What Do You Know About North Korea? 21 Curious Facts to Get You Started

What Do You Know About North Korea? 21 Curious Facts to Get You Started

Here's some context to go with those news reports.

Jimmy Kimmel recently took to the streets to see if random people could find North Korea on a map. Now we know that Kimmel famously edits this regular bit to make them as ridiculous as possible — hey, that's compelling TV! — but the responses were overwhelmingly clueless. And perhaps that should come as no surprise, given the notorious shroud of mystery surrounding the country.

So in case you’re not entirely sure, either here is where North Korea is: It’s on the Korean Peninsula, which is located to the east of China and the west of Japan. And here are 21 more quick facts to help you contextualize the news these days:

1. Marijuana is not illegal in North Korea.

This might seem surprising because of how strict the country can be on various matters, but this plant is not considered illicit in the country. Though, to be fair, reports to vary on if it's hemp or cannabis travelers have claimed to see growing in abundance. Read more on Vice and Business Insider.

2. The year is 106.

North Korea doesn’t date years the same way the rest of the world does. So instead of it being 2017 over there right now, they consider it to be year 106 — as they number from Kim Il-Sung’s date of birth.

3. Hundreds of thousands live in North Korea prison camps.

It’s estimated that somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 North Koreans presently live in prison camps, the worst of which are supposedly for housing political criminals. Extended families of political prisoners can be held as well. Up to 40 percent of prisoners are estimated to die from causes like malnutrition and working in harsh conditions.

4. There was a time when all teachers had to learn accordion.

Back in the 1990s, teachers were mandated to learn to play the accordion. Why the accordion? Because it was deemed to be the “people’s instrument” since it’s easy to transport.

5. Everyone must have a state-approved haircut.

There are supposedly around 15 approved styles, give or take, from which men and women can each choose if they want a fresh look.

6. Kim Jong-Il apparently scored 300 on his first time bowling.

According to state-controlled media, that is.

7. There are few North Koreans who have any idea what life is like beyond the border.

Because all television is controlled by the state and the Internet doesn’t exist except for a closed network, the only knowledge most North Koreans have of life in outside of North Korea is what they’re told.

8. North Korea is around the size of Pennsylvania.

In case a U.S. reference point is useful for you.

9. Kim Jong-un is rumored to have once been caught with a bondage magazine in school.

Consider the contrasting images of Kim Jong-un as a schoolboy in Switzerland caught with a bondage magazine, and Kim Jong-un ruling a nation the way he rules North Korea now.

Blue jeans are seen as a sign of American imperialism, so they’re banned.

11. It’s prohibitively expensive to get to China.

For those who wish to defect from the nation, a ticket to China costs somewhere in the area of $8,000 these days, which is beyond the means of the average citizen.

12. The DMZ is probably the most guarded border in the world.

Highly militarized and protected in just about every way feasible just beyond the demilitarization zone, the North Korea border is more heavily watched than just about any other.

13. Kim Jong-Il is worshipped.

North Koreans are told he was born on a mountain in a mythical godlike fashion. Russian records show he was actually born in Siberia.

14. The country goes dark at night.

If you take a look at satellite images of North Korea at night, it’s almost completely black because of how little electricity the country produces.

15. Kim Jong-un wears heels.

Like four- or five-inch lift-style heels. Every day. Supposedly. And supposedly, they've even caused him injuries.

16. Drugs are linked with North Korean shipments.

The country has been linked with shipments of heroin and methamphetamines multiples times.

17. Kim Jong-Il drank a ton of cognac.

The estimates are that he spent over $800,000 a year on Hennessy.

18. North Korea has missiles that could probably hit U.S. soil.

US intelligence seems to think it’s likely a North Korean missile could hit Hawaii, Alaska, or the West Coast. There’s even talk of the country possessing some missiles that could hit the East Coast.

19. Maternity leave in North Korea is better than it is in the U.S.

Women in North Korea receive 11 weeks of paid leave for each pregnancy.

20. There are pretty strict fashion rules.

For one, women shouldn’t ever be seen in tight trousers and are typically reprimanded if they dress in a way considered to be inappropriate.

21. The country's most popular attraction is Kim Jong-Il's body.

His body is preserved and people go to it so often that it's the most popular attraction in the entire nation.
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