35 Interesting Facts About North Korea

Last updated on November 16th, 2017

North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(DPRK). The Korean Demilitarized Zone marks the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. Below are 35 interesting facts about North Korea, its uniqueness, history, economy, education, government, leaders and strategies.

35 Interesting facts about North Korea

#1. Interestingly, you can smoke Marijuana legally in North Korea. It is not even classified as a drug in the country.

#2. On January 23, 1968, North Korea captured “USS Pueblo (AGER-2),” a Banner-class environmental research ship commissioned by the U.S. Navy. It is the world’s only nation to capture and retain a U.S. Navy ship to date.

#3. North Korea does not use the Gregorian calendar, which is also known as the Western calendar and the Christian calendar. They have their own calender in place. The Juche calendar was introduced in 1997, and is based on Kim Il-Sung’s date of birth: April 15, 1912. The year 2015 was the 104th year, as per their Juche calendar.

Flag of North Korea

Flag of North Korea
The National flag of North Korea. Source – CIA

#4. The North Korean city of Pyongyang has the world’s largest stadium, boasting a seating capacity of 150,000. This stadium is used for football, athletics and mass games.

#5. Surprisingly, haircuts are also approved by the supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un, in North Korea. There are only 28 styles of approved haircuts from which to choose in North Korea. Men can choose from 10 different styles, while women have 18 different options.

#6. History tells us that only two South Koreans have moved to North Korea, while more than 23,000 North Koreans have defected to the south over the course of the last 60 years.

#7. Kim Il-Sung scammed Sweden out of 1,000 Volvo 144 sedans in 1974, and to date has never made the payment.

#8. They have their own computer operating system: North Koreans use “Red Star OS,” which is offered in only the Korean language.

Map of North Korea

Interesting facts about North Korea: north korea map
North Korea on the map.

#9. Death penalties can be levied for: distributing pornography, watching South Korean movies and possessing Bibles.

#10. “NADA” is North Korea’s space agency. If you translate it into Spanish, it means “nothing.,”

About: whats legal and illegal, politics, people, North Korean army, poverty, and TV channels in the country

#11. It is illegal to wear jeans in North Korea.

#12. There is only one candidate to vote for in the North Korean elections, which take place every five years.

#13. On the morning of September 21, 1953, “No Kum-Sok” was the first pilot to defect with an operational aircraft from North Korea to South Korea. He was later rewarded with $100,000 offered by Operation Moolah.

#14. It is a ritual to not celebrate birthdays on July 8 and December 17. Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il died on these dates.

#15. It still operates under the rules of a dead leader. And it is the world’s only necrocracy.

#16. On average, North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans by one to three inches.

#17. North Korea has only three TV channels. Two of these only broadcast during the weekends. South Korean soap operas are smuggled in for entertainment.

#18. Pyongyang is only for elite groups of people. Only loyal, trustworthy and healthy citizens can live there.

#19. To this day in North Korea, about 12 million people suffer from poverty and lack of basic human needs.

#20. North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. It is estimated by the U.S. State Department that they have an active-duty military force of up to 1.2 million personnel.

About: Kim Jong-II, invasion tunnels, Michael Jordan and Kim Jong-Un, life in general, the internet, punishment, space program, propaganda city and food

#21. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il never flew on an airplane. He was reportedly so afraid of flying that the only way he would travel is in custom-armored trains specifically built for him.

#22. Four invasion tunnels have been found so far, leading from North Korea to South Korea. It is believed that there are 20 more tunnels of this kind. It is estimated that any one of these tunnels could allow rapid movement of at least 30,000 soldiers. Remember: North Korean soldiers are highly trained and are frighteningly deadly. You can just estimate the amount of damage these troops could do in the event of a successful invasion of the southern land.

#23. Michael Jordan is the hero of the basketball-fascinated, newest face of North Korean leadership: Kim Jong-Un. He (Kim Jong-Un) attended boarding school in Switzerland, and was not much interested in studies, as reported by his fellow classmates.

#24. Life in North Korea is completely isolated from the other parts of the world. Their citizens have limited access to television, radio and other forms of communication and media information. Their average earnings are less than $5.00 per month. They are always under a threat of being poisoned for violating any of the rules laid out by the dictators.

#25. Government permission is required to own a computer in North Korea.

#26. They have their own intranet – “Kwangmyong.” It was opened in 2000, and includes browser, email, news and search capabilities. They do not have the open internet as it exists in other parts of the world. Most things there are restricted.

#27. There is only one ISP in North Korea. And there is just one cable linking the internet in North Korea. This is an intentional design to maintain complete access when there is only one route to access and send information.

#28. North Korea has just 1,024 IP addresses, while countries like the U.S. have 1,541,605,760.

#29. There is a ‘three generations of punishment policy’ in North Korea. The offender, along with his next two generations, has to bear the consequences of the offense.

#30. North Korean workers enjoy virtually no free time. They have to work six days a week, with the seventh day spent doing ‘enforced’ voluntary work.

#31. To date, the North Korean space program has experienced a success rate of only 20%.

#32. North Korea has a propaganda city, built in the 1950s, which has no actual residents. The aim to build such a city close to its southern borders was to defect South Korean people. The city has some empty buildings, while others are just empty concrete shells.

#33. North Korea also houses the world’s largest flag pole. It holds the North Korean flag.

#34. Most ordinary North Koreans eat ‘corn-rice’ as their staple food.

#35. There are a total of 25,554 km of roads in North Korea, but only 724 km are paved.

North Korea – country at a glance

Independence15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National anthem"Aegukka" (Patriotic Song)
Capital CityPyongyang
(39°2′N 125°45′E)
Largest CityPyongyang
(39°2′N 125°45′E)
Total area120,538 sq km
Population25,115,311 (July 2016 est.)
Official LanguageKorean
Government typecommunist state
Supreme LeaderKim Jong-un
Chairman of the
Assembly Presidium
Kim Yong-nam
Suffrage17 years of age; universal
Literacy rate100%
BordersChina, Russia, South Korea
CurrencyNorth Korean won (₩) (KPW)
DemonymNorth Korean, Korean
Life expectancy70.4 years (2016)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Industriesmilitary products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism
Exports$4.152 billion (2015 est.)
minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products
Imports$4.819 billion (2015 est.)
petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain
GDP - per capita (PPP)$1,700 (2015 est.)
National symbolsred star, chollima (winged horse)
National colorsred, white, blue
Terrainmostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; wide coastal plains in west, discontinuous in east
Climatetemperate, with rainfall concentrated in summer; long, bitter winters
Natural resourcescoal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower
Agricultural land21.8%
Birth rate14.6 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Sex ratio0.94 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
Time ZonePyongyang Time (UTC+8:30)
Calling Code+850
Drives on theRight
Railwaystotal: 7,435 km
Airportstotal - 82
paved - 39
unpaved - 43
Data sourcesCIA, Wikipedia
Table last updatedAugust 24, 2017