Things Everyone Should Know About North Korea
North Korea has been a mystery to most westerners for many years, and everyone knows to be at least a little bit worried about the nation's young and unstable leader, Kim Jong-Un. Following in his father, Kim Jong-Il's footsteps, Kim Jong-Un's tirades have made headlines around the world.
Those are all things that people know about this nation. Everyone knows it's run by a young man whose family has been fed anti-western rhetoric since the dawn of this empire. North Korea is known for being tenacious in its efforts to catch up to the rest of the world.
But there has to be more to it, right? There has to be more to a small nation filled with over 24 million people. Well, there is. It's just hard to see past the smokescreen.
So, for everyone out there wondering about this reclusive and secretive nation, we've found some interesting facts. Some of them are interesting, others disheartening, while others still are just a little bit off the wall. How many of these did you know?
North Korea is Home to the World's Largest Stadium
The Rungrado Stadium has enough seats for 150,000 people. Michigan Stadium comes in at second place with around 40,000 fewer seats.
Basketball Is Popular, but It Isn't the Same
North Korea has an obsession with basketball. Though, if you watched one of their games, you'd notice a few strange irregularities. It's possible to score four-pointers (if a three-pointer never touches the rim), and points are deducted for missed free throws.
North Korea Has Its Own Time Zone
In 2015, North Korea created its own time zone known as Pyongyang time, named for the capital. The time zone is about 30 minutes behind South Korea and Japan. It was implemented to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan.
Kim Jong-Un Ordered All Male Citizens to Copy His Haircut
Kim Jong-Un's haircut is considered "ambitious" in North Korea. Though, to the rest of the world, it looks kind of silly. Still, men are told to copy his haircut. Furthermore, women are advised to copy his wife's haircut or keep it at bob length.
Less than 3% of roads in North Korea are Paved
There are over 25,000 kilometers of roads in North Korea, but only a little over 724 are paved. That's only 2.83% of all roads in the country.
There Are Only Three TV Channels
Korean Central Television is the main channel, and it's available all over the country, all the time. The other two are only available on weekends.
Accordions Are a Big Deal
In the 1990s, all teachers were required to learn how to play accordions. Even today, many citizens still study and specialize in playing this instrument.
It's the Only Country in the World to Have a Captured U.S. Navy Ship
The USS Pueblo spy ship was captured back in 1968, with 83 Americans on-board. The Americans were kept for almost a year, and the situation nearly escalated to a full-scale war between North Korea and the United States.
North Korea Has 51 "Social Categories"
North Korea is the only nation to categorize its citizens based on how loyal they are to the government. The more loyal the citizen, the higher the citizens rank, the more they can enjoy.
Pyongyang Is Only for the Elite
All citizens of Pyongyang are considered trustworthy and loyal to the regime. Kim Jong-Un and the government decide who is worthy of living in the capital city.
Every Household Has a Radio That Can't Be Turned Off
Every home in the country is given a government radio, with strict rules that it can never be turned off. The volume can be turned down, however.
North Korea Has One of the Largest Militaries in the World
The North Korean military employs just under 1.2 million active-duty troops, roughly 4.7% of the country's population.
Illicit Substances Are Common and Mostly Unregulated
Illicit substance use in North Korea is mostly unregulated and surprisingly common compared to the rest of the world. An estimated 30% of North Koreans use illicit substances. Uppers are mostly used as an appetite suppressant to help workers spend more time in their trades.
Political Elections Are Held Every Five Years
Weirdly enough, this dictatorship does hold elections. Every five years, North Koreans take to the polls. The difference? The ballots the receive only have one candidate name for the office of Supreme People's Assembly deputy in their district. Their only decision is whether to vote for the single candidate or vote against them, which involves putting their ballot in a separate box with their identity noted.
North Korea Uses a Different Calendar
Most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar (aka the Western or Christian calendar). North Korea uses the Juche calendar, which was introduced in 1997 and is based on Kim Il-Sung's birthday: April 15, 1912.
It's Illegal to Wear Blue Jeans
Jeans are expensive in North Korea, so if you can afford them, then they must be solid black because blue jeans are prohibited. This was issued by Kim Jong-Un in an effort to crack down on citizens being influenced by western fashion.
There is a "Three Generations Of Punishment" Policy
If someone breaks the law, not only are they punished, but the entire family is punished, as well, for the next three generations.
Students Have Weird Required Materials
While most American schools release a list that asks students to provide their own pens, paper, and the like, North Korean schools take it a bit farther. Students are required to pay for their own chairs, desks, and heating fuel. Basically, they have to pay for everything but the teacher.
Half the Population Lives in Extreme Poverty
Half of the 24 million population doesn't have access to basic human needs like food, clean water, and electricity.
North Korea Has a Propaganda City
Built-in the 1950s, there are no actual residents in Kijong-dong. Some of the buildings are fake, while others are hollow shells with their windows painted on their faces. The city was built in hopes of tempting South Koreans to defect to North Korea.
Cosmetics Are Only for the Fabulously Wealthy
Makeup is considered an "ostentatious display of wealth," according to a Korea Institute for National Unification report. Only those in the privileged class can hope to afford them, and South Korean brands are preferred over Chinese or North Korean products.
Kim Il-Sung Scammed Sweden
In 1974, Kim Il-Sung ordered 1,000 Volvo 144 sedans from Sweden but never paid for them. The Swedish government still sends invoices every year, and the current debt is around $2.8 million.
The Average Life Expectancy Has Fallen Since the 1980s
The North Korean life expectancy is now 69 years and has fallen by five years since the early 1980s. This is all based on official statistics from the North Korean government, so the real numbers could be even lower.
North Korea Technically Isn't a Communist Nation
North Korea claims to work under Kim Il-Sung’s ”Juche" ideology, which includes "rejecting dependence on others, using one's own brains, and believing in one's own strength." So, they're not technically a communist country, though these ideas do stem from ideologies of Communist leaders.
North Korea is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
In 2015, the Corruption Perceptions Index deemed that North Korea (tied with Somalia) was the most corrupt nation in the world. Scores range between 0 (very corrupt) and 100 (very honorable), North Korea scored an eight.
Rollerblading is Popular
A National Geographic photographer has said that rollerblading is popular across the country, especially in Pyongyang.
The Air is Highly Polluted
North Korea is considered one of the least developed countries in the world, but the coal use causes its air to be heavily polluted. The Worldwide Health Organization estimates that the country has 89 pollution-related deaths for every 100,000 people.
Foreigners Must be Accompanied at all Times
North Korea is surprisingly easy to access, but foreigners are not allowed to walk around the country freely. On top of that, visitors must be accompanied at all times. International tour groups will always be accompanied by at least two guides, though a large group might be accompanied by more.
Fashion is Limited, Just Like Hair
Just like the 28 approved haircuts, North Koreans also have a minimal choice for fashion. Women wear knee-long pencil skirts and short or long sleeve (no sleeveless) shirts in standard colors and patterns. In general, bright colors are rare. Children are usually only dressed in their school uniforms. Men wear long pants with white or blue shirts. This makes everyone pretty much look the same.
Kim Jong-Un is Camera Shy
All across the city of Pyongyang, you’d see propaganda billboards and various photos of Kim Il-Song and Kim Jong-Il. However, no pictures or propaganda billboards are devoted to Kim Jong-Un, nor does he appear on any official sites. No photos, no name, no mention. Citizens claim it’s because he’s modest and doesn’t like to be photographed.