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26 Weird and Bizarre Facts about North Korea that reveal the horrifying truth about life there

Facts about North Korea

North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. Under the Kim family’s rule, basic freedoms and access to needs have been severely restricted and continue to get frighteningly worse. Akin to Hitler’s Germany, North Korea operates secret prison camps where people are violently tortured, abused and forced into hard labour. There is no religious freedom, dissent is silenced through nefarious means and society continues to break down. North Korea shuns the idea of collective co-operation to help itself and others, and may just be a literal hell on earth, isolated as it is from the rest of the world. We bring you 26 weird and bizarre facts about North Korea that will make you thankful that you don’t live there.

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1.North Korea follows a “three generations of punishment” rule, meaning that if one person violated the law or sent to prison, their children, parents and grandparents are sent to work with them.

camp 14 illustration
image source: stockholmfilmfestival.se

Anyone found guilty of committing a crime (which could be as little as trying to escape North Korea), is sent to the Kaechon internment camp along with their entire family. The subsequent two generations would be born in the camp and must also live their entire lives in servitude and die there.(source)

2. In the 1990s, it was made compulsory for all teachers in North Korea to learn how to play the accordion.

accordion north korea
image source: openculture.com

The accordion was often called the ‘people’s instrument’ since it was easy to carry along anywhere. There would be accompanied singing to tunes such as ‘We Have Nothing to Envy in the World,’ which was a rehash of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.(source)

3. A fake propaganda village called Kijong-dong was built in the 1950’s after the Korean war to put up the front of a peaceful, prosperous place and to encourage people from the South to defect. 

Kijong-dong Propaganda Village
image source: wikipedia.org

In the last 60 years, over 23,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea whereas only two South Koreans have gone to the North. According to the North Korean government’s official story, Kijong-dong is a collection of multistory buildings that house 200 families who spend their days happily engaging in normal, day-to-day activities.

kijong-dong
image source: photorator.com

In reality, the buildings’ windows have no glasses in them and the electric lights (a luxury that is unheard of to rural North Koreans) are operated on an automatic timer. The only people in sight are maintenance workers who sweep the roads once in a while to give the impression of ongoing activity.(1,2)

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4. Kim Jong-il kidnapped prolific South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and forced him to remake famous Hollywood films in propaganda style.

Kim Jong-il with film making couple
image source: Hellflower Film Ltd. via koreajoongangdaily.com

The kidnap plot was masterminded by Kim Jong-il who was in charge of North Korean film industry before he took up office as the country’s leader. He had Shing Sang-ok and the actress Choi Eun-hee kidnapped and the both were kept separate from each other in prison for five years until the former relented. Kim Jong-il’s aim was to compel them to create movies that would wow the world. They worked together and produced a series of films, the most notable one being Pulgasari, a socialist, propaganda-fueled version of Hollywood’s Godzilla.(source)

5. North Korea’s most popular attraction is visiting Kim Jong-il’s preserved body.

kim jong-il body
image source: reuters.com

The North Korean dictator’s embalmed body rests in a state mausoleum and is open for visitation even to foreign tourists. The local guides have a comprehensive knowledge of Kim’s life and eagerly point out details about his great achievements and godlike abilities.(source)

6. Elections are held every 5 years in North Korea, but only one name appears on the ballot list. If a voter wishes to choose someone else, they can do so by crossing the name out, but without any anonymity and privacy.

Kim Jong Un voting
image source: KCNA / Reuters

The candidate has a near-100% turnout and the seats are essentially uncompetitive as all of them are chosen and won by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Because of this, North Korean elections are termed as “show elections” since they only double as unofficial censuses.(source)

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