A Glimpse Of Life Inside North Korea

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North Korea is the most isolated country on earth. While South Korea prospered as a capitalist country, under the rule of the Kim family, North Korea charted a treacherous course. The family operates secret prison camps and rules the country with an iron fist. The lion’s share of the country’s resources are directed to the military, leaving millions of Koreans suffering from famine. The population has no access to information from the outside world.

A few months ago, the world got another glimpse of life inside North Korea not long ago, when the nation attempted to test a submarine base on North Korea’s eastern coast. The missile exploded within five seconds and had what the State Department described as “prohibited technology.” In July 2017, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, enough to reach all of Alaska. These tests demonstrate that North Korea is committed to developing weapons of war.

Here are 40 facts about North Korea that will make you glad you don’t live there.


1. Parents Must Pay Bribes

Parents who opt to school their children must pay for all costs associated with education. They pay the government for desks, chairs, heating fuel and building materials. Students can be sent for hard labor. Parents can pay cash bribes to keep their children away from labor camps.


2. No Indoor Plumbing

Rural North Koreans live in basic housing as shown in these dwellings. They do not have indoor plumbing. This photograph was taken by a Russian spy who wanted people to see conditions in the North. Even those in cities often lack basic necessities, like flushing toilets and electricity.



3. Three Generations of Punishment

North Korea follows a horrifying penal rule that proscribes “three generations of punishment” for those guilt of a crime. If a person is guilty, even if the crime is as simple as trying to leave the country, their entire family is imprisoned. The next two generations are also punished by confinement in the Kaechon internment camp, where they will be born and live out their entire lives.


4. The Kijong-dong “Peace Village”

Kijong-dong is one of the North’s strangest propaganda efforts. The settlement is one of only two villages permitted along the demilitarized zone between North and South. It is a ghost town that was built to make the North seem prosperous. Its residential buildings are empty, and in fact have no glass in their windows. Electric lights run on an automatic timer, but for most rural Northerners, electricity does not exist.


5.  Show Elections

North Korea holds elections once every five years for the Supreme People’s Assembly, but they are only for show.Just one name is allowed on the ballot. All seats are won by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Everyone must vote. North Korea then uses the voting as a means of unofficial census.


6. Stockpiles of Human Feces

Although Kim Jong-Un is smiling in this photo of the president visiting a farm, his smile hides a grim reality: North Korea uses human feces as fertilizer. South Korea provided fertilizer to the North until 2007. China did not provide adequate assistance, so the people are now required to mix their feces with straw and give it to the government.



7. No Internet

North Korea built its own internet, called Kwangmyong. It is mostly for propaganda purposes and has no ability to contact the rest of the world. There are 1,579 IP addresses for a population of 25 million, which means only an elite circle has access. Few people in other parts of the world have seen the Korean internet, since one must be physically inside the borders of the country to connect.


8. The Year is 105

North Korea does not mark the years like the rest of the world, which counts the years since the birth of Jesus Christ. Instead, Korean time starts with the year of Kim il-Sung’s birth. He was born in 1912, which is considered Year 1. There is no Year 0.


9. Christmas Tree Bomb Threats

North Korea is so militaristic and so bombastic in its threats against South Korea, that in 2014, it threatened to drop a bomb on a CHristmas tree that could be seen just across the border. The North declared the tree a “tool for psychological warfare.”


10. Dystopian Empty Highways

North Korea has a modern highway system complete with overpasses and exit ramps. However, few people can afford vehicles and there is little public transportation. Moreover, movement is restricted in North Korea, even between different areas in the city. A person must have a permit to go almost anywhere. As a result, the highways are virtually empty.


11. Government-Sanctioned Haircuts

North Korea controls every aspect of life, including how its people style their hair. The barber shops have photographs of the government-sanctioned hairstyles. Older women have to have short hair, while younger ones can have slightly longer hair. HOwever, long hair is frowned upon for men and women.


12. Kim Il Sung Fanaticism

The North Korean state practices fanatical worship of Kim Il Sung. All people must wear badges on their lapels bearing his face at all times. There are also at least 34,000 statues of Kim in the country – 1 per every 750 people.


13. The Eternal Presidency

 Despite being dead for 23 years, Kim Il-Sung is still the official head of state. He is considered to hold the office of The Eternal Presidency, as is shown on this poster.


14. Jeans and Piercings are Banned

Kim Jong Un is concerned about the growing influence of the Chinese culture on North Korean youth. People living near China in North Hamgyong province and Yanggang province have been exposed to styles that are influenced by people in the West. As a result, Kim is cracking down on jeans and piercings, and has forced young men to adopt his hairstyle.


15. The Dark Country

 NASA satellite images reveal that there is almost no electricity in North Korea. The only bright area is in Pyongyang. The Soviet Union stopped supplying power to the country when it disbanded in the 1990s. The average person in North Korea consumes only 739 kilowatts of electricity. This is in marked contrast to South Korea, where the average person consumes over 10,000 kilowatt hours of power.


16. 100% Literacy Rate… in the Name of the Dear Leader

North Korea brags about a 100% literacy rate. However, scholars believe that the numbers are puffery. Children are taught to spell the names Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il before they are taught their own names. Once they can write the name of the Dear Leader, the government considers them literate.


17. Cult of Personality

Although other communist countries have established a “cult of personality” around its strongmen leaders, the North outdoes them all. An entire mythology exists around Kim Jong-il, who was said to have been born under a double rainbow. His birth allegedly triggered the appearance of a new star. He was a supposedly a child prodigy who learned to walk and talk before he was even six months old.


18. Kim Jong-un Controls the Weather

 Kim Jong-Un does not have military accomplishments like his father and grandfather. The young leader builds his own myth by claiming to control the weather with his mind. If the sun shines during a military parade, Kim claims credit. The leader becomes outraged if the weathermen “incorrectly” report the weather.


19. Public Executions

North Korea has long practiced public executions, but these have increased exponentially under Kim-jong Un. The number of executable offenses continues to grow. In November of 2013, 80 people were executed in public for their crimes of owning Bibles and watching South Korean movies. Women and children were forced to witness the killings, which took place in a stadium.


20. Shorter Than South Koreans

The widespread famines and other hardships have resulted in the people of North Korea being on average 1-3 inches shorter than their former countrymen in South Korea. The disparity is worst among children, who lack the proper food nutrients.


21. Car Thefts

The North Koreans stole 1,000 Volvo sedans that are worth at least €300M from Sweden in 1974. Despite frequent demands for payment, Kim-il Sung never paid. The sedans are often seen in the capital city, where they are part of a taxi service. The Swedes are now considered Imperialists who Conspire With America.


22. July 8 and December 17 Birthdays are Outlawed

North Koreans who are born on July 8 and December 17 are not allowed to celebrate their birthdays, since those are the dates that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il died. Those born before 1994 can legally change their birthdays, but those born after are out of luck.


23. Camp 16

Satellite images have confirmed the existence of Hwasong Concentration Camp, which is also known as Camp 16. This incredibly brutal prison camp is roughly 300 square miles, containing 20,000 political prisoners. They live directly next to a nuclear testing site and the prisoners are also under constant threat of death, starvation and torture.


24. Kim Jong’s 32 Mansions

While North Koreans starved and were herded into concentration camps, Kim Jong-Il was busy building himself mansions. The late leader had 32 residences. The garish residences cost billions of dollars and range from beach houses to palaces to mountaintop getaways.


25. Laser Weapons

The Chinese developed a blinding laser called the ZM-87, which is one the only laser weapons ever produced. The United Nations has banned these weapons. In addition to blinding humans, they can destroy photoelectric elements in a variety of other machines. The North Koreans have this weapon and have refused to give it up.


26. Cyber-Warfare

The North Koreans do not have access to the internet. However, the country recruits thousands of young people and trains them in cyber-warfare. The country may have around 6,000 trained military hackers. The hackers were responsible for the huge Sony Pictures hack, which was launched for the purpose of showing their cyber-warfare prowess. They are developing malware based on Stuxnet – the successful hacker malware developed by the US and Israel, which attacked Iranian nuclear centrifuges.


27. The Military Dominates

The official policy of North Korea is called songun, which means that the military takes first priority over everything else. In North Korea, no one is sure how much money actually gets spent on the military. Korea claims it is just 15% of the budget, but estimates range to as much as 38%. The people of North Korea go hungry for their military.


28. Millions of People Serve in the Military

Millions of North Koreans have mandatory service in the military. This includes an estimated 1.5 to 6 million trained reservists, who serve in something called the Workers and Peasants Militia. Almost every male in the country must be prepared to join the military and women are not exempt.


29. 75 Submarines

Some experts say North Korea has 75 submarines, a few more than even the Americans keep. The North Korean fleet is decrepit, being composed mostly of 1950s Soviet models or tinier patrol subs. Despite their age, the fleet has already inflicted damage. A Northern sub attacked a South Korean naval vessel in 2010, killing 45 people, and its vessels threaten trade throughout the region.


30. Women Must Enlist in the Army at Age 13

Women are required to enlist in the military. In the past, the age of conscription was 13. It is now 18. However, women must serve until they turn 23. They usually serve on the front lines and are seen during parades.


31. They Love Chemical Weapons

Unlike its nuclear program, which the North routinely brags about, they keep silent regarding their chemical weapons. Defectors have said they have a huge chemical weapons program, with the substances once used in WWI such as chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas. More modern dangers, like nerve agents sarin and VX are also on hand. North Korea reportedly tests the weapons on the political prisoners.


32. Its Nuclear Bombs are Getting Bigger and Better

North Korea does have nuclear bombs and they are increasing in capabilities. They had a successful nuclear test in September of 2016 with a device with an explosive yield of between 10 and 30 kilotonnes. To actually launch a nuke against it neighbors, the North must make a smaller nuclear warhead. The country says it has small nuclear warheads, but experts cannot verify the claims. It is believed that the North Korean nukes are H bombs, but no one knows if they use plutonium or uranium.


33. The Young Red Guard

In 1970 North Korea started a paramilitary force called the Young Red Guard, which aims to be the Hitler Youth of North Korea. These are males between age 15 and 17. They must learn survival training and other training in order to be prepared for regular military service at 18. They must pay for their own supplies and uniforms.


34. They Have Prepared Nuclear Suicide Bombers

Chillingly, the world discovered back in 2013 that the North Koreans were carrying backpacks with the international symbol for nuclear power written on them. Prior reports suggested that the country was creating a new “backpack bombing” unit. Although it is unknown whether North Korea has mini-nukes, it was a reminder that it has designs on getting them.


35. North Korea Captured an American Navy Ship

North Korea is the only nation to have captured an American Navy vessel, the USS Pueblo. The ship was attached to Navy intelligence as a spyship. North Korea attacked and captured it in 1968, in an incident called the “Pueblo crisis”.


36. They are Not Communist

North Korea refuses to consider itself a communist nation. It considers its national ideology to be “Juche” which is translated as self-reliance. They attribute the ideology of Kim Il-Sung (of course). It is described as the individual being “master of his destiny”.


37. They Proved the Existence of Unicorns

Unicorns are real, according to North Korea. The nation recently claimed to have discovered a “unicorn lair”. The finding is tied to the mythological unicorns ridden by Korea’s ancient King Tongmyong, who founded a kingdom that ruled China and the Korean peninsula from the third to seventh century AD.


38. Killed by Dogs

Kim-Jong Un has killed many of his relatives to maintain power. In 2013, he threw his uncle into a cage, naked, where he was eaten by starving dogs. The uncle was literally eaten alive by 120 dogs.


39. Threats by Fax

North Korea sends its threats via fax machine to South Korea. Its last fax-missive was sent in response to massive protests by the South Koreans against the North’s brutal dictatorship.


40. The De-Militarized Zone is Heavily Militarized

The DMZ is the border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula into North and South. It was created by agreement between North Korea, South Korea and the United Nations. The DMZ is a buffer zone 250 kilometres long, and about 4 kilometres wide. However, it is one of the most dangerous, heavily militarized places on earth. It is heavily fortified and there have been 1000 skirmishes and a approximately 50 serious incidents in the last decades.

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