The Kim Dynasty has been in charge of North Korea for around 100 years now. A United Korea seemed like a possibility at one point, but the realism of this happening grows fainter by the day. The Kim's were by no means an easy sort of family to get along with. They held a dictator-like atmosphere and would have no problem ending the lives of any one of their people if they interfered with something they wanted. Even if that is a family member outside the direct family.
While the nation of North Korea has been known as a hermit nation due to the fact that the people rarely leave and few barely come in, they have still been public as much as possible. The original Kim did not care about this as much, but it became a much bigger deal for his son and now, grandson. This is why they have been all over the news for over a decade making veiled threats that they rarely go through with.
Kim Jong-Un has been the Supreme Leader of North Korea ever since the passing of his father a few years back. Once he came on board, a lot of things changed up more than people assumed they would. While many of the laws stayed the same, Kin Jong-Un had to prove himself as the new leader. Like his father, Kim Jong-Un propped himself up as a God. Most of his people know he isn't one, but they won't say it out loud. This is for obvious reasons.
Kim has also been open about outsiders coming into the nation. While many do not go to North Korea, there are a number of people who have. Most of them tend to be filmmakers, journalists, or those who have Korean routes. Many people are taken by surprise about how much goes on when they arrive here. This place is unlike any you've seen in even other dictator-led nations or monarchies. Regardless of why you may want to go here, one thing is for sure...there is a lot you need to know before you do so. We felt we could help you out there. That said, here are 20 things you need to know and be aware of when traveling to Kim Jong-Un's North Korea.
20 You're Going To Be Watched And Followed
While North Korea understands outsiders are not going to know about their laws or multiple daily rules, they often force people to abide by them anyway. While they do go lighter on them at times, it's not always that simple. Due to the fact that North Korea shields its people from the outside world,
they force people to remain with guards throughout their stay in the nation. Those guards will accompany them everywhere to keep an eye on them. Foreigners also have to comply with all things the guard tells them or face punishment for it.
Yes, that means possible prison time or execution...in case you were wondering. They not only restrict who you speak with but also where you go. Upon arrival, it is pretty rough. They stick you with someone who barely speaks your language if he does at all. They do not let you roam or even enjoy a trip, as they follow you everywhere. Don't assume it's just them, however. They stick many eyes on you, so the guard is only a small portion of your watchmen. The guard is pressured to do a good job as well, for if he does not...not only will the government likely hurt him or imprison him, but also his family. They even threaten to execute. So these guards are often strict and forceful for understandable reasons.
19 You Should Not Go With Family
One of the most important things ones can know when heading to North Korea is to never go there with family. The reason for this is due to current laws in the nation, but one in particular. It is called the "Three Generations Rule." We wrote above about how you can easily be followed as an outsider and any law broken can be troubling. What if you weren't the only person affected by this? North Korea introduced this law in 1972 as a way to curb crime. What it does is push for people to not to commit a crime, or risk not only their own future but their family's as well.
If you break a law, North Korea can rule that an immediate family member will go with you to prison. Let's pretend a son breaks the law, his father or even mother could be sent along with him. That does not mean they'll share a cell or even the same prison. The sentence will be the exact length for both as well, despite one not doing anything wrong. This has allowed North Korea to keep family on the lookout for troubled family members, especially elders. This law does not affect all people who commit a crime, but it could if ruled as such. It is likely that an outsider will see stricter punishments and this would likely be part of it. That said, leave the family at home.
18 The Media Is Completely State-Controlled
Don't assume going to North Korea will allow you to keep up with your favorite television shows or news stations, as it is likely you won't be able to do such. Every home, hotel, or apartment is stocked with a radio that is completely controlled by the nation. Funny story though. The constitution of the country has freedom of speech... we're totally serious. However, this is a dictator-led nation and not a constitutional republic. This means anything written into it can be overlooked by Kim Jong-Un and anyone who leads after him. That goes for media especially. Keep in mind, North Korea pushes that Kim is a God. Due to the fact that he clearly isn't one, they don't want you to hear about this.
The people here are given the state-controlled media as a way to stop the problem before it happens.
It is now well known that listening to unauthorized foreign media or possessing any sort of publication that has not been cleared by North Korea is considered "crimes against the state." Yes, that means you will be thrown into prison if you're found out. It is super easy to avoid foreign media, as one can simply only listen to what the country provides on their radio. They do have state media on television too, and about 3 channels you can tun to. Though clearly, this won't be in any other language than Korean, and they don't have translations. Good luck!
17 Don't Try Getting Into Bed With A Korean Person
North Korea has a very bad view of interracial relationships. It's not like they are the only country with this problem, however. In the United States alone, it was illegal to marry someone of a different race than you for some time. Today the country allows it without any issue and even passed same-s*x marriage a few years back as well. Though there are people who still do not care for either. While North Korea made a law that they have kept to regarding relationships. The biggest of the two would be on interracial relationships, however. We normally think of someone black and white getting together as interracial, but that is not the way North Korea sees it.
"North Korean" is a race to them. So a man from another nation walks into North Korea and gets with a North Korean man or woman, he can be arrested for such an act. This counts for other Asians and Koreans too. Up until peace talks began very recently, even South Koreans getting with North Koreans was considered wrong too. That said, there are multiple good-looking people in North Korea despite how the nation might be viewed. However, that does not mean one can walk in there and expect to get into bed with someone from the nation. Remember, you'll be watched a lot. So this won't be easy to even get close to doing, but some will likely try. Do not be that dummy.
16 Keep Their Calender Difference In Mind
Most nations go by the normal calendar that we've seen dating back to Roman times and some following. While the one we use today is not exact, it is much better than the one you might be seeing in North Korea. The founder of North Korea, Kim-II Sung's birthday is how they mark their calendar.
While we're all near the middle of 2018, North Korea is in year 106 as that would be the age of Kim-II Sung if he was still alive.
He was born on April 15, 1912. Each year his birthday is considered a holiday in the nation and is celebrated heavily by the capitol. North Korea has made it out to be a spectacle each year.
Most of the time, they do military parades on this day and usually debut their new equipment to the rest of the world. This is truly how most find out what North Korea is packing, and has become a custom to do now. This is on top of fireworks and many other things. By the way, you will be required to be around during all of this if you happen to be around on April 15th in a given year. The calendar can be quite confusing because of the fact that you're not in the normal year. People grow up never knowing the one the rest of the world uses as well. However, the more you see it...the easier it is to learn and understand, it appears.
15 Watch Out If You're Walking On The Street
North Korea is not exactly known for their breakthrough technology these days. So it should come to no surprise that they have a limited portion of traffic lights in the entire country. Some think we might mean a few towns or cities. This would be incorrect. The entire nation has a limited amount, and many of them are no longer working or have continuous issues. Most of the roads use crossing guards of sorts, so basically traffic officers, who help to run the streets. Could they not just repair the stop light or replace it? Of course, but things we take for granted here are not there for North Korea.
Despite the wealth they have shown in Kim Jong-Un, most of the country is poor. When it comes to Monarchs and Dictators, Kim is one of the poorest in fact. The entire nation has an economic problem that has plagued it for some time. For years private businesses were illegal, and when Kim opened them up after his father's passing, he only allowed a small fraction. This saw the economy go up a bit, but their dependence on China among issues with understanding basic economy hurt them. As a result, less money is present. This means that while they could very well force someone within the nation to repair a light for free...they have to buy the technology to build the new thing.
They have to have more for sure, but they need the money to make those as well...and maintain them. This is why it is easier to use traffic officers to guide things. Keep on the lookout for them, and learn how they signal. It's not completely like you see it back home.
14 Don't Fall For The Propaganda City
After the Korean War, North Korea felt it would be best to sort of show off how they were similar to the rest of the world. This pushed them to create a city right near the South Korean border as propaganda. It is called the Peace Village because it sounds so nice, right? Wrong!! Foreigners are often shown this area first to sort of show the similarities of North Korea and other cities.
This city, in theory, was supposed to make people assume NK would be as good as the rest when in reality they are hurting heavily economically and starving their people. This is well known by now, but it wasn't always.
It is brightly colored and looks nice from the outside though. The idea was that it would possibly attract South Korean defectors or may make foreigners outside Asia assume it was not bad. However, if you ever get the chance to see it up close...you'll notice an issue. It's not a real city at all. The lights are all on timers throughout a given day and all the buildings are concrete, and all areas where glass would normally be are without it. The only sight of people you may find are the ones who work for maintenance. They regularly sweep the city and keep it looking clean to give off the impression. Though we all know that it's not real. Keep this in mind before assuming the rest of the nation is like this. It'll likely be the first you'll see of them, but it will be the best part.....and it's fake.
13 Watch Out For North Korean Sports Rules
North Korea is similar enough to the rest of the world to have known about sports and to even have teams of their own. Soccer is the world's most popular sport, and it is played here. However, they also have basketball and phew...are the rules nuts. In international play versus NBA play, rules can differ somewhat. We know this, as it's well established when we watch the Summer Olympics or European Leagues play. Some can switch up based on goaltending, what counts as a foul, and more. Though the points are the same, and free throws are based on the same measure of thinking.
Overall, the rules are similar enough to each other to actually be useful to NBA players who play under the rules, as they're far more restricted normally. In North Korea however, the rules are insanely different. They have a 4-point shot for three-pointers who do not touch the rim, have very different foul rules, and people like Shaquille O'Neal would call their free throws a nightmare. While they have them from the same line, any missed free throw deducts a point. This makes it even more important to either not get fouled or to not miss when you're at the line. Seriously, someone check on Shaq...we think he passed out. These are not the only unique sports rules. Get the chance to look into them before you go, as it could help to make friends with the locals if you're good.
12 North Korean Leaders Will Tell You They Are Not Communist...But They Are (And Don't Dare Tell Them Otherwise)
North Korea is a nation that likes to separate itself as something different from the rest of the world and from any other place that could call itself a place before them. This is why they claim to never be a communist nation when asked about being such. They do this to try and stand out. They're like that high school girl who dyed her hair a weird color to stand out, but Stacy Peters did it a few years ago with the exact same color. Yet the girl remains under the belief that no one but her has had this hair before, now, or at any point. She's wrong, as North Korea is as well. They claim to follow the Juche ideology.
They claim it means: "rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, and believing in one’s own strength." Yet most all of their laws and how they do things completely line up with communist. They also ruin their own terminology, as the heavily rely on China.
They are consistently in the news bragging about the strength they do not have though, so partial areas of this can fit it seems. Though we're all pretty sure they're communist. Why is this something you need to know? Flat out calling them a communist nation can land you in hot water if you're there doing so. In fact, it could land you in prison or sentenced to join your family and friends in the great beyond. We advise keeping it to yourself.
11 North Korea Does Not Quite Have The Hang Of Fertilizer (Just Yet)
You may smell something in the air when you go into North Korea, and we'd forgive you if you assumed it did not smell good. It truly does not. There's a reason for this. It is likely you have gone outside and planted something before, right? It might be a simple plant, a tree, or perhaps something like fruits and vegetables. Obviously, you used fertilizer to help with this, as it is needed to properly grow the thing you're wishing to plant. Most fertilizer is made from cow manure. Basically, we can use this from a cow because their diet often consists of plant-based material. Due to their diet being so high in things like grass, we can use what comes out of their business as a useful fertilizer after of course doing some stuff with it to help it become said fertilizer.
Cows are not exactly seen in abundance in North Korea, however. In fact, animals, in general, are not always abundant in North Korea in a major way for a number of reasons. People are often poor and starving, so they eat them...any animal. This means that they cannot properly afford normal fertilizer either. So people tend to use what comes from them, from their own business, for fertilizer. This leads to North Korean people having to offer up their own stuff for fertilizer. It is demanded by the government. While this can work for fertilizer, it is not as effective as the normal kind we use. Because well, obviously.
10 Most Of The Nation Looks And IS In Poverty (Beware Of Those Places...)
When people think about North Korea, they think about the various issues in poverty. They know of the issues with resources and the problems with the economy. In fact, many believe the current peace talks with South Korea is to help them with beefing up their economic value.
Right now, the average income is quite low. It equates to about $1,800 annually per person. That is at only 2% what the mean income is in South Korea right now. While South Korea is not swimming in money by any means, that should show you how economically deceased North Korea happens to be.
Over 25 million people currently live in poverty in the nation, and that number continues to grow. Most of the cities look bad and almost as if you went back in time to the first civilizations. They're so bad off in fact, that they will eat almost anything. Back in 2013, it was revealed that cannibalism had become a huge problemmin the country among the poor. It is likely you will be fresh meat to some areas in the nation you will come across. Due to this, you must learn about the poorest areas most known for the problem before you go and steer clear. Most of the nation is poor and clearly poor looking, but some spots are worse than others.
9 The Capital Of Pyongyang Is Pretty Nice Though, Sometimes
While the North Korean capital of Pyongyang is considered to be relatively nice, and almost like paradise compared to the rest of the nation, it isn't amazing. Also do not assume you can just walk right into the city either, as it's likely you'll be stopped right away. It is guarded well, which does make sense. It is where Kim Jong-Un lives and it's a fortress the closer you get to his place of residence. However, it is likely you cannot enter easily even if you were not considered a threat. The city is for the elite only, meaning entering it requires a lot to be present.
The people who are here are the most elite in the country, so they're going to be the most wealthy. However, they're also likely to be the most loyal North Korean citizens and the most trustworthy compared to others. They also have to be among the healthiest. This is not asking as much from them, compared to others though. The city has amenities that others do not have, and there's a lot of sicknesses that can spread in poorer areas. You do not see this here, so it is much easier to stay healthy. Though some can be sick, it could be much worse. That said, the best area of North Korea may not even let you inside.
8 There are Severe Education Problems In North Korea
Remember that being poor will be a theme for our list on North Korea because the nation is run on that very problem despite it. North Korea is very big on the idea that they're well educated and on par with any Western nation. Western nations, by the way, mean any nation to the West of them. This is not necessarily the United States but also The UK, France, Italy, etc. In fact, they claim North Koreans have a 99% literacy rate. This would certainly put them on par with the West and actually somewhat better than others. But this is a load of crap and education is not as important as they make it out to be. The reason has to do with how their system is run.
They force students, basically parents, to pay for a lot of things regarding education. Students must pay for their desks, chairs, books, papers, all general supplies, as well as heating and air for the building. They literally pay for all but the teacher, who comes supplied by the government who takes taxes out of the people too.
This has caused several parents to pull their children from school, causing many to be undereducated. This is a huge problem in the poorer areas of the nation where Pyongyang sees it far less often due to the wealth they possess in comparison to others. That said, be mindful of the less educated people who likely cannot understand anything you may have written down in Korean.
7 Mary-Jane Is 100% Legal In North Korea, But Be Aware
In one of the most interesting things you'll likely hear about, Cannabis is 100% legal in North Korea. Many countries are now seeing the benefits of the plant, and have discovered the medical use of it now more than ever. While the U.S. has not legalized recreational use in every state, many have started to pass the medical use of it. Yet in North Korea, marijuana has been legal for some time. The people often offer it to people when they visit, and it's commonly smoked on the streets right in the open. In many nations who have a passed law on weed, it does have some laws attached to it such as where to smoke and where not to smoke.
North Korea's rules on the stuff are pretty loose, especially compared to the rest of the world. Purchasing it is very easy, and due to the poor nature of the nation, it's relatively cheap. In America and many other nations, buying the stuff even in legal terms can get expensive due to taxing. In California alone, it'll cost you $100 for a mere ounce of the legal stuff. The street version, and the less safe version at that, can go lower. But due to legal laws, they have been able to up their amount too. North Korea's stuff is legal but not always safe. While it is cool a nation is offering a relatively cheap thing that other nations won't pass, it would be best to not purchase any sort of drug or hallucinogenic from a foreign nation of any kind. Seriously, this is common sense.
6 Be Mindful Of NOT Practicing Religion
There's a lot of interesting fine print in the constitution North Korea uses. Like America, they also have a freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Yet this is not exactly true on both ends, as they never said your speaking won't cause you to be punished. They also do not mind if you call yourself Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or anything else. However, they do not allow the "practicing" of religion. This is mostly regarding Western religions like Judaism and Christianity, with the latter being their biggest issue among them all. Why is this important to know? There are a lot of things we say that we do not consider.
Saying something like "oh my Lord, oh my God, bless you, I'll pray for you" or anything similar can be considered practicing religion. This means even Atheists who say a few of those can get in trouble for practicing a religion they do not even believe in.
Obviously, we know praying or worshipping a God is going to be obvious and therefore must be done in secret. Even merely owning a Bible, Torah, or other religious book similar can be grounds for practicing a religion. If you are caught...you can be thrown into prison. Be very careful with this one.
5 Don't Assume Driving Is Going To Ever Happen For You
While being poor is part of the problem here, it's actually not the main issue regarding driving. While anyone is free to ride in a vehicle, not everyone is allowed to drive one. The people who are must be male and must work for the government. That said, the entire country has possibly 100 cars on the street at a time. Most of these vehicles can be seen in the capital area, as more government officials work out of this area of the country. This means walking or possible animal riding is the most common way to travel in the country compared to a car.
When one comes into North Korea, it is likely they'll be offered a ride into town. This is both a good and bad thing. It'll surely save you from walking all the way, but it is also likely that they could be taking you somewhere they know best and will keep an eye on you there. Guards are under orders to take foreigners to certain areas of the country for propaganda purposes or they take them to areas that the nation has wired and eyes on in a major way. Usually, this is nearest to the capital. Overall, no one is in the nation from outside of it that they do not know about.
4 Disrespecting Kim Jong-Un Could Mean Your Life (In Many Forms)
A lot of things are considered to be disrespectful toward the Supreme Leader of North Korea. Kim Jong-Un is like an adult-child, so he must be worshipped like a God whenever he is near. If there is any form of disrespect, the person part of this will be put in prison. However, he often executes people for such a crime against him. There is one now-infamous incident where the North Korean Minister of Defense was executed with an anti-aircraft gun for falling asleep at one of Kim Jong-Un's events. Seriously, that was his crime...we wish we were joking.
On top of this, June 8th is considered a holiday due to it being the day Kim-II passed away.
They now treat it as a national holiday and ban multiple things. One cannot drink or have joy of any kind. This means dance, singing, art, gaming, and so much more are banned. Anyone breaking this law will often be put into prison or executed.
They also hold elections every 5 years where people are forced to vote. There is usually only one name on the ballot, being a Kim. If they do have someone run, it is usually a paid actor who is there to lose. The Kim's never lose, even if they may have.
It is considered disrespectful to vote against them seemingly, so if your vote goes through with your name...that could be bad for you. Whenever referring to a Kim, it must be held in high esteem. You must call them "Dear Kim" or "Supreme Kim" for example. That said, be mindful of their meanings on disrespect as well as holidays regarding fallen members of the family.
3 You Won't Need Your Phone, Will You?
Perhaps you bought the new iPhone or perhaps you bought the new Samsung phone and it didn't blow up on you. Regardless of what you have or the company you use, they all have one thing in common. You're allowed to go to another nation and make international calls. In fact, if the phone of another person in London has international calling....you could call them in America without an issue. Or you could call someone in America from London using your American phone. This is known stuff, of course. However, phones like ours are considered Western and are often not allowed in North Korea. The guards inspect people as they come in and take any device they find. They claim that they'll hold onto it until you leave. But they often go under inspection, and you may not get them back at all. Especially phones.
If you do manage to sneak your phone by the people at the border, be careful to keep all calls home hidden. Also, do not assume you can use a North Korean phone to make such a call. All international calls are forbidden, and all North Korean phones have a way of alerting the authorities for such a call. This means you cannot call anywhere outside the country without permission, and you could even be executed for doing this. If using the phone of a family or place of business in the nation, the family or manager could be executed along with you. That said, don't do it!
2 Clothing Is Not Really Open Here
Both men and women have to follow a large set of rules on clothing and even style overall. All haircuts for the people of North Korea must be government approved. At one point, all boys had to get their hair cut exactly like Kim Jong-Un's. Of course, who would not want to look like him? The swamp rat from South Jersey look is the height of fashion everywhere, right? Clothing is certainly the biggest point of contention. Many Asian clothes are beautiful, and legendary in how they look. Japan, China, India, Russia, etc. all have some absolutely tremendous clothes and popular models have even come out of these nations.
However, some clothes from these nations are not allowed but mostly anything considered the Western style is outlawed completely. That means those favorite jeans of yours...they're illegal.
In fact, your entire wardrobe may very well be considered illegal. We recommend looking into North Korean style and what they allow. From here, you can know what to buy and bring with you to avoid any sort of problem with the authorities. At times, they do offer some replacement clothing for people coming into the country. Though it is not always as common and only high profile visitors are given this or even allowed to keep on what they came in with at any point. Now you know why Dennis Rodman got away with it. He does have some NBA Titles, of course.
1 You Didn't Think You Were Just Going To Leave When You Went There, Did You?
So you've now enjoyed your vacation to one of the worst nations on the planet. While we are obviously so jealous of your trip, it is quite likely you cannot wait to get home and tell your friends about your time spent here. Yet this is not exactly easy to do. Currently, North Koreans alone cannot leave the country under their own free will. They must have government clearance first, and they can only stay for a certain period of time. Usually, if they do not come back, families remaining in the country are often punished as a result. That said, most who flee try to do so in the night and escape without the government knowing. It is not always easy. Most people also never know of the outside world and if it is as bad as North Korea claims it is.
Due to this, they have no clue on if they could survive upon their departure. This is why most stay put. Those who do not have mentioned how difficult it was to make such a decision. Those who enter North Korea from the outside world are not allowed to really converse with the people here. They are given a guard with them most of the time who forces them to comply with all the rules they have in place. Remember, a violation could mean prison. Speaking of such, several foreigners have been thrown into North Korean prison over the years. Some even executed. Going here is taking a risk that you may never go back home. Go if you dare.