North Korea is a country shrouded in mystery. Isolated from much of the world, there is a lot about North Korea that Westerners simply do not know. One of the more unusual and unknown elements of North Korea are the strange laws that govern its society. These unusual laws range from:
- state-sanctioned haircuts
- the government deciding who gets to live in the capital
- your entire family being punished for crimes you commit
The North Korean government has almost complete authority over its citizens and these strange and invasive laws are reflective of the incredible paranoia the small state is renowned for.
While some of these laws are comical, it’s important to consider and reflect on how these bizarre laws could affect the populace. Certainly, this explains the strained, nervous faces of North Korean citizens when they are shown in documentaries or on the news.
1. The first of these strange laws concerns your hair. There are 28 government approved hair styles in North Korea. That’s it. 10 for men, 18 for women. While I certainly think some haircuts should be discouraged (man-buns!), no haircut should be illegal.
2.Want to live in the capital? You Need Permission, bud. That’s right, if you want to live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, then you need to get state permission.
3.Only 55% of eligible U.S citizens voted during the 2016 election. In North Korea it is illegal not to vote, as the government mandates that all of its citizens must vote. Unfortunately, the government also mandates that all 100% of North Korean citizens vote for the same person.
4.If there is one thing authoritarian states want to control, it’s information and communication. And because of that, North Korea controls the airwaves. There are only 3 TV channels to choose from and the programming is all strictly controlled by the government.
5. Another hallmark of an authoritarian regime is controlling religion. If you are caught with a Bible in North Korea, you could be imprisoned or executed. I guess the government believes that if the people believe in a power higher than the government, then they could revolt.
6. If a North Korean citizen commits a crime, their whole family could face punishment. Like many other despotic governments, the threat of incarceration and severe punishment always weighs heavy over North Korean citizens’ lives.
7. There is a three-caste system in North Korea and it is truly disturbing. North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, established the three-caste system in 1957 to better control his populace. Society is broken down into these three classes: core, wavering, and hostiles. Those who are most loyal to the government were placed in the ‘core’ class and those least loyal to the government were places in the ‘hostiles’ class.
8. Back in 2008, North Korea stopped receiving fertilizer for its farm land from South Korea. A traditionally mountainous and arid country, North Korea needed the fertilizer to make its farm land produce enough food for the population of 25 million. To correct this deficiency, North Korea turned to human-waste. Each factory in North Korea is mandated to supply farmers with as much human waste as they need.
9. If you try to flee North Korea and are caught, you will be executed or consigned to a labor camp. While it is hard to get into North Korea, it is even harder to leave.
10. The only people who are allowed to have access to the internet in North Korea are political leaders and their families, students at elite universities and members of their military’s cyber warfare department. No one else is allowed online.
11. Not only that, but the computers in North Korea run their own state-made operating system. There is no Window’s and Mac OS in North Korea, only Red Star OS.
12. Wi-Fi has been banned at North Korean embassies around the world. It’s not clear if any citizens have access to wi-fi, but based on the embassy ban, we doubt it.
13. If you are somehow allowed to visit North Korea as a tourist, be prepared to have a government official watch over your every step. Every interaction, photograph, and visit must first be approved by the government.
14. The women in North Korea’s military have to endure incredibly difficult conditions. First of all, they all have to have the same haircut, but they are also required to always march in unison. One misstep could be all it takes to get sent to a labor camp.
15. Another strange North Korean law is that most citizens are not allowed to drive. One of the more striking parts of photographs taken within North Korea are the vast stretches of empty highway. Only government-sanctioned individuals may own and drive a car.
16. And last but not least; it is against the law to make an international call in North Korea without permission from the government. In 2007, a man was alleged to have been shot and killed by the government after making a number of international calls.