Bizarre Things That Only Exist In North Korea
North Korea is a bizarre place. Let's find out about the most bizarre facts about North Korea.Society
North Korea is a country well known for its secrecy, poverty, human rights violations, and its enigmatic leader, Kim Jong Un. Being such a private and unique nation, however, means there are a few quirks that simply don’t exist outside its all-encompassing walls. So, let’s break into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and see what we can find.
Haircuts are a great way of expressing yourself, but the number of potential style choices can sometimes be overwhelming. Luckily for the people of North Korea, they don’t have to deal with all that, as the government issues a list of state-approved styles for them. Women can choose from a list of about 18 styles, while men are limited to 10.
Married women must keep their hair reasonably short, while single ladies are encouraged to try out the slightly longer styles. Young men, meanwhile, mustn’t grow their longer than 2 inches, but older men can get away with 3 inches. With these cuts being the only options, a 6-inch mohawk is not likely to appear.
Pyongyang Traffic Ladies
In the relatively recent past, it was pretty common for friendly local police officers to direct traffic instead of the rage-inducing light poles we know today. Kim Jong Un seems to look back on those days fondly, with the eyes of a mild pervert, because Pyongyang’s traffic flow is directed by an entire workforce of “traffic beauties”.
North Korean traffic conductors are rigorously trained with robotic precision and perform their roles with the utmost seriousness. Specifically chosen for their physical attractiveness and family loyalty, the post of traffic beauty is especially sought-after because of the associated high social standing.
Indeed, the job is among the highest-respected roles for North Korean women, making traffic ladies effectively as desirable to North Korean men as attractive Hollywood actresses in the West. The downside is that these women are forced to quit at the age of 26, which is hardly a retirement age.
Songbun Caste System
In order to dissuade any potential defectors, the North Korean government has divided its citizens into castes, based on how loyal their families are to the system. It all comes down to how red (representing the red flag of Communism) an individual is.
The three classes are Tomato, for those who are red both inside and out; Apples, for those who are red on the outside only and exhibit certain non-conformist traits; and Grapes, those who are not red at all and do unspeakable things like telephoning people from the Western world.
Because the government controls education and jobs, your family’s status really does matter, as those seen as disloyal won’t be allowed to go to college or get desirable government jobs. Overall, the whole system seems kind of fruity.
While most of the world was trudging through the year 2020, North Koreans were living in Juche 109. This is because the DPRK redefined its calendar around the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, born in 1912.
Each year is simply the number of years since April 15th, 1912. So next time you want to make someone’s birthday really special, base a calendar on them.
North Korea’s love of its founder, Kim Il-Sung, isn’t limited to their calendar. The man, who’s now been dead for a quarter-century, was declared “eternal president” by his contemporaries, giving him absolute power even in death.
Following Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il and Jong-Un are only considered “Supreme Leaders” by comparison. This means that, unlike any other nation on Earth, North Korea could technically be defined as a necrocracy, which means having a government that functions under the rule of a dead leader.
It’s no revelation that North Korea takes political dissidence pretty seriously. But the punishments can be even crazier than you’d think. If someone’s accused of a political crime (like accidentally disrespecting the Supreme Leader) it won’t just be the guilty party being punished. The suspect, their family, and possibly even their friends will all be sent to a re-education camp.
If the crime was considered serious enough, the whole family would remain there for life, with only the fully indoctrinated great-grandkids being allowed back into society. This system, called the “3 generations of punishment” policy, was instigated by Kim Il-Sung in 1948, and unfortunately is still used to this day.
Red Star Operating System
While most people are probably familiar with Mac or Windows operating systems, in the Korean hermit kingdom, these programs are a no-go. Instead, anyone lucky enough to own a computer uses a state-created operating system called “Red Star”. The program is essentially a Mac rip-off and uses a very similar UI.
North Korea has its own take on the internet too, with as many as 5,000 state-controlled websites, only accessible in the DPRK. Strangest of all, on these sites, the names of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung must be coded to appear 20 percent larger than the surrounding text.
Some of the most iconic images of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, feature the colossal statues of its former leaders. Perhaps their great size is so memorable because it’s actually illegal to photograph single parts of the statue. If you take a picture, you’re legally required to photograph the entire statue.
Not only that but people are also forbidden to chew gum or even talk loudly nearby, as it’s seen as disrespectful to the former leaders. Even cars are required to slow down as they pass, and cyclists are obliged to dismount and walk while the statues are in sight.
North Korea’s farmers are so poor and resource-deprived that they’re regularly forced to resort to using their own, “waste” as fertilizer. There are even state-mandated "waste collections" when resources run especially low, with quotas families are expected to provide. It’s such a sought-after commodity that there are reports that people will actually steal it from their neighbors.
There have even been reports that a ringworm epidemic broke out due to the lack of sanitation resources involved in the human fertilizer-gathering process. Moral of the story? Don’t poop where you eat.
Ginseng Liquor: Hangover-Free Alcohol
Among the more light-hearted of North Korean oddities are their claims that they’ve invented a type of liquor that doesn’t give you a hangover! This 80-proof drink is made from ginseng extracts and replaces the standard alcohol sugars with scorched rice gluten, which the government claims is the secret to kicking hangovers.
While their liquor might be hangover-free, it seems to be getting people plenty drunk. At least, that’s the only explanation for North Korea’s official news source, KCNA, announcing that archeologists in Pyongyang discovered an ancient unicorn lair.
Unicorns are featured heavily in Korean history textbooks, with one tale involving the ancient Korean King Tongmyong riding one up and down the peninsula. The supposedly uncovered lair is, according to the DPRK’s finest archeologists, one of King Tongmyong’s unicorn garages.
NADA Space Agency
Not wanting to be left out of the great Space Race, the DPRK has commissioned its own space program. It goes by the name, ‘National Aerospace Development Administration’, or NADA. While "Nada" might mean ‘nothing’ in Spanish, the program is real and has its own logo: a hilariously low-effort rip-off of NASA’s own.
The program claims it launched its first satellite in 1998, called “Bright Star 1”. But no other country has been able to detect the satellite, suggesting it crashed back down shortly after launch.
To really emphasize how much the Kim regime dislikes Western culture, they’ve outlawed dressing in any way that could be seen as a symbol of the West. They even have their own fashion police, made up of volunteers, who report dissenters to the government.
You can be reported for pretty much anything, from having inappropriately long hair to sporting blue jeans, which are seen as the ultimate symbol of evil consumerism. As if picking outfits wasn’t already stressful enough!
As a North Korean, it’d suck to be born on July 8th or December 17th. These were the death dates of Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong Il respectively, and consequently, it’s illegal to celebrate on those days. This means more than 100,000 people celebrate their birthdays on July 9th or December 18th instead, so they don’t distract from the enforced sadness of the days of mourning.
Not that it really matters anyway, because any celebration deemed excessive, that might detract from praising the supreme leader, is an offense. To play it safe, all citizen birthdays are kept on the down-low, so, unfortunately, that super-sweet 16th is off the cards.
Kim’s Factory Visits
As if life wasn’t already tense enough for North Korean citizens, it’s made even worse by the ever-present threat of a random workplace visit by Kim Jong-Un. Any perceived disrespect against the leader is enough to land you and your family in a re-education camp, so you can imagine the stress.
As you can see in the image below, this lubricant factory worker is clearly counting down the seconds until he can breathe again. But at least Kim seems to be having fun.
One of the darkest eccentricities of the DPRK has to be Kim Jong-Un’s pleasure squad. This all-female subsection of the North Korean army is assigned to accompany high-ranking officials, as well as the supreme leader himself. The squad is made exclusively up of young, pretty women who are expected to tolerate and perform unthinkable acts, all in the service of pleasing their assigned superiors.
The girls are often selected as teenagers and are often forcibly taken from their families directly into the service. While the rest of the world’s governments are by no means free from disgraceful practices, this is one thing that only officially exist in North Korea.
World’s Largest Stadium
On a lighter note, considering how poor the country is, it seems strange that North Korea is home to the largest stadium in the world with a 150,000 capacity. But they certainly make use of it, with their annual Arirang Festival.
The show features spectacular feats of gymnastics and full-blooded military ceremonies. It even features school children dressing up in piglet costumes, pretending to be birthed from a mother pig, and then dancing around happily; totally normal. The point of that specific, piggy tradition is a celebration of the fruitful lands of North Korea, which they claim have never known famine or despair.
Surrounded By Note-Takers
If it wasn’t already clear how much the North Korean people respect their leader, check out the pictures below.
Kim Jong-Un is frequently pictured with people writing down everything he says on notepads. This is a propaganda trick Kim’s father also used, designed to create the sense that there’s indispensable wisdom in every word a North Korean leader says. But how much timeless wisdom can be found in a standard man’s shoe? You’ll have to ask Kim.
According to the always-trustworthy North Korean press, the DPRK has now developed the most important medical invention of all time. It’s called Kumdang-2. This wonder serum is supposedly manufactured from secret rare earth elements and ginseng.
Supposedly, it can cure everything, including AIDS, Ebola, and even Cancer. Western scientists have speculated that this miracle cure might just be a lie, designed to attract South Korean defectors.
If you were amazed at these bizarre things that only exist in North Korea, you might want to read our articles about the useless North Korean jobs and their cursed 3000-room hotel that's never had a single guest. Thanks for reading.