symbolize their sworn enemy: the United States of America. However, though wearing blue jeans is considered an offence, dark jeans have been allowed and can sometimes be found on persons in the country.