10 Things You Didn't Know About North Korea

Let us take a look at the various sides of contemporary North Korean society:

1. It's Got Tourist Attractions

The Mangyongdae Fun Park of North Korea represents the nation's attempt to appear as a free society to the outside world. This projected image helps the government to look less culpable beneath the prying eyes of tourists and various foreign skeptics who view the North Korean leadership as one of Communist brutality. It seems that leader Kim Jong-un is at least trying to make his people appear content, despite the dangers they face in playing along with this facade of freedom and fun.

2. It Has Unicorns

According to legend, the ancient Korean king rode a unicorn as his steed and a stone was found dedicated to this story in the city of Pyongyang.  But can we really trust such mythical attestations when no physical remains of a unicorn were found? Could this wondrous claim simply be a ploy to make North Korea appear superior to South Korea?

3. Subterranean Warfare

Rumor has it that North Korea has underground tunnels into South Korea, an alleged method of attack for when the war starts and North Korea, lacking efficient aerial weaponry, must attack highly populated South Korean areas by surprise. But how can anyone know for sure if these tunnels really exist without having breached the North Korean border (subterranean or not) and discovered such passages? Could we possibly be a bit paranoid over the tactics of this mysterious nation?

4. They Take Nature Really Seriously

So these American peacekeepers from the UN attempted to remove a tree on North Korean soil and the army protested, saying that the tree was planted by their then leader, Kim II-sung. The Americans kept trying to uproot the tree, and the North Korean army brutally beat down the mediators, killing two of them. The event concluded with envoys from U.S. and South Korea cutting down the entire tree. Now these Americans originally stated that the tree removal was for security purposes but still, how much business did they have chopping down a tree planted on North Korean soil? Surely there are other methods of securing checkpoints. Nonetheless, the North Korean army hardly needed to resort to such violence, yet the frustration at such disregard for their land is understandable.

5. They Have Their Own Internet

As North Korea is a communist nation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hardly wants his citizens to have access to the "capitalist" Internet frequently used by South Koreans and many other countries. As a solution, he has created a state-controlled intranet, Kwangmyong. The issue is that barely any citizens of North Korea own a computer. Thus, we have the catch: Not only are North Koreans virtually unable to use this special intranet, but even this version is state-owned and thereby still under total government control. The communist authority wins again.

6. Everyone There is Super Happy

In order to uphold this image of contentment among his people, North Korean Kim Jong-un has marked the country's website with a photo of smiling Korean people. However, this image was later discovered to have been purchased from IgniteThemes and not even a real photograph. Now if the North Korean government cannot even capture a real photo of happy North Korean citizens, what does that say about the country?

7. It Has Basketball

The Republic also has its own version of basketball. With a range of alterations to the rules along with a doubling of total shots, this version places a communist theme even on a ball sport. How could this game ever enter fairly into the Olympic Games?

8. It Has 51 Different Social Classes

By definition, a socialist society should have only one social class, thus eradicating the issue of inequality. An initial look at North Korean society shows three social classes, all based on loyalty to the regime, and a closer glance reveals 51 social classes. Needless to say, over half these groups are among the poorest in North Korea and considered the most threatening to the regime. Now doesn't a government that bases its classes on loyalty to the authority seem like the dire opposite of socialism? Moreover, the fact that the majority of these "rebellious" parties represent the poorest citizens of North Korea indicates that the least content are the most likely to rebel and the government clearly realizes this.

9. It Has a Ghost Town

What could be a better way for North Korea to attract tourists and even their South Korean neighbors than with images of a quaint little town by the mountains? During the 1950s, the North Korean government built the village of Kijong-dong, a township which remains uninhabited and dependent on timed lighting and pretty yet empty houses. It seems that even the promise of tranquility has failed to fool any outsiders into crossing the border into the communist nation. 

10. There's Fruit Aplenty

Despite its famished society, North Korea happens to be one of the largest fresh fruit producers in the world. However, this reputation is often overlooked, as its citizens rarely see any of this fruit, much less the income made off of its exports. What seems especially interesting about this arrangement is the great bounty the North Korean leadership makes off of these exports despite its claim to be an isolationist nation. Why should an isolationist nation depend so much upon foreign trade?

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Sarah Katz

I hold a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California Berkeley. While at UC Berkeley, I founded the Iran-Israel Student Coalition, the first student-led Iran-Israel peace initiative. I am currently pursuing a dual Masters degree in International Management (MBA) and International Policy Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In addition to PolicyMic, I contribute to the "Times of Israel" online news blog.

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