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Top 10 Shocking Facts About North Korea

On the northern side of the Korean peninsula, there sits the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, best known as the East Asian country of North Korea. To the world outside of its proverbial wall, the country appears to be a radical land regulated by strange rules and a constant fear of death or internment. To portray just how extreme North Korea can be, we dug up these 10 shocking facts.

10. Mandated Hair Styles
Don't adjust your volume, you definitely heard that right! According to sources in Pyongyang, men in North Korea are being prompted to rid themselves of their long hair and take on a cut similar to the mushroom cloud sported by current leader, Kim Jong-un. Men with hair over .8 inches or 2 centimeters in length are allegedly being targeted by North Korean authorities. Not to leave women out of the insanity, they, too, have been directed to take on a certain style - that of Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju. Prior to this directive, the country imposed approved haircuts for men and women, with men being able to choose between 28 different cuts and women stuck with only 14 options.


9. Teachers and Accordions
During the 1990's, if you wanted to be a teacher in North Korea, you had to possess a rather specific skill. As told in the book Nothing to Envy, which depicts the lives of multiple North Korean citizens over a period of 15 years, teachers were required to be able to play the accordion. Dubbed the "people's instrument" for its more compact size and portability, teachers would utilize the instrument in the middle of class, often engaging their students in a little musical session. It's said that before being awarded a teacher's license, the intended educator was required to pass an accordion exam.

8. The Propaganda City
If you situate yourself in a demilitarized zone near the border of North and South Korea, you'll be able to glimpse a rather serene looking North Korean city. Believed to be a decoy put in place to attract defectors from South Korea, Kijong-dong is one of North Korea's more elaborate ploys. What appears to be a peaceful village complete with an attractive array of essentials like a school and hospital, Kijong-dong has been given the nickname of "Propaganda Village." North Korea claims the city, which was built in 1953, sports 200 residents and economic success. Until 2004, Kijong-dong was outfitted with speakers that broadcast praise of North Korea and invited unhappy South Koreans across the border.

7. Media Censorship
No matter what part of the world you live in or the restrictions placed upon what you can and cannot see on TV or hear on the radio, chances are the censorship you're dealing with is nothing compared to that in North Korea. Televisions and radios purchased within North Korea are required to be registered with the police and are pre-tuned to local stations, of which there are 4 television channels and 2 main radio stations. Though there is "freedom of speech and press" on the surface, the government closely watches media outlets to ensure negativity about the country and its leader never reach the public. Only with government approval can a home be granted access to the internet, otherwise citizens must use internet cafes or hotels.


6. Assigned Employment
As most of us made our way through the later years of our schooling, there was always an emphasis on that one nagging question: "What do you want to do with your life?" If you want to rid yourself of the need to choose your career path, head on over to North Korea! Once upon a time, if you weren’t a person of substantial wealth or came from a prestigious family, job assignment was a government task. Citizens were placed in different industries based on current needs unless, of course, they had bribery money to get out of doing any work. Children weren't encouraged to follow their dreams and were instead indoctrinated with the belief that their own purpose was to serve the greater good of North Korea.

5. Making Students Pay
In many countries across the globe, education comes at a cost. For some, like the United States, it's a yearly tax. In others, like North Korea, that cost comes in the form of keeping the school supplied with the essentials, and by essentials, we don't just mean pencils and workbooks. It's said that parents with children in school are responsible for providing everything from building materials to desks. Even more shocking is the building's cost of heating fuel, which, too, is passed on down to parents. To keep the education system - which North Korea alleges produces a 100% literacy rate - students may also be used to gather useful, discarded materials. As they say, money talks and parents are able to bribe teachers into getting their child out of these more menial tasks.

4. A Ban on Sarcasm
Sarcasm is such an incredibly useful aspect of modern speech that to think of a world without it would be depressing. North Korea, however, doesn't have the same viewpoint on sarcastic phrases and, in an effort to continue the oppression of its people, purportedly warned against the use of "hostile" speech. The examples given by a state security official that disseminated this insane proposal were not just general sarcastic statements, but rather sarcasm that appears to paint the country's leader or the country in a negative light. Essentially, the North Korean government is a little paranoid that any praise its people are giving it is less than honest.

3. What Year Is It?
We all relatively know how old mankind is, but many cultures across the globe can't seem to agree on what year we're currently in. Probably the most compelling of these differing calendars is that of North Korea. Known as the Juche calendar, named for the ideology developed by former leader Kim Il-sung, this method of numbering states that North Korea is, as of 2016, only in year 105. The Juche system, which was implemented 3 years after the leader's death in 1997, uses Kim Il-sung's year of birth, 1912, as the starting point. Anything prior to 1912 is counted using the Christian method of calendaring.

2. Three Generations of Punishment
North Korea may have taken the concept of the Sins of the Father a bit too far by making it so that not only the sin passes down to the next generation, but so too does the punishment. When an individual commits a crime, likely something more political in nature, they not only risk spending a good portion of their life imprisoned but also put their family at risk of receiving the same sentence thanks to North Korea's three generations of punishment. In 1972, Kim Il-sung implemented the cruel act, claiming that three generations must suffer the same punishment in order to weed out the corrupted bloodline.


1. Active Concentration Camps
Where there are prisoners, there must be a place to keep them housed. North Korean criminals, even those held on the "three generations of punishment" decree, can be subjected to life in a concentration camp, where they'll be met with deplorable conditions not too dissimilar to the German camps during World War II. According to former inmates, prisoners are subjected to conditions that leave them famished and forced to survive on dirt, but that's not even the worst of it. Survivors have reported bearing witness to random executions, various forms of torture, dismemberment, and experimentation. Hoeryong concentration camp, otherwise known as No. 22, was one of the country's more notable political prison camps before its closure in 2012 that was known for performing water torture, hanging, a pigeon torture as well as using prisoners for novice surgeons to practice on.


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