You already know that Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, runs his country in a manner comparable to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. There is a high level of state control of individual lives and due to the highly secretive nature of the country, much of what happens inside is only revealed by the few defectors who manage to risk their lives and escape. Here are 25 of the most curious facts about the country and its people:
1. High Rate of STDs
Due to sexual starvation resulting from high sociocultural restrictions and long periods of military service, quick sex is rampant in North Korea. The limited availability of contraceptives also combine to worsen the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the country.
2. It’s A Taboo To Marry Foreigners
It is not legally prohibited for Koreans to marry a foreigner, but the society considers it a taboo. The government also imposes very strict requirements as an indirect way of discouraging it. Foreigners wishing to marry Koreans must first apply for official permission from the government and provide countless paperwork.
3. Prostitution For Food!
An ever-rising poverty and hunger rate in North Korea have combined to drive many women to one last alternative; “sex for the price of rice.” While prostitution is not legally allowed, poor women use strategic places like train stations to offer ‘quickies´ in exchange for food or money just enough to buy a unit of rice.
4. Cold Noodles In Place Of Cake At Weddings
North Korean wedding parties do not cut the cake. A cold noodles meal is the most symbolic dish at their weddings. In fact, it is typical for someone enquiring on a wedding date to ask: “when can I eat your cold noodles?” Also, the newlyweds visit the statue of Kim Il-sung to bestow it flowers and then take pictures. Forget the honeymoon!
5. Kim Entertains Friends And Visitors With Young Girls
The supreme Leader reserves as many as 2000 young women that he offers to his cronies and special guests. The system is known as Kippumjo, which translates as “Pleasure Squad” or “Joy Division”. The girls earn such material items as electronic gadgets.
6. You Don’t Just Marry On Any Date Of Your Choice
Weddings in North Korea usually only hold in spring and fall. Also, the Supreme Leader prohibits weddings when he has an important upcoming event. Couples cannot marry on April 15th or February 16th, the birthdays of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
7. Keeping Pets Is An Unnecessary Luxury
While there are no specific laws banning people from keeping pets, they are mostly considered an unnecessary burden that can be done without in a time of great food scarcity. Moreover, dog meat is a delicacy in traditional Korean cuisine.
8. Live Chicken On The Altar At Weddings
Traditional Korean wedding ceremonies require a live hen and rooster wrapped in red and blue fabrics set on a ceremonial table. During the ceremony, guests place flowers and dates into the hen’s beak, while the rooster’s beak gets stuffed with red chili.
9. Dating Is Highly Restricted And Is For The Purpose Of Marriage
Dating in North Korea is not about being intimate with each other. It is for the sole purpose of marriage. There’s definitely no gainsaying that gay relationships are totally forbidden. However, and ironically so, the influential men flaunt their mistresses in public as a way of asserting their importance.
10. Many Social Taboos
So many things that are normal in the rest of the world are taboos in North Korea, such as a show of affection public places, including kissing and hugging. Not even for married couples. Piercings and tattoos are not allowed.
11. Only “First Class Women” Get Husbands
While it is more of a cultural than a state imposition, men expect their brides to be chaste and have no previous entanglements. A bride must be without a child and never previously married. If a lady gets divorced it is always her fault and therefore she has very slim chances of ever finding another husband. However, recent harsh economic conditions have seen to a loosening of the grip on keeping to these standards.
12. The First Lady Is Rarely Seen In Public
Typical of the secretive nature of the Kim government, his wife, Ri Sol-ju, is very rarely seen in public, some times for years. Not much is known about her. Even her name is speculated to be a pseudonym. In fact, it is not really known when and if they actually got married. She had been spotted with Kim several times before the Korean media referred to her as his wife.
13. Celibacy Is Expected In The Military
The North Korean military law mandates its officers to be celibate during their first 10 years of service. This explains why male soldiers regularly exchange food for sex with stray desperate women. There is also a high level of “situational homosexuality” among them.
14. DPRK Has One Of The Highest Inflation Rates In The World
The inflation rate in North Korea reached an all time high of 4376.00 percent in August of 2010. Similarly, the currency, known as the Won, has fluctuated even more than the electricity in the country, at a point exchanging W5000 to the US dollar.
15. The Use Of Opium-soaked Tampons To Stave Off STDs!
Opium, which is legal and cheap in North Korea, comes in handy as a shield from the rampant spreading STDs. Women soak a cotton ball in a light mixture of water and opium, which they insert and carry like a tampon till the next day.
16. There Are Approved Hairstyles For Men And Women
As one of the several means of controlling the population, North Koreans have a list of 28 hairstyles to choose from; 10 for men and 18 for women. Both are meant to make them look similar to their leaders. Men are required to keep their hair no longer than 2 centimeters while women are to keep theirs at a bob length.
17. Weed Is Easy To Get And Cheap!
Competing with Afghanistan and the Netherlands, the DPRK is fast gaining a reputation as the cannabis capital of the world. It is the number one destination for Chinese and Russian tourists searching for cheap weed. While the legislation on its sale and consumption might not be clear, the ease with which this happens gives the impression that it is actually legal.
18. Punishment For Not Crying At The Leader’s Death
The North Korean dictatorship reserved a sentence of at least six months in labor camps for those who didn’t go to the organized mourning events at the death of Kim Jong-il, or didn’t show enough public grief at his death.
19. Construction Workers Fed Crystal Meth To Speed Up Work
Laborers working on important state projects are often given meth based drugs which when inhaled increase energy levels and suppress appetite. This makes them work longer hours with little or no food and rest. Project managers adopt this strategy in response to immense pressure to complete important state projects under record time as a means of propaganda.
20. The Government Style Is NECROCRACY!
While there is no state religion and most North Koreans are atheists. The cult of the Kims uses the Juche philosophy to run the country. It is governed based on the rules of its dead leaders. The country’s calendar actually revolves around their leader’s birth date.
21. Compulsory Poop Donation for Fertilizer
Owing to sanctions that stopped the inflow of fertilizers from Seoul, North Koreans must now meet their assigned quota of feces to be used as fertilizer on the large state owned farms. The constipated have to devise ingenious ways of meeting up their quotas, such as buying from shops, stealing from neighbors, or scouting about for animal poop, which has become valued like gold!
22. Blue Jeans And Coca cola are Banned
North Korea has banned Blue jeans and coca cola. They are considered symbols of American capitalism. The closest they can come to even seeing them would have to be on the contraband American or South Korean movies they often risk their lives to watch secretly.
23. Hotels That Feel Like Prison
Tourists who have risked going to North Korea liken the hotel experience to a jail term. Not even the country’s six-star facility, the Ryanggang Hotel in Pyongyang, is spared. Reviews on rating sites show comment that the hotel floors are more comfortable than the beds, while the plumbing work gives you a flooding that even the rains would envy.
24. Some Universal Human Rights Attract The Death Penalty
Several universal human rights attract the death penalty in North Korea. These include criticizing the leadership, defection, and consumption of unapproved media. People found guilty of breaking these rules are usually executed in public glare, mostly by decapitation like Eddard Stark.