The world is changing into more and more occupied with North Korea and its manner of life. The communist nation is isolated but has some impressive firepower, which they demonstrate through constant missile tests. It’s unclear what the leader Kim Jong Un will do next, or how other countries might respond. During its seven-decade existence, North Korea has been ruled by three generations of the same family, all brutal dictators. Kim Jong Un, 33, grandson of Kim Il Sung, came to power in 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. Here are 10 unexpected facts about North Korea that you might have never heard of.
1. According to North Korea, Korea is a single country.
If you take a look at the world map, you can clearly see North Korea and South Korea on it. However, North Koreans don’t consider that as the truth. They believe that there is only one Korea, where the map shows a united country with the capital of Pyongyang. The same image is printed in school books.
2. North Korea created its own time zone: Pyongyang Time.
North Korea has switched to a new time zone by putting its clocks back by half an hour. The occasion was marked by bells which rang out in the capital Pyongyang at midnight on Friday as the new time zone came into effect. Kim Jong-un announced the change on August 15, 2015. Currently, North Korea is nine hours ahead of GMT and in the same time zone as neighbouring South Korea and Japan. The change is hailed by the country as a victory over the US and South Korea.
3. Kim Jong Un ordered all male citizens to copy his haircut.
Kim Jong Un 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 were told to model their hairstyle on Kim Jong Un, whose haircut is known as “ambitious” in North Korea (and terrible everywhere else). Women were advised to copy his wife.
4. North Koreans believe that all Americans have big noses.
According to the propaganda posters in the Pyongyang War Museum, all Americans have big noses, huge eyes, and hairy chests. Many defectors explain that hate towards America is taught as a part of school PE classes. To depict an image of their belief, cardboard mannequins are made to look like people in the US military uniforms, with giant noses and wide-open blue eyes.
5. North Korea is about the size of Pennsylvania.
While Pennsylvania is 46,054 square miles, or 119,279 square kilometers, North Korea is 120,538 square kilometers. United States is approximately 9,833,517 sq km, about 82 times bigger than North Korea. Meanwhile, the population of North Korea is ~25 million people (299 million more people live in United States). However, less than 20% of the land is arable in North Korea. That’s about the size of New Hampshire’s land area.
6. North Korea has no taxes.
Officially, North Korea is one of the few countries in the world that exempts its citizen from taxes. As part of the “old world”, taxation was abolished. The date of 1 April is the North Korean “Tax Abolition Day”. Although, any organization or person who makes money outside the country has to pay taxes. Many sources suggest that Kim Jong Un is planning to reintroduce taxes within the country in the near future.
7. North Korea says it has a 100% literacy rate.
The CIA World Factbook defines literate people as those ages 15 and over who can read and write. However, North Korea has self-reported its literacy rate as 100% for both men and women.
8. Watching foreign movies is illegal in North Korea, but some do it anyway.
Kim Jong Un prohibits North Korean’s from watching any foreign movie. In 2013, eighty people were executed by firing squad in North Korea for watching foreign films, it has been claimed. South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that the co-ordinated public executions took place in seven separate cities where local authorities rounded up 10,000 people, including children and forced them to watch the executions. Those put to death were found guilty by the state of minor misdemeanors, including watching videos of South Korean television programmes or possessing a Bible.
9. There is a propaganda village at the border with South Korea.
From the outside, the North Korean village of Kijong-dong looks like any other town, brightly painted houses, schools, daycare, even a hospital. But on closer inspection, all is not as it seems. The buildings are actually concrete shells with no glass in their windows, electric lights operate on an automatic timer and the only people in sight are maintenance workers who sweep the streets to give the impression of activity.
Named Peace Village by North Korea, it has been used by the government as a battleground for supremacy between the two powers. The village is surrounded by extensive cultivated fields, with the North Korean government officially claiming it is a collective farm for its residents.
10. North Korea has a mandatory military service program for both men and women.
It is considered an honor to serve your country. North Korea has an obligatory military service that all men and women have to take part in. Men over the age of 18 must serve a 10-year term in the army. Until 2013, the term was 13 years which was changed by their leader Kim Jong Un. In 2015, the law came into effect for graduating women, who must serve until the age of 23. The country has an active military personnel of about 1 million people (4th in the world).