North Korea is a mysterious country isolated from much of the world. There is so much about North Korea that Westerners are simply unaware of. The primary unusual and unknown element of North Korea is the strange laws that govern its society.
These unusual laws range from:
The North Korean government has almost complete authority over its citizens, and these strange and invasive laws are reflective of the incredible paranoia the small state is renowned for.
While some of these laws are comical, it’s important to consider and reflect on how these bizarre laws could affect the populace. Certainly, this explains the strained, nervous faces of North Korean citizens when they are shown in documentaries or on the news.
1. The first of these strange laws concerns your hair. There are 28 government-approved hairstyles in North Korea. That’s it. 10 for men, 18 for women. While I certainly think some haircuts should be discouraged (man-buns!), no haircut should be illegal.
2. Want to live in the capital? You Need Permission, bud. That’s right; if you want to live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, then you need to get state permission.
3. Only 55% of eligible U.S. citizens voted during the 2016 election. In North Korea, it is illegal not to vote, as the government mandates that all of its citizens must vote. Unfortunately, the government also mandates that all 100% of North Korean citizens vote for the same person.
4. If there is one thing authoritarian states want to control, it’s information and communication. And because of that, North Korea controls the airwaves. There are only 3 TV channels to choose from, and the programming is all strictly controlled by the government.
5. Another hallmark of an authoritarian regime is controlling religion. If you are caught with a Bible in North Korea, you could be imprisoned or executed. I guess the government believes that if the people believe in a power higher than the government, then they could revolt.
6. If a North Korean citizen commits a crime, their whole family could face punishment. Like many other despotic governments, the threat of incarceration and severe punishment always weighs heavily over North Korean citizens’ lives.
7. There is a three-caste system in North Korea, and it is truly disturbing. North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, established the three-caste system in 1957 to better control his populace. Society is broken down into these three classes: core, wavering, and hostiles. Those who were most loyal to the government were placed in the ‘core’ class, and those least loyal to the government were placed in the ‘hostiles’ class.
8. Back in 2008, North Korea stopped receiving fertilizer for its farmland from South Korea. A traditionally mountainous and arid country, North Korea needed fertilizer to make its farmland produce enough food for the population of 25 million. To correct this deficiency, North Korea turned to human waste. Each factory in North Korea is mandated to supply farmers with as much human waste as they need.
9. If you try to flee North Korea and are caught, you will be executed or consigned to a labor camp. While it is hard to get into North Korea, it is even harder to leave.
10. The only people who are allowed to have access to the internet in North Korea are political leaders and their families, students at elite universities, and members of their military’s cyber warfare department. No one else is allowed online.
11. Not only that, but the computers in North Korea run their own state-made operating system. There is no Windows and Mac OS in North Korea, only Red Star OS.
12. Wi-Fi has been banned at North Korean embassies around the world. It’s not clear if any citizens have access to Wi-Fi, but based on the embassy ban, we doubt it.
13. If you are somehow allowed to visit North Korea as a tourist, be prepared to have a government official watch over your every step. Every interaction, photograph, and visit must first be approved by the government.
14. The women in North Korea’s military have to endure incredibly difficult conditions. First of all, they all have to have the same haircut, but they are also required to always march in unison. One misstep could be all it takes to get sent to a labor camp.
15. Another strange North Korean law is that most citizens are not allowed to drive. One of the more striking parts of photographs taken within North Korea is the vast stretches of empty highway. Only government-sanctioned individuals may own and drive a car.
16. Last but not least, it is against the law to make an international call in North Korea without permission from the government. In 2007, a man was alleged to have been shot and killed by the government after making a number of international calls.
In North Korea, the consequences for engaging in activities opposing the state or its leader are severe and designed to instill fear and maintain absolute control over the population. The regime's iron grip on power leaves little room for dissent, and any form of opposition is met with swift and brutal punishment, serving as a chilling reminder of the consequences of challenging the authority of Kim Jong-un and his government.
Engaging in any activities that are deemed as opposing the state or its leader, Kim Jong-un, is a grave act of treason in North Korea. The regime's strict control over its citizens extends to all aspects of their lives, including their thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Any form of dissent or criticism against the government is swiftly suppressed, and those found guilty of such acts face severe consequences, including capital punishment.
One of the most serious offenses is criticizing the government or its policies. The regime maintains a pervasive surveillance system, monitoring citizens' conversations, online activities, and even their facial expressions. Any negative remarks or expressions of discontent towards the state or its leader are considered a direct challenge to the regime's authority. Individuals who dare to voice their opinions or question the government's actions risk being reported by informants or detected by the state's extensive network of spies.
Conspiring to overthrow the regime is another act that is met with extreme punishment. The North Korean government is highly paranoid about potential threats to its power and closely monitors any signs of dissent or organized opposition. Engaging in activities that aim to undermine or destabilize the regime, such as forming underground political groups or planning acts of rebellion, is seen as a direct threat to the state's stability. Those involved in such activities, once identified, are subjected to harsh interrogations, torture, and imprisonment, often in brutal labor camps.
Perhaps the most severe consequence of opposing the state is attempting to assassinate the leader, Kim Jong-un. The regime considers its leader to be infallible, and any attempt on his life is seen as an attack on the very foundation of the state. The North Korean government has a long history of alleged assassination attempts against its leaders, and it takes any potential threat extremely seriously. Those found guilty of plotting or attempting to assassinate Kim Jong-un face not only capital punishment but also the possibility of their entire families being punished as well.
Leaving North Korea is a complex matter that involves considering numerous factors. The government strictly prohibits its citizens from leaving the country without a special permit, viewing it as treason and punishable by severe penalties, including imprisonment and even execution. However, despite these restrictions, many North Koreans manage to escape through various means, such as crossing the border into China or South Korea. Attempting to leave North Korea without permission can lead to severe consequences according to the country's laws. Punishments may include imprisonment in labor camps, where detainees are subjected to forced labor, torture, and starvation. In extreme cases, those caught trying to escape may even face execution.
North Korean defectors typically choose one of two primary routes to leave the country: crossing the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea or traveling through China. Some defectors also take the risk of reaching South Korea by sea, although this method is more dangerous and has a higher fatality rate. Once they reach South Korea or another safe destination, North Korean defectors often receive assistance from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies. These organizations provide support services such as resettlement aid, language learning programs, education, and other essential resources to help defectors integrate into their new societies.
The treatment of North Korean defectors and the government's strict control over its citizens have raised concerns among the United Nations (UN) and various human rights organizations. The UN has called for an end to the human rights abuses in North Korea and has urged the country to respect its citizens' right to freedom of movement. For those who manage to successfully escape, the transition to a new life is not without its difficulties. North Korean defectors often face discrimination and cultural barriers in their new host countries. They may struggle to find employment, adapt to a different way of life, and overcome the trauma they experienced in North Korea. Despite these challenges, many North Korean defectors are determined to build a better future for themselves and their families. They often become advocates for human rights and work to raise awareness about the situation in North Korea. Their stories serve as a reminder of the resilience and courage of those who seek freedom and a better life.
Treason is considered the most serious crime one can commit in North Korea. The consequences of this crime are severe and can include execution, imprisonment, and public humiliation. The government of North Korea closely monitors its citizens and views any action that undermines the state or its leader, Kim Jong-un, as a direct threat to the regime.
Treason can take many forms, such as attempting to overthrow the government, spying for foreign countries, spreading anti-government propaganda, or even expressing dissatisfaction with the leadership. The North Korean government has an extensive network of informants and surveillance systems in place to detect and report any signs of disloyalty.
The punishment for treason varies depending on the seriousness of the offense and the status of the individual involved. High-ranking officials who commit treason are often executed publicly as a warning to others. In some cases, even the families of the accused may be punished, regardless of their direct involvement in the crime.
The severe consequences of treason in North Korea emphasize the importance of loyalty to the regime and the government's efforts to maintain control over its population. The fear of punishment for treason acts as a strong deterrent for potential dissenters and ensures the continued power of the North Korean government.
The legal drinking age in North Korea is 17 years old, and the consumption of alcohol is generally allowed in the country. However, there are strict regulations and limitations in place. For example, public drunkenness is not tolerated, and heavy penalties can be imposed on those who engage in such behavior. Additionally, alcohol consumption is closely monitored by the government, and licenses are required for the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol consumption plays a significant role in North Korean culture and social life. Traditional Korean alcoholic beverages, such as soju and makgeolli, are popular in the country. These beverages are often consumed during special occasions, festivals, and ceremonies, as well as in family gatherings and other social events.
However, the role of alcohol in North Korean society is not without its controversies. The government has long been known for its strict control over the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages. This control is often cited as a means of exerting influence over the population and maintaining order.
While alcohol consumption is generally allowed in North Korea, the consequences of excessive drinking can be severe. The country has a high rate of alcohol-related health problems, and alcoholism is a significant issue. Furthermore, the government’s strict control over alcohol production and distribution can contribute to a lack of variety in available beverages and a lower quality of alcohol compared to what is available in other countries.