Unless you’ve been living in a bubble these last few years, you’ve definitely heard of the world’s most secretive country, North Korea. Because the country has allowed some foreign visitors to enter, and because information has been received from defectors, we’ve been learning some totally bizarre things about the way North Koreans are forced to live their lives in their own bubble, sheltered from the rest of the world by a controlling dictator. We feel sorry for them, which is why we think it’s important for us to focus on what’s really going on there. That’s what we’ll look in to today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Regular Things That Are Illegal In North Korea.
North Korea is so serious about controlling crime and its citizens, that when various crimes are committed, not only is the assailant punished, but their entire bloodline for 3 generations, too. Whole families and even entire villages have been publicly executed for the pettiest of crimes, in order to teach people a lesson. If someone is lucky enough to escape from a North Korean prison camp, their whole family will be captured and brought into the camp to replace them.
Let’s begin with Sarcasm. Some of you may have seen the 2014 comedy titled ‘The Interview’ in which Kim Jong Un had the absolute piss taken out of him. Well apparently he wasn’t too happy about that and his regime put out terrorist threats to try to shut it down. They even allegedly hacked into Sony Pictures’ servers. In an attempt to avoid any further laughs at his expense, the fearful dictator banned all sarcastic comments about him and North Korea. He particularly doesn’t like anyone using the phrase “It’s all America’s fault”, or him being described as “A fool who cannot see the outside world,” and doing so will land you in a prison camp. Oh and you can forget about rolling your eyes too.
Next up: Mourning without meaning it. When a North Korean leader dies, it is imperative for citizens to show hysteria and intense public mourning as a sign of their admiration and worship. When Kim Jong-Il died in 2011, a hundred day mourning period ensued which saw the streets crowded with people, crying and falling to their knees. Those who didn’t show up to mourn faced execution and if anyone was spotted not crying or appearing to be sad, they were taken off to a prison camp.
If you think your sartorial choices couldn’t possibly land you in jail, think again! You’d be hard pressed to find someone in America that doesn’t own a pair of Jeans but in North Korea you literally won’t find anyone wearing them. That’s because it’s illegal. To North Koreans, jeans are a symbol of their enemy America and the denim ban imposes their anti-West and anti-USA message. Apparently the hate for ‘Yankee Imperialists’ is so strong that even kindergarten children are taught to hate anything to do with the USA.
Anyone wanna Netflix and chill? Not in North Korea! Many North Koreans have smuggled Western media into the country and have shared them amongst family and friends to give insight into the liberated world outside. But this very deed could easily land you in a strict labour camp or even worse, sentenced to death. An anti-western film titled ‘Propaganda’ made by the North Koreans, was leaked to the outside world by defectors. This film was made to show its citizens all the things that are ‘wrong’ with western culture and it used hundreds of clips from TV shows showing cultural, moral and political trends that have apparently weakened Western society.
Even foreign music could land you in hot water. In 1992, a female former regime propaganda officer made the huge mistake of singing a South Korean song at a party. She was so badly beaten she couldn’t walk for a month, and she was also thrown in jail for three years. All music that is played on the radio or by orchestras must be Kim Jung Un approved, as well as praise him and communism. Forget about enjoying the new Coldplay or Rihanna album, even admitting you know the words to their songs will land you in deep doo doo.
Wanna turn to the bible in these tricky times? Think again. Despite there being between 200,000-400,000 Christians in North Korea, practising religion is strictly against the law. Just owning a bible can get you tortured, thrown into a prison camp, or publicly executed, perhaps along with your family too. As there is no right to religious freedom, citizens are forced to worship the Kim family, who have actually been found guilty by the United Nations of crimes against humanity for its persecution of Christians. In 2013, 80 Christians were publicly executed in a sports stadium in front of thousands of people, just for owning bibles, and it is estimated that there is up to 80,000 Christians held in concentration camps. After banning Christmas, Kim Jung Un now forces a day of hero worship to his grandmother instead.
All this killing giving you a headache? Don’t even think of turning off the radio. All houses have a government controlled radio installed and it is not allowed to be turned off. Ever. Government announcements are made throughout the day and you have no choice but to listen to them. Announcements include things like, “The Dear Leader hit a hole in one today on his first try playing golf!”
Maybe you want to capture some still images of all the poor people around town for your next school project? Not so fast. Kim Jung Un desperately wants to hide the fact that around forty percent of North Korea lives in extreme poverty and earns a salary of only $2-3 a month. Taking photos of the poor is a punishable offence, especially for tourists, as the beyond wealthy dictator is afraid of the country’s image being tarnished and perhaps from getting in more trouble by the UN.
But surely tourists are exempt from all of these ridiculous laws, right? Wrong! Freedom of travel is a big no-no in North Korea for outside tourists, and anyone who tries to explore by themselves can get into big trouble. As a tourist to North Korea, you will have your every move planned, controlled and watched by the government, so you can forget about any ideas of solo, independent travel at your own pace. You won’t even be able to use the public transport system or get into your own taxi. Traveling around the country is only allowed as part of a guided, choreographed tour, which are usually run by the Korean International Travel Company. Their guides will show you around, but you are so restricted that you won’t be able to leave your hotel without your guide, even if you just want to get something from the shop across the street, otherwise you and your guide will be punished. It is safe to say that unless you enjoy having extremely strict limitations and being watched like a hawk, it’s probably better that you don’t go on a soul-searching or relaxing holiday to North Korea.
But fear not, dear audience! Just when we thought all hope was lost, we learned that marijuana, of all things, is legal in North Korea! In fact, it’s not even considered a drug. You can easily find it being grown in fields and can buy it at local markets. Who would’ve thought?
So, which of the aforementioned “crimes” (yes, I’m using air quotes) do you think is the most preposterous? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Average North Korean vs Average South Korean! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!