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Top Ten Fascinating Facts About North Korea

by Ash Sharp
fact checked by Jamie Frater

North Korea is a living Hell. Suffice to say, there are probably few countries more depressing to live in or write lists about. Given the choice, you’d probably take writing the list.

In any case, pack a couple of Vicodin and a bottle of whiskey, because we’re off to Best Korea! You’ll need all the booze and drugs you can carry for this one. Here’s why:

10 Propaganda Village

Photo credit: Marcella Bona

If the North Koreans know about the village of Kijong-dong, then they probably won’t be making the obvious penis joke inherent in the name. And neither will we. Dangling Kijong-dong in the faces of the North Koreans would be a cruel gesture. The village near the Demilitarized Zone boasts one of the tallest flagpoles in the world and even electricity—unlike most rural North Korean villages. The problem is that unlike her southern twin village Taesong-dong, the northern dong has no little soldiers. Not even citizens live there, though according to state propaganda, there are 200 happy families going about worshiping the Juche necrocracy.[1]

That is a lie. This is a false-dong. Only the occasional maintenance worker patrols the streets of Kijong-dong, bravely subjecting himself to the near-constant Korean opera, marching songs, and speeches that are broadcast at the South Koreans, no doubt mocking their decadent habits of wearing shoes and not starving to death or being shot for having the wrong haircut. Listen, this list is going to be horrible. Let’s just get it out there: The people of North Korea have to have the worst time imaginable when their best village is built to flip off their neighbors. And we’ve only just begun!

9 Kidnapping Film Directors And Forcing Them To Make A Communist Godzilla

Photo credit: AP

Say what you like about North Korea (and we will), but they do have an original method of making cinema. First, make sure that your script is unique, not some weak allegory about the horrors of nuclear war like those effeminate Japanese. No, in the DPRK, they have giant socialist lizards smashing the bourgeoisie, because it would be a shame to have to execute a giant lizard on-screen for not being communist enough. Fortunately, Pulgasari the giant Commie Gojira was 100-percent on board with the movie. Unfortunately, directors and good actors are hard to come by in North Korea, which has something to do with everyone being so poor that they don’t know what cameras are, not to mention the relentless, soul-crushing lifestyle leaving everyone with just a shade more acting ability than Shia LaBeouf.

What do you get for the wannabe dictator/producer who has it all? Why, kidnapped movie stars, of course! Choi Eun Hee and her ex-husband, a noted South Korean director, were snatched on separate operations in late 1970s Hong Kong.[2] They spent years in captivity making many movies you will never see. They eventually escaped to Vienna after tricking Kim Jong Il into thinking that everything was cool and that they definitely did not want to escape a country where cockroaches are food.

North Korea has acknowledged that it kidnapped 13 people in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of them were returned to Japan in 2002, but Pyongyang says the other eight died, though Japan doesn’t believe this. Professor Andre Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea reckons that nearly 500 South Koreans have been abducted. “The vast majority of them are fishermen who were imprudent to come too close to the North Korean coast but this figure also includes a number of known victims of covert operations,” he says. Maybe they got jobs inside the rubber lizard; who knows? The probably just got executed, though, and that is sad.

8 Being Forced To Poop By The Government

You might think that you are little more than an economic peon, a drone, a cog in an infernal capitalist machine with no hope, no dreams, and no future. Well, you should have done physics instead of gender studies, because money is great, and this ride will surely last forever. You can also count yourself lucky, as you do not live in a country where your food is grown in your own poop.[3]

“Fertilizer is essential for the spring sowing season, but North Korea has almost no chemical fertilizer, so the government ordered every person to produce hundreds of kilograms,” said a Beijing source in 2013. Hundreds of kilograms of human waste per person is a tough enough task even on a British diet, so how the starvation-rationed North Koreans were expected to cope is a mystery. Rumors abound in some parts of the Internet that part of a groundbreaking deal with the US has been made to provide North Korea with Shia LaBeouf, who is rumored to be the very pinnacle of human waste production.

7 Becoming A State-Sponsored Military-Grade Hooker And Feeding A Dictator Shark Dong

Photo credit: The National

When I first met Kim Jong Il, he looked so normal . . . like a next-door neighbour. He has many brown spots on his face. His teeth were yellowish. My previous fancy about the great leader was shattered at that very moment.

So goes the testimony of Mi Hyang, former “pleasure squad” member and defector to South Korea.[4] Being a state-owned sex slave isn’t apparently all it’s cracked up to be; being raised to worship a tubby, walrus-looking dwarf as a literal superhero/deity and then being presented with Kim Jong Il in the flesh must be like finally getting together with Justin Bieber, but it turned out to be Ellen DeGeneres the whole time.

According to Koh Yu Hwan, a professor of North Korea, the girls in the pleasure squad are literally lying back and thinking of the DPRK: “Unlike a capitalistic country, [pleasure squads] are managed on a state level. They are not only for Kim Jong Il, but also for other senior cadre. They serve at official functions of the ruling class.”

Apparently, Kim Jong Il had a penchant for being fed shark penis (or rather the analogous organs) for supper, which, along with his $800,000-a-year Hennessy Brandy habit, made for quite the diet. Oh, and the girls? They are recruited straight from school. Mi Hyang described how she was recruited. “I was 15 when two officers in their forties visited my school. They inspected all the female students and put aside some of them.” Much like the decadent West, sexagenarians can bang schoolgirls with impunity, provided they have a lot of cash or the power to execute people for treason.

6 Being Dependent On Communists Who Disappeared 30 Years Ago For Electricity

Back in the glorious days of the 1990s, while Generation X was figuring out that the Clintons weren’t all they were cracked up to be and that Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins was a far superior grunge album to Nevermind by Nirvana, North Korea was already in darkness. Since the average peasant in North Korea has no concept of angsty 1990s guitar rock, we can only assume that in the DPRK, they live much happier lives, or at least they would if they could do anything after the Sun goes down.[5]

Satellite photography shows just one major patch of light in the whole country, which is the capital Pyongyang. Government buildings, including the Kim palace, are illuminated at all times, as is the Juche Tower, the 170-meter (560 ft) monument to a self-reliant ideology that can’t conjure enough electricity up for its adherents to catch up on Murder, She Wrote.

Despite years of sanctions and offers of food and energy aid in exchange for dismantling the North Korean nuclear program, the regime remains recalcitrant. While one can imagine that the North Koreans may not trust Western imperialists who have a habit of delivering several thousand tons of highly explosive freedom on non-nuclear-armed nations, the damage caused to a civilization denied access to reruns of MacGyver and the new series of The Bachelor are incalculable. For reference, the gluttonous South Koreans burn through 10,162 kilowatt hours of power per person per year. North Koreans each use just 739, so at least they are doing their bit for climate change.

5 Praising Murderous Dictators In Western Media Because You Hate The President

Photo credit: Bee Jae Man/Yonhap/AP

“If ‘diplomatic dance’ were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister would be favored to win gold. With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea’s presidential guest book, Kim Yo Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the Pyeongchang Games.” Amazing words, no doubt crafted by the hardworking and ideologically pure Juche propagandists at . . . oh. CNN.[6] Yes, at the 2018 South Korean Winter Olympics, we were treated to the sight of the director of the propaganda and agitation department of the Workers’ Party of Korea being fawned over by CNN because somehow, Donald Trump is worse than a woman who in part oversees the billion-dollar (annual) production of heroin and amphetamines that are smuggled into the West. Ah, that’s progressive!

In seriousness, though, how bad can the sister and closest confidant of a dictator who has executed people by flamethrower, mortars, and being strapped to anti-aircraft guns be? That last grisly mass murder was meted out as punishment to 11 musicians who had allegedly made a pornographic movie. Up until 2016, a South Korean think tank estimated that at least 340 people had been executed by the regime of Kim Jong Un alone. What to take away from the debacle of mainstream Western media celebrating evil? It’s good for ratings, and really, that’s all that counts.

4 Stealing Volvos From Sweden Because They Are Degenerate Western Dogs

Photo credit: IBL/Rex Features

Most people go to jail for stealing cars, but most people aren’t the founding father of North Korea. Back in the 1970s, the socialists who would one day ruin Sweden forever wanted to recognize North Korea because when you’re a radical leftist, you need all the friends you can get . . . or so the Swedes believed. What happened next surprised the Swedish socialists and pretty much no one else, as President Kim agreed to buy 1,000 shiny new 1974 Volvos and then just laughed at the stupid capitalist pig-dogs when they wanted “money.”

“Many had been blinded by North Korea’s impressive economic growth—people had raced to get there first,” journalist Lovisa Lamm Nordenskiold said. “Sweden was supposed to be the first country to unlock this new market.” Adjusted for interest and inflation, the debt to the Swedish state now exceeds three billion Swedish kronor or €300 million. As the one-time luxurious Volvos (with leather seats and everything) now smell like North Korean taxi driver and starvation, we can only assume that the market value has dropped slightly. Still, Sweden can probably carry on complaining about the bill, as the DPRK now correctly recognizes the Swedes as imperialist pawns of the hated US.[7]

3 Escaping A Gulag Nation Only To Be Forced Into Sex Slavery

With a convenient land border to China, one might think that escape from North Korea is simply a matter of stealing a motorcycle and jumping the fence or perhaps fooling the border guards with a cunning disguise. The truth is a little more complex. Eighty percent of the North Koreans who cross the border into China are women, and 90 percent of them fall victim to human trafficking. With a North Korean woman worth up to $2,000, getting a bride from North Korea is an investment for wealthy but unsexy Chinese men.

Kung Su Jin runs the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights, a Seoul-based group helping women to escape:

These women are sold to farmers, very old men or disabled. Beatings are common. Rape happens to every woman who is sold. Sometimes the women run away but when they are caught they are severely bashed again. If they are caught by Chinese police they are sent back to North Korea and thrown into concentration camps.[8]

Imagine escaping often starvation conditions in the DPRK and paying to be smuggled across the Chinese border only to be forcibly married to a man who has literally bought you. There is very little chance of escape, no international aid to speak of, and very little chance of ever seeing your family again. Rape or death by starvation is a choice no human should have to make.

2 Women Are Second-Class Citizens But Also The Main Breadwinners

Photo credit: Reuters

It might not seem like such a big deal in the context of the myriad human rights violations that are perpetrated in the DPRK every day, but not allowing women to ride bicycles is actually a real problem for millions of North Koreans. The problem is that the Juche ideology of self-reliance doesn’t actually amount to a hill of beans. The state employs everybody, so the self-reliant citizens are little more than slaves.

While most people dream of a world without feminism, it must be said that in North Korea, there is some scope for not treating ladies as second-class citizens. Women are less frequently forced into factory labor that pays less than starvation wages, so it is left to them to supplement the household income in whatever ways they can. A North Korean woman living in Seoul told Human Rights Watch: “For women to work at markets, they have to travel every day. Bicycles are usually the only means of transportation. Without them, they can’t make a living. And when you ride bicycles long distances, skirts are very inconvenient.”[9]

That’s right, no trousers allowed for North Korean women, either; that would be unfeminine. Because of the haphazard enforcement of these laws by corrupt police officers, a fine for not wearing state-approved clothing may negate any earnings a woman can make at the market—let alone the penalty for being caught riding a bicycle. The fate of a family resting on the ability of your mother to avoid the police while bartering for food is far from the socialist paradise the people are supposed to live in. Perhaps real Juche socialism has never really been tried.

1 It Sucks Being A Kid In North Korea

Naturally, in a society with little wealth, little food, and a government that will kill you for having the wrong haircut, youth culture has little opportunity to flourish. Even if the youth could get their hands on some Ramones records, they wouldn’t have the energy to pogo dance. They’re just too tired and skinny. More than 13 million North Koreans suffer from malnutrition, including 60 percent of children. That’s the worst rate among 110 developing nations surveyed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.[10] Naturally, the infant mortality rate rises with such harsh conditions, with an estimated 22.10 out of every 1,000 live births dying before their first birthday. For reference, that’s seven times higher than the rate in South Korea.

On the upside, children do at least get a healthy education in how to kill the Americans, with toy guns and grenades and such. That is, the kids who can afford to go to school do. The ones who are needed to work in the fields do so from an early age. On International Children’s Day, a mock military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang features kids dressed up as members of the North Korean army, and if your family is lucky enough to be wealthy, you may be shipped off to learn accordion or cheerleading for a decade or so—to bring more glory to the great house of Kim, of course.

In short, North Korea sucks to live in, deal with, and sell cars to. Avoid.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Ash Sharp

Ash is an English writer, living on Ibiza. He works in digital marketing and creates content for cash or signed pictures of Kathleen Turner.

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