11 Interesting Facts About Reclusive ‘North Korea’
North Korea's Leader Kim Jong-un (Photo: pixabay)

North Korea remains among the world’s most closed-off countries in the world. Its reclusiveness has earned it the nickname “hermit kingdom.” But, as it stands currently, North Korea is considered a form of dictatorship, having been led by one family since September 9, 1948.

  1. The policy of self-reliance, or “juche,” meaning that North Korea will be economically and diplomatically independent regardless of famine or national tragedy, was put in place by North Korea’s founder and first leader, Kim Il Sung.
  2. During its seven-decade existence, North Korea has been ruled by three generations of the same family. Kim Jong Un, 34, grandson of Kim Il Sung, came to power in 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.
  3. Annual GDP per person was $1,800, in 2014, among the lowest in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The GDP per person in South Korea in 2016 was $37,900, according to the Factbook.
  4. Between 150,000 and 200,000 North Koreans live in prison camps surrounded by electrified fencing, according to South Korean government estimates and Human Rights Watch. As many as 40% of camp prisoners die from malnutrition while doing mining, logging and agricultural work with rudimentary tools in harsh conditions, according to a 2011 Amnesty International report.
  5. North Koreans must abide by one of 28 approved haircuts. Unmarried women must have short hair, but married woman have many more options. The hair of young men should be less than 2 inches long, older men can go as long as 2¾ inches, according to a Taiwanese website WantChinaTimes.
  6. All legal televisions are tuned to state-controlled domestic programming. The Internet does not exist other than a closed domestic network. Few North Koreans know anything about world events apart from how they are described by North Korean state propaganda.
  7. North Korea has a network of informants who monitor and report to the authorities fellow citizens they suspect of criminal or subversive behavior. Unauthorized access to non-state radio or TV broadcasts is severely punished.
  8. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006. Two were conducted in 2016, including one that North Korea said was a powerful hydrogen bomb. The North is believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but the size is unknown.
  9. The border between North Korea and South Korea is one of the most militarized in the world, according to the State Department. Pyongyang has about 1.2 million military personnel compared with 680,000 troops in South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops are also stationed.
  10. Nearly 6 million North Koreans are reservists in the worker/peasant guard, compulsory to the age of 60.
  11. As many as 2 million people died as a result of famine in the 1990s caused by erratic government farming policies and flooding, according to the United Nations.