9 Facts About North Korea (That You Haven’t Heard Before)
North Korea is fascinating. Mysterious, impoverished and constantly news-worthy, this is one of the most curious countries you could ever choose to visit.
As one of the most secretive countries in the world, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or ‘DPRK’, or just ‘North Korea’, for short) is always an interesting topic to bring up in any conversation.
So why not spice up your North Korea conversations with some bizarre but fun facts about this curious destination?
North Korea is such a mysterious country that sometimes it’s difficult to tell facts from fiction.
Well, we’ve cut through the waffle to find the most shocking facts about North Korea that you probably haven’t heard before. Here are 9 facts about North Korea that are guaranteed to awe.
Table of Contents
9 Facts About North Korea
1. North Korea Has Its Own Timeline
North Koreans don’t follow the same timeline as Western countries. They like to do things their own way.
North Korea started its calendar in 1912. Unsurprisingly, this was the year its founder and notorious dictator Kim Il Sung was born.
1912 is effectively the start of all time in the DPRK, and this year is known as ‘Juche 1’. The unusual calendar they follow is called the ‘Juche Calender’, and it’s named after the country’s defining ‘Juche’ ideology.
So while we’re living in 2022, in North Korea it’s currently ‘Juche 111’.
Find out more: What Year Is It In North Korea?
2. North Korea Has Bizarre Internet Rules
In North Korea, you can only visit 28 websites. Yep, only 28 websites! Given how the rest of the entire world is addicted to scrolling, this really is one of the most bizarre facts about North Korea.
In fact, the internet in North Korea isn’t even really the internet. It’s better described as a type of controlled intranet. The North Korean intranet, called Kwangmyong or ‘Bright’, is free to access IF you have a computer.
Unfortunately, computers are incredibly expensive, and you need to request permission from the government to access any of the 28 intranet websites available. That means that the North Korean internet is only really available for those high up in the party cadres who can really be trusted.
Bonus North Korea fact: there are also only 3 TV channels.
Find out more: How Many Websites Are There In North Korea?
3. North Korea Has The World’s Largest Stadium
Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is home to the largest sports stadium in the world.
The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, or May Day Stadium, can hold up to 150,000 people. Officially opened on the 1st of May 1989, it’s said that the North Koreans deliberately built the stadium to outsize South Korea’s Olympic Stadium.
The capacity is enormously unexpected, and the stadium is where North Korea plays its international football games and hosts athletics, and other sporting events. It’s also where the Pyongyang Marathon ends, which as a foreign tourist, you can even sign up to compete in!
Pyongyang’s stadium is best known for the Arirang Mass Games. This mad event sees tens of thousands of North Korean gymnasts performing to vast crowds in the largest event of its kind anywhere in the world.
The 2007 Arirang Mass Games took the Guinness World Record for the largest gymnastics display ever, when exactly 100,090 gymnasts, artists and performers took part in the staggering event.
Find out more: North Korea Has The World’s Largest Stadium
4. North Korea Has Their Own Basketball Rules
North Koreans hate losing. So instead of following well-established international laws and conventions, they often decide to make up their own rules. One example is basketball, and you might be surprised when we tell you that North Korea has its own rules for the sport.
Kim Jong Il is an avid basketball player (does anyone else remember the dictator’s enduring friendship with Dennis Rodman?) but he decided he could improve the rules of basketball, so of course… he re-wrote them.
Here are the North Korean Basketball rules:
- Slam Dunks are now worth 3 points.
- 3 pointers are worth 4 points – if it’s ‘nothing-but-net’.
- 1 point is deducted for every missed free throw.
- Any field goal made in the last 3 seconds is worth 8 points!
- Games can end in a tie.
Find out more: What Are The North Korean Basketball Rules?
5. North Korea Uses Wood-Burning Cars
In North Korea, they have wood-burning cars.
Okay, so North Korea is a bit of a pariah state when it comes to international relations. And because of strict international sanctions, oil has become very difficult to import to North Korea.
This means they’ve had to be a little bit creative in areas that we often take for granted in the western world. One fact you might not know about North Korea is that the country is using cars that are fuelled by wood!
There have also been reports of using solar-powered taxis and buses, although it’s not really clear if they work or not yet, or if they’re efficient.
Find out more: North Korea’s Wood-Burning Cars
6. North Korea Has A List Of Allowed Haircuts
In North Korea, there are only 28 state-approved haircuts.
The North Korean haircut rules are:
- Men’s hair should be kept between 1-5 cm in length, with recommended haircuts every 15 days.
- Women are allowed to choose from one of 14 slightly longer styles.
- Spiked hairstyles are exclusively banned because the government thinks it’s rebellious.
Kim Jong Un decided not to include his own hairstyle in the restrictions, however, because he wanted to keep it unique.
Find out more: North Korea’s Bizarre Haircut Rules
7. North Korea Has Banned Blue Jeans
In North Korea, no one is allowed to wear blue jeans. Fun fact, they are completely banned in the country!
Kim Jong Un sees blue jeans as a symbol of US influence and in his ongoing battle against the dangers of American Imperialism, he decided to make it illegal for North Koreans to wear them. The rules are less clear on black jeans, but we wouldn’t risk it. Stick to a nice pair of chinos instead!
Fashion trends that are also banned include:
- Ripped denim
- Spikey and dyed hair
- Certain piercings
- Branded T-Shirts
Find out more: Why North Korea Banned Blue Jeans
8. North Korea Has Stolen Billions In Crypto
The North Korean government has made billions of dollars in the past few years from cybercrimes, including hacking crypto.
A recent US military report has found that North Korea’s hacking programme goes back to at least the mid-1990s – and has now grown to a 6,000-strong cyber warfare unit!
In fact, the FBI confirmed that North Korean hackers stole over $400 million dollars of digital currencies in 2021 alone.
Find out more: How North Korea Stole Billions in Crypto
9. North Korea Has Wind-Powered Buildings
In North Korea, there are wind-powered buildings in Pyongyang.
Electricity can be a problem in North Korea (remember those international sanctions we were talking about earlier?), so they’ve had to be a little bit inventive when it comes down to sourcing energy.
These wind-powered buildings will have large turbines on the top that spin when it’s windy. This provides power to the building as a whole. In some ways, this sort of makes North Korea a world leader in terms of renewable energy.
Find out more: North Korea’s Wind-Powered Buildings
In our opinion, these are the most interesting facts about North Korea out there.
But if you still need some more North Korea Fun Facts, here’s a little bonus round.
9 Quick North Korea Facts
- North Korea is the most secretive country in the world.
- North Korea has the fourth-largest army in the world.
- North Korea has a GDP of $28.5 billion, which is less than Vermont’s GDP.
- Kim Jong-un is the current leader of North Korea.
- The Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, so the two countries are still technically at war.
- North Korea has an average life expectancy of 69 years, which is one of the lowest in the world.
- North Korea ranks as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
- The people of North Korea are not allowed to own anything that is not state-owned.
- The government of North Korea spends more than 20% of its GDP on defence, while most other countries spend between 3-5%.
We hope that you found these North Korea Facts interesting!
If you need some more information about the DPRK, check out our full further information guide below.
North Korea Information Guide
Where is North Korea?
North Korea is located in East Asia and it is considered to be a communist state.
The country is bordered by China and Russia, and it has a population of over 25 million people.
North Korea’s capital city is Pyongyang, and the country’s official language is Korean.
Here is North Korea on a map:
Can You Travel to North Korea?
In normal times, travel to North Korea is possible depending on your nationality.
There are restrictions on who can visit and what they are allowed to do while there. You must have a visa and be part of an approved tour group.
The tour will need to be arranged through a licensed travel agency and you will have guides with you the entire time. The company that I travelled here with was Young Pioneer Tours.
Here is a video of the time I went to North Korea in 2019:
Further Information About North Korea
North Korea is one of the most mysterious and secretive countries in the world. It’s a dictatorship that is led by Kim Jong-un, and the people living there are not allowed to leave.
The country is very poor, and there are reports of widespread famine and human rights abuses.
However, North Korea is also a potential nuclear power, and it’s been known to test missiles and make threats against other countries.
This makes it a country of interest for many people, and it’s always an interesting topic of conversation. Whether you decide to visit or not, ultimately, that’s up to you, but the best way to learn about a place is to see it in person.
Do you have more facts about North Korea to add? Let us know in the comments below.
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