25 Interesting Facts about North Korea

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Last updated: February 7, 2019

Want to know more about North Korea? Here are 25 Interesting Facts about North Korea that you probably didn’t know before reading this!

To make this even more fun, I want to challenge you as well. How many of these North Korea facts did you know before reading this? Share your result in the comment section!

1. There are only 15 approved haircuts

On the positive end, it’s gender equal as both sexes have 15 haircuts that are approved by the regime. However, none of the men’s approved haircuts are similar to their supreme leader’s. 

2. They don’t follow the same timeline as Western countries

The North Korean calendar counts the year after its founder, Kim II-Sung’s birthday in 1912. So, while we’re living in 2019, over there it’s still year 107. 

3. Home to the world’s largest stadium

With seats for 150.000 people, the Rungrado Stadium in North Korea is without a doubt the biggest stadium in the world. Michigan Stadium comes at second place with over 40.000 seats less. 

4. There is a ‘three generations of punishment’ policy

If someone breaks the law, it’s not only that person who gets punished, but the whole family for three generations forward. 

5. The North Korean army is estimated to have more than 1.2 million soldiers

While it’s not the most powerful military force in the world, experts say that the North Korean army is definitely the largest with more than 1.2 million soldiers. 

6. Kim Il-sung bought 1,000 Volvo cars from Sweden but never paid for them

So, as a Swede, this is definitely one of the most random facts about North Korea. The founder Kim II-Sung bought Volvo cars from Sweden in the ’70s but never paid for them.

Apparently, the Swedish government still sends invoices each year, and the current debt is around 2.8 million USD.

7. There are only 3 tv-channels

Korean Central Television (KCTV) is the main channel and it’s available all over the country. The others are only available on the weekends. 

South Korean operas are very popular, and are illegally broadcasted or smuggled in. However, if the regime finds out about it, the penalty could be as harsh as death. 

North Korean tv

Photo: Shutterstock

8. It’s the only country in the world that has a US Navy Ship captured

The American USS Pueblo spy ship was captured in 1968, with 83 Americans on-board. They were kept for 11 months, and the whole situation nearly escalated into a full-scale war between the two nations. 

9. There is a huge Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Between South and North Korea, there is a huge demilitarized zone, known as DMZ. It’s 248 kilometers long and about 4 kilometers wide. 

North Korea facts

Photo: Shutterstock

10. Only about 5,000 Western tourists per year

Most tourists who come here are from China, and many go by buses. As for Western tourists, only about 5000-6000 visit each year. The number is increasing though as more and more people get curious and want to see what it’s like. 

11. Women are a fully integrated part of the country’s workforce and military

While the women are integrated into society, there is a huge downside that many defectors have described. Many women are forced to attend parties and fulfill sexual duties to men who work for the regime.

Officials go through the schools around the country and handpick teenage girls for “work”. There are also several reports from defectors of domestic violence towards women. 

North Korean Women

Photo: Astrelok / Shutterstock.com

12. Human feces is used for fertilizing

Due to poverty, farmers need to use human feces as fertilizer. This is increasing the risk for diseases and spread of parasites. 

13. Paektusan is the tallest mountain at 2744 meters

Mount Paektu is nearly 1000 meters taller than the highest mountain in South Korea, the Hallasan Mountain on Jeju Island. 

Mount Paektu

Photo: Shutterstock

14. North Korea has 51 “Social Categories”

While each society has some form of classes depending on several factors, no other nation is known to have categories over their citizens depending on how loyal they are to the government. 
 
If you’re a very loyal citizen, then you’ll be put into a higher ranked social category. 

15. Pyongyang is only for the elite

All citizens of Pyongyang are known as trustworthy citizens that are loyal to the regime. Kim Jong Un and the government decides who and if someone is worthy to live in the capital. 

Life is very different in Pyongyang, and as of 2018, there are even restaurants serving international food, such as hamburgers and pizza. 

Pyongyang

Photo: Shutterstock

Bonus Fact

Every North Korean household has been given a government radio that can’t be turned off. You’re only allowed to turn the volume down. 

5 x Random Facts about North Korea

  • Kim Jong Il is said to have scored a perfect 300 score the first time he went bowling, and the first time he played golf he managed to do 11 hole-in-ones. 
  • It is illegal to wear jeans
  • Parents who send their kids to school are required to provide their own desks and chairs
  • Kim Jong Un supposedly learned how to drive at the age of 3
  • Kim Jong-il never used a toilet. He was so perfect that he didn’t need to urinate or defecate
Kim_Jong_il_Portrait

Kim Jong il

5 x North Korea Facts for Kids

  • The current leader is Kim Jong Un, which is the grandson of Kim II-Sung
  • A Mythical winged horse, known as Chollima is the national animal
  • North Koreans born after the Korean War are about 2 inches shorter than South Koreans on average
  • It’s only allowed to listen to music if the artist and song is approved by the government
  • They have their own rules for basketball. For example, you can get 4-points, and missed free throws result in losing points. Also, slam dunks are worth 3 points. 
Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

General Facts about North Korea

Below are some general info such as total population, land area, biggest lake, highest mountain and other general facts about North Korea that might be interesting to know.

  • Total Population: 25,49 million people
  • Capital: Pyongyang
  • Life expectancy: 71,68 years
  • Highest Mountain: Mount Paektu (2744 meters)
  • Land area: 120,540 km2 (46,540 square miles)
  • Largest Lake: Heaven Lake
  • National Day: 9th September
  • Government: Unitary one-party republic
  • President: Kim Jong-un
  • Currency: North Korean won (₩) (KPW)
  • Official language: Korean
  • Religion: No official statistics. 63% is supposedly irreligious
  • Member of Nato: No
  • National song: “Aegukka”
  • Time zone: UTC+9 (Pyongyang Time)
  • Country Number/Prefix: +850
  • Country Code: KP

The Biggest Cities in North Korea

If you’re looking for facts about North Korea, it might also be interesting to know which are the biggest cities. Here’s a list of the top 10 biggest North Korean cities ranked after population.

  • Pyongyang
  • Hamhung
  • Chongjin
  • Nampo
  • Wonsan
  • Sinuiju
  • Tanchon
  • Kaechon
  • Kaesong
  • Sariwon

Flag of North Korea

North Korean Flag

Map of North Korea

North Korea Map

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How many of these North Korea Facts did you know beforehand? Share your result in the comment section below!

January 25th, 2019|

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Swedish Nomad

Hello! I’m Alex Waltner — A Swedish Travel Blogger & Photographer.

My vision with this blog is to inspire people to travel more and better by sharing useful travel guides and tips from my adventures around the world.

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