26 Weird And Bizarre Facts About North Korea That Reveal The Horrifying Truth About Life There

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

21. Wearing jeans is banned in North Korea as it is seen as a sign of American imperialism.

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In a whole slew of restrictions, Kim Jong-un recently issued a ban on jeans and piercings. Pyongyang, the country’s elite-infested capital fears that its citizens are being exposed to western clothing, however, the ban will focus primarily on the North Hamgyong province and Yanggang.(source)

22. North Korea is the world’s only necrocracy: a government that still operates under the rules of a former, dead leader.

source: gettyimages via mentalfloss.com

The incumbent president of North Korea is Kim Il-Sung, even though he’s been dead for 18 years. He assumed the office of the Eternal Presidency on July 8, 1994, and continues to hold onto power.(source)

23. In 1974, Kim Il-sung took 1,000 Volvo sedans worth €300M from Sweden to North Korea and never paid for them. They were never returned and are currently still being used.

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Tor Rauden Källstigen, a Swedish photographer and entrepreneur who traveled to North Korea in 2008 says,

“Many of the Volvos were put to serve in the small but very present taxi fleet in Pyongyang.I think I’ve never been inside such an old car even back home in Sweden. This taxi was very well maintained too, close to mint condition it seemed.”

The fact remains that despite the semi-annual reminders of payment by the Swedish risk advisory, North Korea refuses to pay for stealing (rather, scamming) Sweden out of the 1,000 volvos. North Korea now considers Sweden a US pawn that is manipulated by the imperialists.(source)

24. In North Korea, possessing Bibles, watching South Korean movies and distributing pornography may be punishable by death.

image credit: CNS photo / Lee Jae-Won, Reuters

In November of 2013, the government executed 80 people in public for watching South Korean movies and owning Bibles. According to one source, women and children were brought into a sports stadium and forced to watch people being shot dead by machine-gun fire. Despite it being illegal, it is estimated that there are 100,000 Christians living in North Korea.(source)

25. North Koreans don’t celebrate birthdays on July 8 and December 17, since those are the dates that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il died.

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Approximately 100,000 North Koreans celebrate displaced birthdays on July 9 or December 18 due to this reason. There is a provision for people born on these dates before 1994, where they can change their birthday with official recognition.(source)

26. The national animal of North Korea is the Chollima; a mythical winged horse that supposedly symbolizes heroism and the country’s indomitable spirit.

image credit : Flickr / Eric Lafforgue

The word Chollima is derived from the Chinese word Qianlima which means talent and ability. This mythical winged horse actually originates from Chinese classics. The national capital Pyongyang hosts a number of Chollima statues, and strangely enough, the North Korean football team is also named the same.(source)