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These Photos Show You What North Korea Is Like Right Now


1. North Korea spends a fortune on its armed forces

It is unknown how much exactly the North Korean leader, Kim Jung-Un spends on funding the Korean People’s Army, though it is said to be quite a fortune. The North Korean army uses lasers and missiles banned in other countries and has an impressive cyber warfare unit.

businessinsider.com

businessinsider.com

It is mandatory for every North Korean over 18 to enlist, even women. North Korea also possesses an unknown number of nuclear weapons, though according to estimates, its nuclear arsenal is limited. North Korea also possesses a large number of chemical weapons.

2. You need to work for your education in North Korea

Did you know that the students in North Korea are required to purchase their own chairs, desks, and heating during the winter? And if that wasn’t enough, they are also forced to work while at school to produce things for the government.

bloomberg.com

bloomberg.com

If the parents want their daughter to focus on her education and avoid occasional hard labor, they need to either bribe the schoolteachers or stop sending her to school altogether, forcing her to miss the single opportunity she has at an education.

3. Only less than 3% of their roads are paved

Without a lot of government funding, most of the roads are left unpaved. In fact, if you travel through North Korea, you will only see less than 3% of their roads finished. That is, out of the 120,538 square kilometers of roads, only about 2.83% are paved.

Feng Li/GettyImages

Feng Li/GettyImages

Fun fact: all the roads in North Korea (if they were finished) could circle Pluto 3.5 times. At the same time, the 450 miles of paved roads would barely make the distance from New York to Cleveland.

4. Bill Gates’ net worth is larger than North Korea’s GDP

Bill Gates has a net worth of about $90.2 billion as of 2017, which is four and a half times larger than North Korea’s. According to reports, North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to be about $17.4 billion, while United States is $16.77 trillion.

japantimes.co.jp

japantimes.co.jp

Though there have been several reforms over the last few decades, North Korea’s economic system is still a centrally planned one, meaning that the governmet has control over production, prices, distribution and so forth. This also means that the people of North Korea have to rely on their government to fulfill their every need.

5. The country was named the most corrupt in the world

This probably won’t shock you but last year, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, North Korea is tied as the most corrupt country in the world. They were tied with Somalia with a score of 8. The rating is between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean).

REUTERS:Jason Lee

REUTERS:Jason Lee

Looking at the results as a whole, though, shows that 68% of all the countries in the world have a serious corruption problem, but North Korea definitely takes the cake. By the way, there is no perfect corrupt-free country according to the Corruption Perceptions Index.

6. North Korea is about the size of Pennsylvania

Looking at these pictures, you might think that North Korea is a big country but in truth, it is about the size of Pennsylvania. North Korea’s area is about 120,538 square kilometers, which is only slightly bigger than the U.S. state.

maps.com

maps.com

Unlike PA, though, only about 19.5% is suitable for growing crops. What’s more, several natural disasters that occured in the 1990s hurt the country’s agriculture severly, after being considered one of the most productive agricultural systems in the world in the 1980s.

7. Western citizens can’t walk by themselves in North Korea

If you decide to visit North Korea, after your visit has been approved by the party, they will assign a guide to you. To be clear, you can’t say “no thank you.” For the rest of your stay, the guides will be with you at all times and your tour will rarely leave the minivan.

cnn.com

cnn.com

Photographer Michal Huniewicz explains his first step in the capital city. “We were intercepted by our guides, who we could not leave during the entire stay, and who’d tell us when to sleep and when to wake up.” Doesn’t seem like a good vacation is you feel watched all the time!

8. Soldiers are everywhere in North Korea

The North Korean army, named The Korean People’s Army or KPA, is one of the biggest in the world, with over 1.2 million people in active duty. It has been reported that one in every 25 North Korean citizens is an enlisted soldier.

kpbs.org

kpbs.org

The largest of all KPA branches is the Ground Force, with a staggering one million personnel and an equally impressive number of weapons and fighting vehicles. North Korea’s navy is also a large one, and holds the largest number of submarines in the world.

9. Smoking Marijuana is legal in North Korea

According to reporters who’ve visited the country, you can both consume and purchase cannabis pretty freely and not worry about being prosecuted anywhere in North Korea. It is unknown wether there aren’t any rules against marijuana altogether, or there are rules that aren’t being enforced.

ibtimes.com

ibtimes.com

It is also unknown if the same rules apply for both tourists and North Korean citizens. According to an American NGO named Open Radio for North Korea, severe actions were being taken against North Koreans who consumed methamphetamines, but not against those who used marijuana or opium.

10. North Korean public service is tough

The below photo was taken at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument. The uniformed, hardworking girls are sweeping one of the walkways as a form of public service. Not something you would see in the U.S. that’s for sure.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

According to North Korean refugees, the citizens of North Korea are divided into groups according to their level of loyalty to the government. Their loyalty is determined by their own behavior, their political background, their economic and social status, and the behavior of their family and relatives going back three generations.

11. All male citizens are forced to get a certain haircut

According to an anonymous source from Pyongyang, who contacted South Korea newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, Men in North Korea were ordered to cut their hair so it wasn’t longer than 2 centimeters. They were also told to model their hairstyles after Kim Jong Un, whose hair has been described as “ambitious.”

http://listamaze.com/

listamaze.com

Women were also required to keep their hair at a bob length and model it after Kim’s wife, or choose from a selection of 14 approved styles. Married women were supposed to wear their hair short, whereas single women were allowed to wear their hair longer and curlier.

12. It costs $8,000 to leave North Korea

It isn’t easy to leave North Korea and you will be punished if you are caught trying to escape. There is a way to defect, but it would cost you $8,000 to do so. That will only get you to China, though and very few North Koreans would actually be able to afford it.

accessromaniaonline.wordpress.com

accessromaniaonline.wordpress.com

North Koreans who manage to make it to China are not granted refugee status, however, because of the already fragile relationship between the two countries. China regards these defectors as illegal economic migrants. Most of what we know about North Korea comes from such defectors, who provide valuable information about the secluded country.

13. Locals and tourists can’t shop in the same shops

Even Western tourists aren’t allowed to go where they please in North Korea. When Michal Huniewicz, the photographer who took this photo, managed to get away from his two guides for a minute, he stumbled upon a local shopping area. He was soon removed by a cop as it was for locals only.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Most North Koreans rely on their government to supply them with food and housing, though there are several supermarkets and department stores available in Pyongyang. Black markets and small scale farmers markets are also available, though the government regulates them heavily.

14. Military truck aren’t what you think

When you picture military trucks in the United States, this is probably not the kind of truck you have in mind. Well, in North Korea, these are the vehicles that transport soldiers around. This is definitely an illegal photo to take! Any photos of military personnel would get you in serious trouble in North Korea.

591396809ee1546394cc9b66c4837c1b

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Though its trucks don’t seem to be in very good shape, the North Korean army also has several types of fighting vehicles – some 3700 tanks and 2100 infantry fighting vehicles and personnel carriers, according to reports.

15. You have to keep the streets clean

While traveling around Pyongyang, its cleanness is very noticeable. The government spends a lot of time making sure their capital city is one they would proudly show. However, the physical state of the country’s capital does not represent what life in other parts of North Korea is actually like.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Photographer Michal Huniewicz managed to capture the reality as we see this man relieving himself on the side of the road. This could have probably gotten both him and the man in serious trouble had he been caught.

16. Music in North Korea

North Korea’s previous leader, Kim Il-Sung, required that all music acts be ideologically correct. Jazz music was especially prohibited. His successor, Kim Jong-il, was more encouraging towards music, and allowed more western music genres to be played and enjoyed.

north korea

Reuters/Kyodo/AlJazeera.com

Pictured above is North Korean musical sensation, Moranbong Band, or Moran Hill Orchestra. The group, known as North Korea’s answer to the Spice Girls, consists of female members that were specifically chosen by current supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. The group performes in formal events and televised concerts, and is widely popular among North Koreans.

17. You can’t travel around the country freely

Even if you are a citizen of North Korea, you aren’t allowed to roam around the country freely. You are required to get a permit if you want to travel outside of your city/town. This is so the government can keep tabs on where everyone is.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

They are still not allowed to travel big distances in their own car—they have to take a bus or train.

18. There’s a “three generation of punishment” rule in North Korea

If you break the law in North Korea, you’d probably be sent to a prison or work camp, which currently hold around 200,000 prisoners. The problem is, you won’t be the only one suffering for your wrongdoings.

north korea

fairobserver.com

It’s common for entire families to be punished if a family member breaks the law – this means that both the grandparents, the parents and the children of the perpetrator get sent away too.

19. North Korea takes pride in Pyongyang

This is the capital city of Pyongyang and is the largest city in North Korea. It was destroyed during the Korean war and eventually rebuilt with Kim II-Sung’s plans.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Photographer Michael Huniewicz mentioned that his guide kept taking him to this location so clearly, it is a place of pride.

20. State workers work very hard in North Korea

Here we see state workers carrying some unknown object across a bridge. Looks like they don’t have access to a truck or something that could carry the heavy object or at least transport the workers to their construction site.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Notice the brown uniforms. I guess it needs to be obvious that they work for the government.

21. The Pyongyang government building is very impressive

This is one of their government buildings and the pictures displayed on the front are of Kim II-Sung. The supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea right now is Kim Jong-un, Kim Il-Sung’s grandson.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Since this city is the nation’s capital, it is where all the federal government matters take place.

22. Public transportation is very popular

Public transportation is the most common way people commute to work and home. Not that many people have cars so the bus is a popular way of traveling. They still need a permit if they want to leave their city/town.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

I guess taking the bus is a whole lot better than walking or biking!

23. North Korean architecture is basic

Except for maybe a couple of buildings/monuments, the architecture in North Korea is pretty basic and modest. Here we have blocks of flats where the people live. This is what they call their home.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

They look more like prisons than places to live.

24. North Korean streets only look normal

Driving around the capital city, it looks like a normal populated city. Lots of people walk in the streets since there isn’t heavy traffic. While his guide drove him around, the photographer managed to get a shot of everyday life.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

 “He would conveniently slow down whenever the surroundings were impressive, and speed up whenever they were less pleasant, to make them more difficult to photograph.”

 25. Train station picture was staged

This was the train station in Pyongyang and it certainly was a strange sight for the photographer. His train was the only train that day, so you would expect the station to be pretty much empty, but it wasn’t. Photographer Michael Huniewicz said the station looked staged, like a theatrical performance.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Everyone was dressed nicely and looked like model citizens going on a train ride, which struck him as very unusual.

26. The empty entry point

This is the entry point to North Korea where you board the train to take you there. When Michal arrived, it was pretty much deserted.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

I guess traveling to North Korea isn’t a popular thing to do.

27. Even the Chinese are watching

North Koreans don’t have the freedom to leave the country whenever they wish. The government has watchtowers and guards everywhere to make sure that their own people don’t escape. If caught, you will be thrown in a concentration camp and you could even be put to death if you are revealed to be a traitor.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

If the Chinese catch you escaping, the men will be sent back and women will be sold to Chinese men.

28. North Korea’s vast farmlands

While traveling through the countryside of North Korea, all you are going to see is miles and miles of farmland. Here we can see rice fields being tended to by the locals.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

They have to use feces to make fertilizer after South Korea cut them off.

29. The two leaders watch over

Now this photo of the two statues isn’t illegal as both of the statues are in the picture! The Grand Monument on Mansu Hill features two 22 meters high bronze statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, also known as father and son.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

The building behind the statues is the Korean Revolution Museum.

 30. Waiting for the train to pass

The photographer is passing by the countryside of North Korea by train. Here we can see people waiting for the train to pass so they can continue on their way.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Notice the guard making sure everything runs smoothly.

31. North Korean Taxis aren’t for tourists

The photographer didn’t get a chance to take one of these colorful taxis as he was always toured around in his guide’s minivan. He couldn’t anyway since the taxis are for locals only so tourists aren’t allowed to use them.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Taxis, however, are actually pretty expensive so they are only used by the wealthy class.

 32. You aren’t allowed to photograph certain places

You aren’t actually allowed to take pictures from the train but obviously, that didn’t stop photographer Michael Huniewicz. This is a picture of a rundown pink tower block the photographer saw through his window.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

It looks like an abandoned community but I guess the crops are still taken care of.

33. North Korea and China are surprisingly close

Here we can see both North Korea (left) and China (right) as China borders North Korea on the Yalu River. As you can see, there is a big difference between the two nations.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

This would be the only way South Koreans can see North Korea since they aren’t welcome.

34. Cars are a luxury

You don’t see very many people driving cars and trucks. It is pretty much a luxury to have one, which is why people have to walk places, bike, or use carriages.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

I guess you can’t use the traffic excuse as a reason to be late for work!

35. Soldiers supervise your every move

This photo was taken in one of the parks in Pyongyang. The two women (and maybe a son) are street cleaners, sweeping the streets for dust and what not.  The soldier standing there is required to watch them to ensure make sure the job gets done properly.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

Work is stressful enough without having a soldier constantly watching you.

36. North Korea also has a different calendar

The North Korean calendar, also known as Juche calendar, borrows from both traditional Korean tradition and the Gregorian calendar used in most parts of the world.

north korea

Pinterest

The Juche calendar begins in 1912, which is the birth year of North Korean leader and grandfather to current leader, Kim Il-Sung. It was adpoted in 1997, three years after the beloved leader passed away. This means that the year 2017 is “Juche 106” in North Korea.

37. Commuting to work

Here is a photo capturing people of Pyongyang commuting to work. The girl wearing the white shirt and red scarf must be a public servant as we saw earlier.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

They don’t look too happy going to work…

38. There story behind Kijong-dong (Peace Village)

Kijong-dong is a village located next to the South Korea border. It is one of the two villages permitted to be in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, that was established after the Korean war in 1953.

north korea

By Don Sutherland, U.S. Air Force – defenseimagery.mil; VIRIN: DF-ST-89-04867, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Kijong-dong is considered a ‘propaganda village’ by outsiders, meant to act as a front to intimidate the South Koreans. It is surrounded by cultivated fields and contains high-standard multi-story buildings, though many say they are only there for show and aren’t actually populated.

39. Constant TV propaganda

Here, a waitress is working at a restaurant but she isn’t what this photo is about. On the TV screen, you can see an image of one of North Korea’s national leaders. It is actually one of the propaganda messages that are played on the TV 24/7.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

The workers and the customers have no choice but to listen. It is their background music.

40. Customs Declaration Form

When photographer Michal Huniewicz first started his trip, he needed to get a North Korea customs declaration form. He had to list all of his belongings while also getting searched for anything illegal. You aren’t allowed to bring in pornography, Korean films, books about North Korea (even guidebooks), and GPS.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

If you have any of those with you, they will be confiscated. Luckily, the photographer didn’t get his camera taken away!

41. The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

Now here is something pleasant to look at! The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge connects Dandong with the city of Sinuiju, North Korea. It is pretty much the last brightly colored lights you will see before entering North Korea.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

As you can probably guess, the dark area on the left is the beginning of North Korea. Kind of depressing, right?

42. North Korea has its own time zone

Yup, you read that correctly. Last year, it was declared by North Korea that they will have their own time zone called Pyongyang Time. North Korea is 3o minutes behind South Korea and Japan, which is usually referred to as the Japan Standard Time.

KCNA Watch

KCNA Watch

Pyongyang Time zone was put into effect on August 15th, 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan.

43. North Korea is relatively equal

North Korea has laws on sex equality, that provide women’s rights at work, rights on sharing and inheriting property and a right to free marriage and divorce. That’s more than a lot of Western countries!

north korea

Pinterest

This relative equality results in a considerable number of women in high positions, though they’re mostly wives and relatives of the country’s leaders.

44. North Koreans like to play unusual instruments

When was the last time you heard someone play the accordion? Though the instrument’s popularity isn’t really peaking in the Western world, in North Korea it’s quite a different story.

north korea

openculture.com

In the 1990’s, it was mandatory for North Korean teachers to learn how to play the accordion. The instrument is still very popular in the country today, and many still specialize in it.

45. North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans

It is a well-known fact that you need to be well nourished in order to grow big and strong. Unfortunately, in North Korea, malnourishment is a big problem as The World Food Programme estimated that 24% of the population has a lack of food. Because of this, those born after the Korean War in North Korea are actually 2 inches shorter than South Koreans.

Damir Sagolj:Reuters

Damir Sagolj/Reuters

This is due to the fact that most people in North Korea only eat corn and pickled cabbage.

46. You have to follow strict photo-taking rules

When Huniewicz arrived at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument, he was told, “visitors who take photos of the statues are required to frame both leaders in the entirety of their picture.” That’s right, they actually have statue photo-taking rules and will make you delete photos that don’t follow their standards.

North Korea

Michal Huniewicz/Mikey.me

I guess the photographer managed to sneak in a rule-breaking photo!

47. North Korea at the Olympics

You would expect that a country like North Korea would shy away from international, western events like the Olympics. This is not the case, however: Since 1964, North Korea has participated in almost all of the Summer Olympic Games.

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

North Korean athletes have won no less than 56 medals, which is very impressive for such a poor country. North Korea has won medals for weightlifting, wrestling, judo, gymnastics and volleyball, among other things.

48. North Korea supported Trump

This probably isn’t so shocking after reading all about North Korea’s ideology but the country was for Trump during the election. They even had a propaganda website stating that Trump is “a prescient presidential candidate” and who Americans should vote for.

Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters

North Korea was certainly excited for Trump’s inauguration. We will have to see how his presidency affects the rift between North and South Korea!

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Source: Detonatewww.unbelievable-facts.com, Business Insider

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