North Korea has a population of over 25 million people, but the country has been isolated for decades. It has prompted the rest of the world to come up with some bizarre theories and facts about the country and the way of life of its people.
However, today we will separate fact from fiction by sharing the most astounding North Korea facts with you!
15 Mind-Boggling North Korea Facts
1. North Korea Is Not Communist
Many of us believe that North Korea follows the ideology of communism derived from Marxism-Leninism. However, they gave up this philosophy back in the ‘50s, around the same time the idea of Juche emerged.
North Korean history suggests that the Juche idea started in 1926 to continue the tradition of Marx and Lenin’s teachings. Little by little, the mention of communism was taken out of their constitution, and by 2009’s revision, it completely disappeared.
2. They Have Flowers Named After Supreme Leaders
Kimilsungias and Kimjongilia are two hybrid flowers (orchid and begonia, respectively) found in North Korea. You must have already guessed that the names are based on their leaders, but that’s not the most interesting thing about this fact.
These flowers hold great meaning to the people of North Korea and they hold annual exhibitions to see which family grows them best. Despite that, Kimilsungias and Kimjongilia do not represent their national identity.
3. Almost No One Uses the Internet
The country has one internet server for the entire nation, so not even 1% of their population is on the internet. All the citizens are restricted from using the internet, but they have access to the domestic intranet connection permitted by the government. It’s state-controlled access called Kwangmyong.
This intranet connection service is free of charge and allows access to a selected list of censored websites. But most North Koreans can’t even afford to have a computer so they don’t use Kwangmyong either.
4. It’s (Not) A Tax-Free Country
North Korean citizens do not have to pay any taxes as they were eliminated in 1974. However, this applies to the domestic tax only!
The government still collects hidden taxes from citizens in the form of sales tax and turnover tax. The turnover tax is similar to VAT and makes most of the state’s revenue, but they don’t call it ‘tax.’ The interesting thing about the North Korean tax is that they call it ‘Socialist Income Accounting’ or something similar to it.
5. They Are the Leading Exporters of Seafood
Fish and seafood make up a quarter of all the products that are exported from North Korea. They partner with China for most of their trading, which accounts for 60% of the country’s international trade. They are also part of the top 20 countries that export seafood.
Another major export of North Korea is coal which is illegally shipped and brings about $350 million in revenue.
6. Kim Il-sung Became the Eternal Leader Posthumously
While Kim Jong-un has the title of Workers’ Party Chairman, Supreme Leader, and Supreme Commander of the Army, he is not the president of the country. The title of Eternal Leader of North Korea is held by Kim Il-sung, who is dead.
Kim Il-sung received the status posthumously, but oddly enough, the people of North Korea do not seem to think that necrocracy is strange.
7. More Than 40% of North Koreans Are Undernourished
North Korea had an undernourished population of 37.5% back in 2000, but it has increased to 43.4% within two decades. In contrast, the number of undernourished children under five has decreased. This data is based on the Global Hunger Index.
Based on the index, North Korea ranks 109th as the undernourished country among the 199 nations. On the other hand, if we look at the country alone, we can see that since the 1990s famine, the North Korean situation has become dangerous in terms of nutrition and nourishment.
8. They Have Two Economies
Their two economies are the reason North Korea is still strong and thriving despite the living situation of its citizens. There is a state-run economy and an underground one that makes the revenue for the state.
North Koreans have two prices for everything in the country. The same is true for salaries: one worker might get a different pay compared to another who works in a Chinese factory.
9. Arirang Festival Has 0.4% Population of the Country
Arirang Festival is held in North Korea, consisting of Mass Games. It has a special ideological character setting with an emphasis on the Worker’s Party of Korea, especially their leaders Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il. Interestingly, the Arirang Festival is also part of Guinness World Records.
Every year, a large mass performance takes place at the event. More than 100,000 people participate from the population of 25 million. Rungrado 1st of May Stadium is where they hold the festival. This is the largest stadium in the world given its seating capacity of 114,000.
10. North Korean Hackers Have Stolen $670 Million
Given the fact that North Koreans do not have access to global networks and only a few people can afford to use the domestic intranet, it’s hard to imagine how their hackers would have managed to steal $670 million.
A UN Security Council’s panel has established that North Korean hackers have stolen foreign currency and cryptocurrency. It’s reported that they stole $81 million from Bangladesh, $10 million from an ATM network in Chile, and $13.5 million from India.
11. They Once Broadcast Military Marches for 20 Hours Per Day
Kijong-dong is a famous border town in North Korea with a 160-meter-tall flagpole. It was considered the tallest until 2010. There used to be a loudspeaker at this flagpole that would broadcast encouragements and delights for defected South Koreans.
When that failed to anger their neighbors, they started broadcasting military marches in 2004. It went on for 20 hours each day at full volume. The South Koreans responded with their famous K-Rock songs and the noise became impossible to bear for people on both sides. Eventually, both sides turned off their radio broadcasts.
12. Men and Women Must Serve in the Military
Many countries in the world have mandatory military service, but North Koreans are on a different level when it comes to this rule. They require each male who turns 18 to serve in the army for at least 10 years. This used to be 13 years until the term changed in 2003.
As for women, it became an obligation in 2015. They have to start serving as soon as they graduate high school and stay in the army until they turn 23. In North Korea, there are a total of 1 million active military soldiers and 6 million paramilitary personnel!
13. They Have a Propaganda Village Sharing Borders with South Korea
Remember the fact about Kijong-dong having the tallest flagpole and an exceptionally loud loudspeaker? Well, here is another surprising fact about this town.
Kijong-dong is a village at the border of South Korea that was built to show the luxuries of living in the North and entice South Koreans to defect. The place had streets patrolled by soldiers and buildings with electricity (which is a rarity for citizens in North Korea!). However, the South soon figured out that the town was fake with no floors, ceilings, or walls.
14. They Make an Estimated $50 Million Per Year from Illegal Activities
As part of the second economy of North Korea, it is estimated that their government managed to acquire $50 million from illegal activities in 2008. These activities included drug selling and printing fake US bills. The UN states that the illegal money is used to fund the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un’s lifestyle.
However, there are no official statistics from North Korea to show this revenue from illegal activities. They have also denied the claims, which makes it hard to verify the information.
15. Defecting from North Korea Costs $12,000
Since Kim Jong Un took over in 2011, it has become almost impossible for North Koreans to defect. It costs a fortune for them, considering they do not make more than $2,000 per year.
As stated in the Washington Post, a person defecting from North Korea needs to pay their broker a sum of $12,000 to move to South Korea. If a family member has defected and is willing to pay the fee to help others defect, the process becomes much easier.
50 Insane Facts About North Korea You Didn’t Know
Wow so many interesting things here. Honestly, number 30 is what surprised me the most.
We hope you enjoyed these North Korea facts as much as we did. Our favorite fact was the one about the 20-hour military march broadcast in full volume just to annoy South Korea! We know that North Koreans can be a bit extreme but this fact is just mind-blowing.
Despite everything, these facts are just a small window into the secretive world of North Korea that most of us don’t know about. Let’s hope we can learn more about it and the people who live there!
Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.