Today I am joined by author Erika Mitchell author of Bai Tide.
Unless you’re like me and have just spent the last two years writing and revising a book that takes place in North Korea, you probably don’t know much about the famed Hermit Kingdom. That’s understandable. The country is the size of Pennsylvania, and the vast majority of the country does not have access to the Internet.
Throughout the course of my research, I’ve learned some interesting things about this terrible place and so now I share them with you. One of my goals in setting this book in North Korea was to subtly bring attention to some of the atrocities twenty five million North Koreans have to live with, and my goal with this blog post was to not-so-subtly share some things you may not have known. Without further ado, I present to you…
Ten Things You Didn’t Know About North Korea:
- North Koreans are only allowed to choose from twenty eight government-approved haircuts.
- Contrary to popular belief, North Korea is actually not Communist. Their official political ideology is called Juche, which was founded off the principle of self-reliance. Juche is the reason North Korea is cut off from most of the world politically, economically, and ideologically.
- Wearing jeans is illegal in North Korea, as is owning a Bible, watching non-North Korean TV programs, and distributing pornography. Funny enough, marijuana is not illegal and is not even classified as a drug.
- There are pockets of North Koreans working in Siberia. These North Koreans are usually forced labor because of offenses to the regime, and very few survive long enough to return home.
- Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, is known in North Korea as the Eternal President. His son, Kim Jong Il, is the Eternal General Secretary. Kim Jong Un, the current leader of North Korea, is rumored to have had plastic surgery in order to look more like his grandfather.
- North Koreans born after the Korean War are on average two inches shorter than their South Koreans neighbors. Chronic food shortages have led to one third of the country’s children suffering from chronic malnutrition.
- North Koreans do not actually call themselves North Koreans. The official name of South Korea’s northern neighbor is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They hold elections every five years, and there is only ever one name on the ballot.
- North Korea has the fourth largest standing army in the world, with a 1.1 million people in its military. This is because North Korea has a “military first” policy, wherein most of the country’s resources are allocated to the military first. If you live in North Korea and want to eat and wear warm clothes in the winter, the military is by far your best bet.
- Between 150,000 – 200,000 North Korean live in prison camps. These camps are surrounded by electric fences and prisoners are never released. You can be sent to the prison camp for a multitude of reason, and many of the prisoners are there because of perceived disloyalty to the regime. Prisoners are sent with their entire families, and punished for three generations. That means if you were North Korean and your grandfather was sent to a prison camp for saying something critical of the regime, your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters would all be sentenced to the camp as well and worked in freezing, starving conditions until you all died.
- Kim Jong Un’s older brother, Kim Jong Nam was arrested in Tokyo in 2001 after traveling to Disneyland using a forged passport.