If you are following the news, chances are you going to hear something about North Korea from time to time. The country’s totalitarian family regime and its nuclear program are often the source of headlines, as well as frequent tensions with its southern neighbor.
Beyond political situation in the Korean peninsula, there is a growing interest in North Korea, as people around the world are curious to know a bit more about this isolated country. We bring you some of the stranger facts about North Korea.
North Korean regime is omnipresent and influences almost all aspects of life in the country, in fact, the state has issued an order requiring men to keep their hair no longer than 2 centimeters and requiring women to keep their hair at a bob length. The men are told to model their hairstyle on country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, while woman are advised to follow the hairstyle of his wife.
Currently, there are 18 state-approved haircuts for women and 10 for men.
Less Than 20% of the Land is Arable
While North Korea is about the size of Pennsylvania, only 19.5 percent of its land is arable. North Korea has significant troubles with drought and famine and still struggles to provide a steady food supply for its population. In the 1990’s, the country suffered a famine when around million people died from starvation.
Last year, the authorities told its citizens to prepare for famine.
The official name of the country is Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK), while the local name is Choson-minjujuui-inmin-koughwaguk, translated as the ‘Land of Morning Calm’.
North Korea has its own unique calendar, called the ‘Juche’. It counts years from the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the country’s first supreme leader. He was born in 1912, which became Juche 1 in the North Korean calendar, and the current year in North Korea is 106.
The Eternal Leader
North Korean regime fosters an extensive cult of personality around the country’s supreme leader. When Kim Il-Sung died in 1994, an unprecedented period of morning occurred. The regime has made every effort to keep Kim’s successor’s alive. A clinic had been established with a sole purpose of keeping Kim Jong Il and his son, Kim Jong Un alive.
Kim Il-Sung’s body was embalmed and is kept in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, often referred to as the Kim Il-sung’s Mausoleum. After his death, Kim Il-Sung was declared an ‘eternal leader’ and is still the official leader of the country. He and his heirs have been raised to an almost mythical status by the regime propaganda.
Blue Jeans is Banned
In an effort to prevent the spread of Western influence, the authorities have banned piercings and expanded clothing restrictions – including a ban on jeans, seen as symbol of American imperialism.
Inspection units can control length of skirts, the shape of shoes, T-shirts, hairstyles, and clothes, in search for ‘capitalist tendencies’ among the population.
According to the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index, North Korea, along with Somalia, ranks as the world’s most corrupt country. On a scale between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean), North Korea scored an 8.
Propaganda and Agitation Department
Information in North Korea is tightly controlled by the government. Propaganda and Agitation Department controls all communication in the country. The government bans and jams all foreign broadcasts, and all radio and television stations are tuned into government broadcasts.
The government also controls all levels of education, but the literacy rate of those aged 15 or older is 99 percent.
A Large Military
North Korea has the fourth largest military, and the largest paramilitary forces in the world. With almost 1.2 million members, North Korea’s active military is just behind India.
Despite serious economic problems, the country spends the third of its GDP on military, which is among the highest numbers in the world. In 2015, North Korea introduced a mandatory military service for women.
Leaving is Not Easy
Leaving North Korea can be expensive and also extremely dangerous. The only way for citizens to leave the country is by crossing the Chinese or Russian border to the north, by boat to Japan or through the demilitarized zone on the south to South Korea. However, the border between North and South Korea is one of most heavily guarded in the world.
Most people who defect escape to China, and 70 percent are women. North Korean women are a major source of human trafficking in China, some estimates say that nearly 50,000 North Koreans are hiding in China. If they are found, Chinese authorities return them to North Korea.
Image: International Business Times